Dangerous Tropical Storm Irene headed for the Dominican Republic

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on August 21, 2011

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Tropical Storm Irene roared into life last night, transitioning from a tropical wave to a 50 mph tropical storm in just a few short hours. Irene is getting organized quickly, and has the potential to become a hurricane by Monday morning. All interests in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida should prepare for the arrival of this dangerous storm. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the strongest winds near 18°N latitude to the north of Irene's center at 8am this morning. After passing through the center, the plane returned to the area of strongest winds two hours later, and found that flight level winds at 5,000 feet had increased by about 5 - 8 mph. However, the pressure in the latest center fix taken at 10am EDT remained the same as two hours previously, 1007 mb, and the plane noted that Irene's center was not circular, signs that the storm still has some work to do before serious intensification can begin. Visible satellite loops and radar out of Martinique show the storm has rapidly organized this morning, with well-developed spiral bands forming and a large area of intense thunderstorms to the north of the center. Irene has shrugged off the dry air that was bothering it yesterday, and wind shear has fallen to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Torrential rains and strong gusty winds are affecting the northern Lesser Antilles this morning. A wind gust of 41 mph was recorded at St. Eustatius at 8am local time.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Irene.

Track forecast for Irene
The computer models are in agreement that Irene will pass just south of Puerto Rico tonight, then hit the south coast of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic or Haiti on Monday afternoon. Irene should then emerge into the channel between Haiti and Cuba on Tuesday afternoon, when the storm will have 12 or so hours over water before having to contend with Cuba. A trough of low pressure is expected to move across the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday, turning Irene to the northwest and north by Thursday. The timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when Irene will turn to the north. Irene's strength will also matter--a stronger Irene is more likely to turn northward earlier. The most likely path for Irene is a track just east of the Florida Peninsula and into Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina by next weekend, but a landfall near Miami then directly up the Florida Peninsula is also a reasonable solution--like Tropical Storm Fay of 2008 did. Fay formed just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and was never quite able to get organized enough to become a hurricane, due to passage over Hispaniola and Cuba. Fay topped out as a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and did over $500 million in damage in the U.S., mostly due to flooding rains in Florida that accumulated to over 25 inches in a few areas. Fay also dumped heavy rains on Hispaniola, triggering flooding that claimed eight lives.


Figure 2. Track of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Irene is embedded in a large envelope of moisture now, and wind shear will remain low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. With water temperatures very warm, 28 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification except when land is interfering. Irene's current appearance on satellite loops gives me the impression of a storm that is not fooling around, and I expect Irene will be a hurricane before hitting Hispaniola on Monday. Passage over Hispaniola will not destroy Irene, since it is a fairly large storm. Once the storm finishes with Hispaniola, it will have to deal with Cuba, which will keep Irene from intensifying significantly. Once Irene pops off the coast of Cuba Wednesday or Thursday into the Florida Straits, Irene will likely be a tropical storm. If the storm then has at least a day over water before hitting land, it will likely become a hurricane again, and could become a major hurricane if it ends up missing South Florida and moving over the warm waters on either side of the Florida Peninsula.

Harvey hits Belize
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall at 2pm EDT on Saturday near Dangriga Town, Belize, as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. Harvey continues to dump very heavy rains on southern Mexico, but dissipation is expected tonight as the storm pushes inland. Harvey was a small storm, and the strongest winds were confined to a short stretch of coast near where the center came ashore. Winds at Belize City, Belize on Saturday topped out at 15 mph.


Figure 3. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Invest 98L northwest of the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave few hundred miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, has become disorganized and lost most of its heavy thunderstorms. The disturbance is moving over colder waters and encountering drier air, and NHC is giving 98L only a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday. The latest set of model runs keep 98L well out to sea away from any land areas over the next five days.

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Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters

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2973. rod2635
myrtle beach
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So as i see the track keeps shifting east so most likely tomorrow morning will wake up and we here in southeast florida will be out of cone maybe?
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Mississippiwx, it already down to 999.5 and it has Plummeted from 1007 in a matter of 15 to 30 minutes, and st croix still not quite in the dead center yet...
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2970. MahFL
The eye feature is getting smaller all the time....doomcom 5 ?
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Just like the dry spot earlier, it seems that convection is beginning to wrap around the COC.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32565
Quoting charlottefl:
This is kinda strange. I'm on the west coast of FL... This is from the NWS for Thurs Night


Thursday Night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. Windy, with a north wind 24 to 27 mph increasing to between 35 and 38 mph. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
T

This is definitely not strange given the current forecast path. Irene is currently forecast to move into Southeast Florida Thursday night.

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2966. Patrap
She has come over the z-hill fully to the PR Doppler,,but itsa still on that 270 vector seems SJ.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting lucreto:


Wow this is currently an open wave based on that direction I thought it looked bad but that weakened faster than expected.



Uhhh, no. The LLC is just to the east of St Croix. Common sense would tell you St Croix should be getting a north wind in that situation. West winds are only found to the south of a storm.
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Quoting weatherxtreme:
Levi,

I want to personally Thank You for all of your analysis and tidbits on this blog! I really respect a lot of what you do and say! Keep up the great work here.


Ditto...
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2963. Levi32
Quoting tropicfreak:


Then where is the COC, I see no other than that "eye"


Look in the southeast part of the "eye". The center is tighter than the clear area, and it's still east of St. Croix if the wind is northerly there.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


What are you crying about levi already apologized. Let it go. Forgot you were a saint.


I never saw his apology, and don't try to be sarcastic.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
2961. wpb
18z gfs 18hrs run
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2960. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
2959. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting P451:
Good Night, Irene....



I'll see you in my dreams
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This is kinda strange. I'm on the west coast of FL... This is from the NWS for Thurs Night


Thursday Night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. Windy, with a north wind 24 to 27 mph increasing to between 35 and 38 mph. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
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2957. MahFL
so the pressure on St Croix is now 1000 mb ?
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Pat, after looking at that radar, it looks to me like dead center may be trying to pull to the northern side of that dry void (nope, I did not say eye damn it :) ) Hence passing just north of St Croix and headed straight for PR.
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2955. Levi32
Quoting prtr4192:
Linklevi your opinion on this would be appreciated thank you


Those are the model tracks. What is your question about them?
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2954. msphar
Anybody got measured winds in SE Puerto Rico ?
Member Since: August 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
It will be interesting to watch St. Croix obs. The center should pass almost directly over them. If the pressure is no lower than 999, Irene obviously hasn't strengthened all day.
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2951. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
into the dark she shall go
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It almost looks like the center is trying to relocate a little to the South. It will be interesting to see if the center can stay south of P.R.
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2949. 7544
gfs running now whos posting
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Quoting stormpetrol:


You sure can, though many might not agree, what we are calling all a eye feature is more like a closed off dry spot, the actual center is actually at the bottom of that feature and is not the "feature" itself, JMO.



Remember this ? He was supposed to pass WNW/NW over DR which he did but relocated his COC south of Haiti overnight ? I don't trust them until they are long gone from the Caribbean.
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Quoting ronmil:

The first bands or Irene approaching Maunabo, Puerto Rico (SE corner) at 3:30pm...


thank you compatriota
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
999.5 in the center

FULL

I think he center is on that hook-like protrusion, on the eastern edge of the "eyewall", so the pressure might be even lower...
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Quoting Levi32:


Welcome to the blog. I believe some are focusing too much on the "eye" feature on radar, which is not really an eye, and draws the human eye to it as the center of the storm, when reality the center is on the southeast side of that clear area. Thus, the clear area will naturally rotate southwest and give the illusion of a wobble in that direction.


Then where is the COC, I see no other than that "eye"
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
Down to 1000 mb in St. Croix, based on that pressure I got to believe that the clear area on radar is indeed the center of circulation.
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Quoting bocahurricane:
ok so I went out and stocked up on some batteries so that should mean that the storm won't hit south florida right? haha
worked for me here on the gulf coast!
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LOL Accuweather's wind forecast for me on Friday:

SSW at 39 mph
Gusts: 94 mph


Coming from them, it should mean I'll have sunny skies and 5-10mph breezes that day.
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2940. Patrap
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve




Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
2939. Dakster
Quoting Seflhurricane:
for a direct hit in SE florida possible but i think its going t come very close i am banking on TS winds


I agree it looks this way at the moment... Granted, anything can change.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
2938. BA
999
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The large gap is not an eye, but given that it is near the centre I suspect that part of that area will try to form one.
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Quoting DookiePBC:


Well, that depends...because there are people who washed cars, painted their houses, set up golf tee times, etc. They offset your stocking up on batteries!!!

Just got back from an early dinner at Old Key Lime House in Lantana...I'd hate to see that tiki hut in a hurricane. So has anything changed lately on the DOOM front as it relates to South Florida?


Oh I love the Old Key Lime House, a great place. It made it through Francis, Jeanne and Wilma. Hopefully it can make it through more. I really hope it doesn't come near here. I have a foreclosed house right next to mine that I know won't get shuttered.
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I hope this thing doesn't go near the GA barrier islands.. We go there every year. They just started renovation too.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
999.5 in the center

FULL


Apparently, the center is that little hook on the Southeastern side of the dry air spot.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32565
Quoting Bahahurrican:
The scary part about this for me is that there's no guarantee it'll be the only one. I keep thinking about how I was so sure nothing could top the impact of Georges back in 1998.... then we had Mitch.

Borrowed this from P451...



Only need to update the name of the storm and the locations where they start from... I think we will get 1 or 2 more... before it's all said and done.
Could be as early as 10 days from now, Jose forecasted by GFS east of the Leeward/virgin Islands
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2931. ronmil

The first bands or Irene approaching Maunabo, Puerto Rico (SE corner) at 3:30pm...
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Quoting BahaHurican:
The scary part about this for me is that there's no guarantee it'll be the only one. I keep thinking about how I was so sure nothing could top the impact of Georges back in 1998.... then we had Mitch.

Borrowed this from P451...



Only need to update the name of the storm and the locations where they start from... I think we will get 1 or 2 more... before it's all said and done.


You definitely know how to make your point...
Member Since: October 26, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 363
2929. HCW





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2928. Levi32
Pressure down to 1000mb in St. Croix and still a north wind.

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Quoting Dakster:


Latest runs look better for us in SE Florida... But we are far from out of the woods.
for a direct hit in SE florida possible but i think its going t come very close i am banking on TS winds
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Current Weather Conditions:
Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas, Cyril E. King Airport, Virgin Islands
Aug 21 2011, 5:16 PM EST / 2116Z

Wind: from the NE (050 degrees) at 39 MPH (34 KT) gusting to 68 MPH (59 KT)
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2925. ncstorm
Quoting Hhunter:
August 21 02:36 PMby Joe Bastardi
Just a simple note to say models continue to show the track as such that Irene would be the most powerful hit in the Carolinas since Isabel in 2003 with a track midway between the Cleo example, and now Floyd of 1999. While this would sideswipe Florida with less than devastating results, it will mean the full bore of the major hurricane threat is aimed at the Carolinas. ALL interests from the east coast of Florida through the Carolinas should start to think about the threat of major hurricane impacting the area later this week.



Further north, with the storm crossing land first, the impact of damaging winds may be less, but the mid atlantic coast from VA north to NJ should probably start thinking of this in terms of Ernesto in 2006 which knocked power out with hurricane force gusts all the way to NJ. With the ground soaked from NJ northeast , the greatest threat from this, in spite of what could still be an impressive wind maker even to New England, would be from heavy rains. With the ground wet, an east wind would knock down more trees than normal if the storm was coming after a dry period.

This has potential to be a multi billion dollar strike on the east coast, and would mean that the ideas on impact forecast from the preseason have merit. That its still August and the pattern is ripe for additional threats adds to the atmospheric ante.



He aint playing around, is he? multibillion
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I think Irene is moving West. NHC is waiting for consistency. Direct hit for PR and Hispaniola, which will severely disrupt the storm. My opinion...but I think it's plausible. We will know more about track after it traverses Hispaniola.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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