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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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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2922. GBguy88
Winds gusting to 70mph on St. Thomas...
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Quoting breald:


That is a great field to get into. My ex got his avionics certification. It was a tough test to pass, but I am sure you will do fine.


I'm in school for a year so that I can pass it; hence the associates in Avionics as well...They better teach me everything I need to know ;) The sad thing is that Boeing requires an A&P as well in order to work flight line. Would much rather end up somewhere like Gulfstream, or better yet...Scaled Composites. Not sure I'm a West Coast man though. I sort of like the Holy City.
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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.
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Quoting Levi32:


Their track is very possible, and Florida is still threatened. If I have to pick a track it is farther north than that in South Carolina, but in reality only small changes in the track could plant it in different states. Much will depend on the wobbly interactions with Hispaniola, as well as how strong Irene is after getting tangled up with the island.


With storms that are steered by the pattern we currently have, you usually often see shifts in the models after the G1V plane data is incorporated. Expect to see some more swings left and right in the next 24-48 hours.
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999.5 in the center

FULL
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UW - CIMSS
ADVANCED DVORAK TECHNIQUE
ADT-Version 8.1.3
Tropical Cyclone Intensity Algorithm

----- Current Analysis -----
Date : 21 AUG 2011 Time : 204500 UTC
Lat : 17:41:03 N Lon : 64:20:25 W


CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.1 / 999.2mb/ 47.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
2.7 3.2 3.6

Center Temp : -22.4C Cloud Region Temp : -51.8C

Scene Type : CURVED BAND with 0.79 ARC in LT GRAY

Positioning Method : FORECAST INTERPOLATION

Ocean Basin : ATLANTIC
Dvorak CI > MSLP Conversion Used : ATLANTIC

Tno/CI Rules : Constraint Limits : 0.5T/hour
Weakening Flag : ON
Rapid Dissipation Flag : OFF

C/K/Z MSLP Estimate Inputs :
- Average 34 knot radii : 100km
- Environmental MSLP : 1012mb

Satellite Viewing Angle : 24.0 degrees
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115244
Quoting Levi32:


Well it probably won't avoid northern Hispaniola. If it were to avoid it by a wobble or something, then we would be talking about a steadily-strengthening hurricane, likely into a major before it reached the US. Much of its final intensity will depend on which U.S. state it hits. Florida means less time over water, while the Carolinas mean more.
Linklevi your opinion on this would be appreciated thank you
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2914. Dakster
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?


Latest runs look better for us in SE Florida... But we are far from out of the woods.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10480
Quoting USAFwxguy:


He was just saying it satirically I think.


yes...I'm quite sure of that...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
2912. Grothar
Well, it sure looks like its trying to do something.

img src="">
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26527
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2910. hotrods
Levi has always gave good info on here as well as others, Keep up the great info Levi! you are well respected!
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Quoting THL3:
Can they launch a dropsonde up?
bottlerockets
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Quoting Levi32:


Their track is very possible, and Florida is still threatened. If I have to pick a track it is farther north than that in South Carolina, but in reality only small changes in the track could plant it in different states. Much will depend on the wobbly interactions with Hispaniola, as well as how strong Irene is after getting tangled up with the island.
but for SE fla the probabilities are high right now correct 40-50 % ??
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Looks to me like this cyclone is gonna' ride along the south coast of PR. Worst case scenario for everyone in PR. Whoever said it can't get their soon enough is right. But, that movement would also cause some ingestion of the colder air flowing down the mountains, not helping development, I'd think. Thoughts? Rebuttals? Pie?


You forgot crow.lol...j/k It does look like it's gonna clear at leas the E half of the island, not so sure about the W half.
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Quoting caneswatch:


But you acted like a a-hole to him. I mean geez Levi, this is what just someone was talking about the other day. You don't act like a jerk to someone who asks a question, you take it nicely. Apparently, it's the one who gets the most respect is the most disrespectful.


Everybody who has been on this blog for any length of time knows well that Levi does not go around attacking people or being disrespectful. He's a great forecaster who is happy to take questions from everybody. This blog owes him a lot.
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2904. NCSaint
Quoting charliesurvivor04:
I live on the west coast of Fla. and I know most of the models take it over the East coast but why is the GFDL still taking it West? Could all the other models be wrong?


The various model's algorythms are all attempting to predict where, when and how strongly a trough forms along the east coast, with none agreeing very well on that solution, so that's why some models are still showing a westerly solution. The data should be more reliable in the next 48-72 hours to draw the solutions closer one way or another
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Quoting Drakoen:
Not sure if this was already posted, but the ECWMF and the ECMWFEPS are not too far off. With the ECMWFEPS on the left, and the ECWMF operational on the right Florida needs to continue to monitor this system.



I was surprised the NHC didn't shift more in line with the TVCN, especially after two consecutive shifts eastward today. Leads me to believe that they have a little more confidence in their current forecast than is being advertised.
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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.


Yeah, I hear you. I remember having David come close to us here in NE FLA when I was younger and that wasn't too much fun back then. sure we have more in the season to come.
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Quoting USAFwxguy:


The one poised to pass just south of St Croix itself.


On a WNW heading, it will go directly over St. Croix.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Grothar:
Looks like it is moving due West. Thought is was supposed to go to the North of Puerto Rico. This might change the models again. Just saying.
I see that too on Radar. Tracking it over time is showing wobblesssss to the north.

Will the wobbles stop and the west motion prevail?
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Quoting charlottefl:
TVS Warnings popping up in SE Puerto Rico...

O_O
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Probabilities for TS force winds in SE florida are between 40-50% so it looks very likely we will get strong winds BUT. for SE florida to not get strong winds the forecast cones would have to make a big shift east
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2894. Patrap
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2892. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting mbjjm:
Microwave imagery Irene











can ya see it its right there wait till the darkness of the night
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
2891. 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.

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2890. Levi32
Quoting Seflhurricane:
levi what do you think Irene may go do you agree with the current NHC track


Their track is very possible, and Florida is still threatened. If I have to pick a track it is farther north than that in South Carolina, but in reality only small changes in the track could plant it in different states. Much will depend on the wobbly interactions with Hispaniola, as well as how strong Irene is after getting tangled up with the island.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Hold on there Conner, he said he didn't mean to say it rudely.


Chill.
Remember, there's kiddies on here!
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Quoting Grothar:
Looks like it is moving due West. Thought is was supposed to go to the North of Puerto Rico. This might change the models again. Just saying.
Thank you ,,JMO also..
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TVS Warnings popping up in SE Puerto Rico...
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2885. wpb
gfs starting 18z
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Quoting weatherxtreme:


Yep, looks like someone will be taking one for the team.
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.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Quoting caneswatch:


But you acted like a a-hole to him. I mean geez Levi, this is what just someone was talking about the other day. You don't act like a jerk to someone who asks a question, you take it nicely. Apparently, it's the one who gets the most respect is the most disrespectful.


What are you crying about levi already apologized. Let it go. Forgot you were a saint.
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Quoting iamtheman99:

it in the eye on the ground read back before u poist


Gotcha! thanks chief
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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


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?
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Quoting Grothar:
Looks like it is moving due West. Thought is was supposed to go to the North of Puerto Rico. This might change the models again. Just saying.


et tu, Grothar?!?!?!?!?!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Looks to me like this cyclone is gonna' ride along the south coast of PR. Worst case scenario for everyone in PR. Whoever said it can't get their soon enough is right. But, that movement would also cause some ingestion of the colder air flowing down the mountains, not helping development, I'd think. Thoughts? Rebuttals? Pie?
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Quoting Grothar:
Looks like it is moving due West. Thought is was supposed to go to the North of Puerto Rico. This might change the models again. Just saying.


If you look at the map in post 2859 you can see that the high to the N is pretty strong where Irene is now; but as she slides further W the high is not as strong and will allow her to start pulling N just a bit more. I would expect the N component to come back right as she gets to DR. I am reading that map correctly right?
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Quoting weatherxtreme:
When will Recon be getting back into Irene?



if you look at my post 2837



i said at 7pm


larn tooo look at the post when some one says some in and you larn a lot more
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115244
Quoting Drakoen:
Irene does not have an eye. Microwave imagery imagery suggests a partial eyewall on the southern side, but certainly not closed.

hey drak how have you been . how does it look for us in se florida /??
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Quoting caneswatch:


But you acted like a a-hole to him. I mean geez Levi, this is what just someone was talking about the other day. You don't act like a jerk to someone who asks a question, you take it nicely. Apparently, it's the one who gets the most respect is the most disrespectful.


Hold on there Conner, he said he didn't mean to say it rudely.


Chill.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32286
2874. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Grothar:
Looks like it is moving due West. Thought is was supposed to go to the North of Puerto Rico. This might change the models again. Just saying.
nothing is written in stone all ahead full steady she goes
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.