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 the recon will find Irene a hurricane or vary close too one
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115234
Guys this is panning out like levi stated in his tidbit. unbelievable how levi is so good at his forecast.
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2721. RickWPB
Quoting snow2fire:


I totally agree. As long as landfall in FL is possible, NHC probably doesn't want to make major changes in projected track that take FL out of play.

A 200 mile difference in position means that it could hit Miami (sooner than later). If it's headed for the Carolinas, landfall will be days later - with more time to prepare.


So true! It's been 6 yrs since a Hurricane hit S. Florida. Doesn't take long for the public to get complacent.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting popartpete:
I just had this hunch, an instinct, that Irene would go more north of the islands than initially forecast, and not much land interaction. It seems to be happening. I see a big U.S. storm, but only time will tell. Call Miss Cleo, she might know.

Why call Ms Cleo? We already had the best damn "psychic twins" in the world tell us this would happen. And the said so over 6 months ago. I suppose a second psychic opinion would not hurt.
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60Kt gust at this buoy
Link
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2718. HCW
3D Cross Section Radar view of Irene

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2717. amd
Quoting MrstormX:
Any obs from st croix?


yeah, one observation from the north east coast reported a gust of 60 knots (69 mph), but i have not seen any tropical storm force sustained winds yet.

St. Croix buoy observations:

Buoy CHSV3

Buoy LTBV3

Buoy SRBV3
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2716. 7544
now thats a eye is irene at 70mph now
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2713. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting lucreto:


St.Croix hardly classifies as land
more like a speed bump no pun or disrespect intended for the people of that island nation hold not long she be gone
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
When They gonna get there? oh, right 7:05. LOL


I'm thinking 7:04 lol
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I guess the wobblecasters are out now that we have radar :)
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2710. MZT

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2708. Levi32
Quoting tennisgirl08:
Levi, I highly respect your analysis...but I have to disagree with you taking the eastern Gomex out of the equation. First of all, climatology says Irene will not hit Georgia directly. If anything, it will hit northern SC or NC. On the other spectrum, I think Irene will hit Hispaniola weakening it...possibly causing another center relocation. The AB High is strong right now and the TX high is retrograding to west...more so than shown in your steering maps this morning. I am not saying it will go into the Gomex...just that it should not be taken out of the equation...


That's fine. Some will disagree with me on this one. Everyone in Florida should keep an eye on the situation, but in my mind the northward shift last night and this morning sealed the deal to be Florida or farther north.

Also, it's very bad to say Georgia won't get hit simply because they haven't been hit in forever. This is exactly the kind of storm that could do it, like David in 1979.
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From St. Croix
via Stormcarib

- Winds are picking up

By Jill Fisher
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2011 16:24:45 -0400

We've had rain and gusty winds since around noon. The winds are definitely
increasing now. Internet is out, cable is still working, power is still on ...
Hope I didn't jinx it! We've got the backup plan in place - generator and DVD
player ready to go. All is well here :)

~Jill~

Sent from my iPhone
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Quoting P451:


Was that before or after Taz asked 97L if he could fart for it?




oops i made it mad lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115234
2704. scott39
Quoting scott39:
A track riding up off the Fl. E Coast and then hitting SC/NC coast is not the track now. I Know.... I should have talked to the wall. LOL
Not the official NHS track!
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6858
2703. luigi18
Quoting Seastep:


Doesn't matter now. Everyone in PR should have been prepared for a cat 1 already... at least.


Thanks of course , but here in the news they refer it as a TS , no shutters!
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481
Quoting MississippiWx:
Really no doubt about where the center is located...






looks to be moving ever so slightly north of west
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Quoting Levi32:


And I answered his question.


Bad day?
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Levi..#2647
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Quoting caneswatch:


Geez, he just asked a question.


LOL.
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2698. WxLogic
Quoting USAFwxguy:
Just for fun... this is the 00Z NAM for 24/1200



and this is the 18Z NAM for 24/1200



Would be interesting to see if the TROF is also weaker on the 00Z run.
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


A spinning propeller would not function at all well with strong winds.


Ok, I saw talk of an Osprey and that was it; so I'm not exactly sure what this conversation is about...Pardon me if I'm jumping in on something and am clueless.

But, you do know that the Hercules is a prop plane correct? Actually prop planes are better suited to handle the harsh environment of tropical systems. It's why you'll never see a G IV flying low altitude flights in to a storm.

That said, I'm not sure I'd put an Osprey in a Cat 4 hurricane. The Hercules serves it's purpose just fine.

C-130 Hercules -

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Quoting P451:


Was that before or after Taz asked 97L if he could fart for it?



Must have been after because I don't remember anything about that..lol.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Dakster:
I am surprised that Irene isn't making a bee line for Washington, with all that hot air been blown around there... Has to be a hurricane's dream.
Agreed.
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Quoting MrstormX:
Any obs from st croix?

They're in her eye, so all is calm.
1003mb and dropping.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5690
2693. HarryMc
Quoting Dakster:


I don't think I would want to be on one of those in a TS either... I think it is spelled Osprey?


I think they got it right already. The 4 prop C130 is probably the most stable air-frame out there for heavy weather.
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2692. Levi32
Quoting caneswatch:


Geez, he just asked a question.


And I answered his question.
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I think the center of Irene will pass slightly south of St Croix.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Levi, I highly respect your analysis...but I have to disagree with you taking the eastern Gomex out of the equation. First of all, climatology says Irene will not hit Georgia directly. If anything, it will hit northern SC or NC. On the other spectrum, I think Irene will hit Hispaniola weakening it...possibly causing another center relocation. The AB High is strong right now and the TX high is retrograding to west...more so than shown in your steering maps this morning. I am not saying it will go into the Gomex...just that it should not be taken out of the equation...
Member Since: July 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1242
Quoting Levi32:


Why on Earth would NC be out of the woods. It takes only 1.5 degrees longitude to get from the Florida coast to the NC coast. That's why the whole area from south Florida to North Carolina should be watching this closely. Anyone there could see this storm.


Geez, he just asked a question.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
2687. luigi18
Quoting islander101010:
i like to listen to the local webcast as a cyclone moves by. lots of rastafarians in st croix im guessing they make great music. next is boriquens music.


SALSA!
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481
Quoting HCW:
Check out this ship report from the middle of Irene

Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 994
Quoting cchsweatherman:
Very much in agreement with the NHC track.


I believe that NHC track is such that they want to see just a bit more consistency. Plenty of reason from a model perspective to shift it further east. But since the Bahamas are there and watches etc. are up, you dont want to shift the track over them and than shift it back west again if you can avoid it. I think they will look at the 18Z runs etc. and a track further east will apply then.
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And here we go....

.LONG TERM /WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY/...
-- Changed Discussion --
ALL EYES WILL BE ON THE EVENTUAL TRACK OF WHAT IS NOW TS IRENE. THE
LATEST (12Z) GFS AND ECMWF HAVE COME IN REAL GOOD AGREEMENT WITH THE
TRACK AND TIMING OF IRENE...HAVING IT COME ASHORE ALONG THE SRN SC
COAST FRI NIGHT...THEN TAKING ON A MORE N...EVENTUALLY NE TRACK
ACROSS CEN/ERN VA (ALONG/E OF I-95) ON SUNDAY. SUCH A TRACK WOULD
BE FAVORABLE FOR AN ENHANCED HEAVY RAIN THREAT (ESP WEST OF I-95
TRACK)...AND THUS AN ELEVATED RISK FOR RIVER FLOODING...AS WELL AS A
MORE FVRBL ENVIRONMENT FOR ISOLATED TROPICAL TORNADOES (ESP E OF 95)
BY SUNDAY. IN TERMS OF THE STRONG WIND THREAT...THE CURRENT
PROJECTED INLAND TRACK WOULD OBVIOUSLY CAUSE SOME WEAKENING AS IRENE
LOSES ITS TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS. MOREOVER...THE MODELS DO NOT
NOT INDICATE MUCH BAROCLINIC CONTRIBUTION NEXT WEEKEND (I.E. NO
BIG/STRONG SFC HIGH TO THE N)...THUS HOPEFULLY SUCH A SCENARIO
WOULD MITIGATE THE THREAT FOR STRONG/DMGNG WINDS...AS LEAST AWAY
FROM THE COASTS. WINDS SHOULD PICK UP ALONG THE COAST...EVEN WITH
AN INLAND TRACK...AND WITH A LONG DURATION (FRI NIGHT THROUGH SUN)
OF STRENGTHENING E/SE FLOW...WOULD SEE AN ELEVATED RISK FOR
COASTAL FLOODING...PARTICULARLY UP CHES BAY AND ASSCD TRIBUTARIES.
CERTAINLY MANY SCENARIOS THAT COULD PLAY OUT DEPENDING ON THE
EVENTUAL TRACK OF IRENE. FOR NOW...HAVE BUMPED UP POPS TO 50% NEXT
WEEKEND (WELL ABOVE CLIMO FRO DAYS 6/7...GIVEN THE GOOD MODEL
CONSENSUS THAT FAR OUT)...WHILE ALSO TRIMMING MAX TEMPS BOTH SAT
AND SUN (GENERALLY LWR 80S).
-- End Changed Discussion --
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Any obs from st croix?
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
2681. Seastep
Quoting luigi18:


Hello Levi you think we are going to have a category 1 hurricane here in PR or still TS ?


Doesn't matter now. Everyone in PR should have been prepared for a cat 1 already... at least.
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I just had this hunch, an instinct, that Irene would go more north of the islands than initially forecast, and not much land interaction. It seems to be happening. I see a big U.S. storm, but only time will tell. Call Miss Cleo, she might know.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2679. scott39
A track riding up off the Fl. E Coast and then hitting SC/NC coast is not the track now. I Know.... I should have talked to the wall. LOL
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6858
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This radar called Grlevelx has a station in Puerto Rico, completely forgot about that.


Looks like a 70mph storm, if not a Cat 1.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5690
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This radar called Grlevelx has a station in Puerto Rico, completely forgot about that.



I'm now becoming more certain that that is an eye. Recon will almost certainly find her stronger than 50mph.
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i like to listen to the local webcast as a cyclone moves by. lots of rastafarians in st croix im guessing they make great music. next is boriquens music.
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Really no doubt about where the center is located...


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
2673. luigi18
Quoting Levi32:


Why on Earth would NC be out of the woods. It takes only 1.5 degrees longitude to get from the Florida coast to the NC coast. That's why the whole area from south Florida to North Carolina should be watching this closely. Anyone there could see this storm.


Hello Levi you think we are going to have a category 1 hurricane here in PR or still TS ?
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481

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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.