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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7473. beell
I think the original context of "pumping the ridge" was defined as the outflow from a single storm strengthening the ridge just ahead of its forward direction. This probably does not occur to any meaningful degree in the real world.

I have seen a ridge get pumped by interaction of two storms in close proximity. And in this case, according to the NHC, the piling up/convergence of air from the mid-latitude westerlies to the N of Irene.

Quite a difference from the original theory postulated and promoted by "others".
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Irene continues to gain latitude. I'd be inclined to say shes heading at 265/270 versus a 290/285 heading needed for her to graze the Hispanolia coastline.

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7471. hahaguy
Quoting Grandpato4:
I keep watching the news here in NC and I agree that they are not even really mentioning the possibility of a direct hit here. I keep hearing it's possible that we may get some rain from the remnants though but that is it.

See that's the problem with local mets. You don't want them to over hype a storm nor downplay it.You rarely see them in the middle.
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7470. lennit
hmm ok here is my little tidbit.. i have looked back as far as i can and have not found on system in aug or sept. that is where Irene is at now moving in that direction that suddenly turn N and went thru the Bahamas ..all have been gradual bends and either hit Fl or was right along the coast
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Just a side note....SST's in the gulfstream waters (just off east coast of FLA) are 86 degrees (30c)....lots of fuel for the fire.
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Quoting hurricane23:
Could head out to sea based on those northward wobbles the past 24hrs or so. 12z models are even futher east.


That's most likely too extreme, especially when you consider the NHC discussion.
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7467. ackee
Quoting TampaSpin:



MY OH MY.......LOOK at these 2........GEESH
said the same thing but shear seem high so guess it both wave do devlop its further down the road
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Got 2 Nephews and wives that live in Jacksonville......beach front no less.....I just called them....to consider options.


How many wives do you have?
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Going north of Islands has completely changed everything. This one looks to be a major for sure impacting the CONUS. The countdown is on and ticking till final destination....




This one is going to sting for sure. Not a way one would like the end the no landfall streak. NHC wording indicates that they are rather impressed with the upper level pattern that will be in place from here on out. Creating it's own environment, should this occur, is indicative Irene will been in the elite grouping of hurricanes. Kinda scary ATM...
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7464. A4Guy
Quoting Matt1989:
The storm is very lopsided.. got a long way to go before any more intensification occurs.


Hispanola already causing some interference with the broader circulation.
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7463. oakland
Quoting yesterway:


Connie, Do you really expect anything but confusion at a public forum with hyped up maniacs all trying to convince everyone they have the answer. Get out of here and go to the website of your local county emergency management. They will have links to all pertinent information whereby you can make sound decisions regarding your response to this event.


Excellent advice!
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Good morning... just woke up and thanks God, it's very calm, some rain a very little wind.
Irene has been just a small storm, at least for my area... 9AM here, but I'm going back to bed



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Quoting connie1976:
I am absolutely confused.... Aren't all of the models pointed at SC/NC? (not that I want those people to get the storm, I just don't want it) I thought South Florida was definately out of it with the models? Thanks all for always being so kind and answering my questions!! :)


Connie, Do you really expect anything but confusion at a public forum with hyped up maniacs all trying to convince everyone they have the answer. Get out of here and go to the website of your local county emergency management. They will have links to all pertinent information whereby you can make sound decisions regarding your response to this event.
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The storm is very lopsided.. got a long way to go before any more intensification occurs.
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7458. scott39
Quoting connie1976:
I am absolutely confused.... Aren't all of the models pointed at SC/NC? (not that I want those people to get the storm, I just don't want it) I thought South Florida was definately out of it with the models? Thanks all for always being so kind and answering my questions!! :)
Look for the official National Hurricane site and your local weather to be your source. There is alot of information on here and if you see something to be true with one blogger someone else will have a different opinion. Also maps and models can be interpreted many ways.
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Could head out to sea based on those northward wobbles the past 24hrs or so. 12z models are even futher east.
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She will be a very large storm wind field wise at final destination
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7455. oakland
Quoting goldenpixie1:
Even if Irene doesn't make landfall in South Florida, there's still gonna be a lot of wind and rain there, so precautions have to be taken. Don't for a minute think that the track can't change suddenly. Better to be prepared for the worst and just get wind and rain, than not be prepared at all.


2 perfect examples:

Andrew in 1992- supposed to hit the county line b/t Miami Dade and Broward. In a matter of hours ended up in Homestead.

Charlie in 2004- supposed to hit Tampa and again in a matter of hours slammed into Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda about 75-100 miles south of Tampa.

Take nothing for granted when a hurricane is that close to you.
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Quoting ncstorm:
The local media here is downplaying Irene..a blurb here or there in the weather forecasts pretty much saying Florida is getting this one..Friday is only 5 days away..they dont go over the models or show the possibilities of what NC could be facing..just nothing..I have told all my friends and families .its better to know what could lay ahead early than find out on wednesday or thursday that you will need to uproot your family and get the heck out of dodge..

(disclaimer-I am not bashing the media, just stating what I see)


I noticed the same this morning. Radio this morning said it was going to go into the Floriday Keys?

Im sure the local media will start covering it this evening and into tomorrow.
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Quoting yesterway:


What's all this about prepare. Put your shutters up, turn off the power and reserve a room out of town. When it's all over meet your insurance agent back at your home to access the damage (if any). Resume your life. Simple!

Have you been through a Hurricane? Some how, if only it was that simple.
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7452. MahFL
The eye seems to be getting bigger, does that mean a larger hurricane ?
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7451. nash28
Quoting BoroDad17:
TVCN/TVCA moved a lot further east based on the 12Z early cycle. Big change in track coming from NHC at 11am I believe.


Not a big change. As long as the GFDL is still parking over S FL, the NHC will only adjust slightly. Maybe a small nudge further east at 11am, if any at all.
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On that note, I think I'll head out. I'll be in and out today... got stuff to set up...
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7449. ackee
well IRENE seem much better organize I would be suprise if this reach cat 4
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7448. A4Guy
Quoting BoroDad17:
TVCN/TVCA moved a lot further east based on the 12Z early cycle. Big change in track coming from NHC at 11am I believe.



yeah...they usually follow the consensus fairly closely...unless they feel strongly that a variable is being over or under done by the models.
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Got 2 Nephews and wives that live in Jacksonville......beach front no less.....I just called them....to consider options.
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Quoting Tampa77:
How far do tropical storm winds extend from the center on the west side of the storm? I would think that even if South FL didn't get a direct hit, they could get tropical force winds and rain. It is still reason to prepare.


http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at4 shtml/085712.shtml?tswind120?large#contents

Wind speed probabilities for Hurricane Irene.
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7445. hang10z
Quoting LakelandNana:
Can't say I am excited at all, the gas alone for the generator will be a gazillion dollars if we need to run it for any length of time. Replacing roofs, fences, paying the tree company another gazillion dollars for downed trees, being without power in 90+ degree heat and taking cold showers does not excite me in the least. But, if that is your idea of excitement...


Amen to that, I had no power for 3 weeks after wilma which at the time was annoying.. however now I have a 3 year old to take care of.. not looking forward to "camping"
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7444. shfr173
interesting how it shows the high building in ahead if irene!
Quoting TampaSpin:


Much anything beyond this time frame is still guessing.
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7443. ncstorm
The local media here is downplaying Irene..a blurb here or there in the weather forecasts pretty much saying Florida is getting this one..Friday is only 5 days away..they dont go over the models or show the possibilities of what NC could be facing..just nothing..I have told all my friends and families .its better to know what could lay ahead early than find out on wednesday or thursday that you will need to uproot your family and get the heck out of dodge..

(disclaimer-I am not bashing the media, just stating what I see)
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15286


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Quoting Tampa77:
How far do tropical storm winds extend from the center on the west side of the storm? I would think that even if South FL didn't get a direct hit, they could get tropical force winds and rain. It is still reason to prepare.


Tropical storm winds extend out 150 miles, and expected to get even bigger by the time it's in the Bahamas
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TVCN/TVCA moved a lot further east based on the 12Z early cycle. Big change in track coming from NHC at 11am I believe.
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7439. Grothar
Quoting hydrus:
!1988,s Gibert this.. Isabel ttoo...03..


Gilbert was the perfect example.
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The current NHC track has Irene crossing the coast at the Fla/GA state line, as a Cat 2 Hurricane.


Click Image for loop and turn on Trop Fcst Points.
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MY OH MY.......LOOK at these 2........GEESH
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Hm... interesting that the cat 1-2 storms seem more prone to go to Florida than head west... either that or out to sea...
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A track just north of Hispaniola into South Florida would be a terrible track as well. If the ridge builds in just a little more than forecast, South Florida could have a major hurricane. No one from Miami to North Carolina is in the clear.
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7434. Tampa77
How far do tropical storm winds extend from the center on the west side of the storm? I would think that even if South FL didn't get a direct hit, they could get tropical force winds and rain. It is still reason to prepare.
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Quoting nash28:


A little premature...But will agree on the land interaction. Would have preferred if Irene had a long snack on the mountains. Didn't happen. Everyone from FL to NC needs to get in gear and make sure you and your families are prepared. Don't wait until the track is definite and right up your street. It is too late then.
Haven't heard from you in awhile,Hopefully it will curve off,but no front to push it means trouble?
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7432. Grothar
Quoting scott39:
Good Job Gro. I think it will go more W for that reason and the trough may lift out faster. With those two unknown possible factors...Irenes track forecast for where it goes in the SE states is still highly unceartain. IMHO


Thanks, scott. It is very uncertain now that it strenghthend. We should expect some more changes in the models today.
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I'm sure someone answered this question, but the blog is moving at warp speed so the answer is likely buried...when is the next set of model runs? TIA.
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Even if Irene doesn't make landfall in South Florida, there's still gonna be a lot of wind and rain there, so precautions have to be taken. Don't for a minute think that the track can't change suddenly. Better to be prepared for the worst and just get wind and rain, than not be prepared at all.
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Quoting spayandneuter:


and another good link to help you prepare!

Link


What's all this about prepare. Put your shutters up, turn off the power and reserve a room out of town. When it's all over meet your insurance agent back at your home to access the damage (if any). Resume your life. Simple!
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Going north of Islands has completely changed everything. This one looks to be a major for sure impacting the CONUS. The countdown is on and ticking till final destination....

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Quoting DookiePBC:
Here is why I think we may be in the clear in South Florida. Watched Fox 29's morning news this morning. Of course, the lead story was Hurricane Irene. They showed satellite of it. Then he says, I'll have details on where it might be going, later in the hour. If this were a big threat they'd be hyping the heck out of it and telling us to remain vigilant. When they did finally show the track he focused much less on the NHC track and much more on the model plots, which nearly all show us to be safe down here. Publix and the Home Depot weren't even the sponsors for the weather forecast for crying out loud!
You know, when I saw the bolded part, I almost didn't read the rest of the message... lol WSVN Miami has a lot to do with that... lol

Yeah, I gotta admit if FOX isn't hyping it, must not be coming your way... lol
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Thanks all! Well, we atleast only have two and I'm sure that those will move more east soon! I'm sorry whoever gets this storm.... it may be cool to watch the winds, but it is NOT cool to have to deal with insurance company to get your roof fixed...or to have no a/c!!!
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Quoting connie1976:
I am absolutely confused.... Aren't all of the models pointed at SC/NC? (not that I want those people to get the storm, I just don't want it) I thought South Florida was definately out of it with the models? Thanks all for always being so kind and answering my questions!! :)
Everybody is confused,just be prepared as best you can!
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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.