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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Quoting Gorty:


Holy crap, that is bringing 50kt winds close to my area!


lol, it puts me in the 50 kt. area.
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Quoting xcool:


hmm move sw imo


Longer loops show an overall WNW movement.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Take your finger and put it on the screen where the loop starts. Take another finger and put it where it ends. At that current projection, it would only clip the NE part of Puerto Rico. Right??
No.

Look at the southern half of the center. It is moving directly west. Maybe 275.

The center is elongated to the north.

Roughly 30 miles across.

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She seems to be wobbling SW as she tries to close off her eyewall:
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they are likely going to issue Hurricane/ Tropical storm Watches for the central bahamas at 5pm
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Quoting RevHeather:
Hi all. Thanks for all the great information. I was wondering if East Central Florida is off the hook for Irene? I have to take a trip later this week and I need to know whether I should change my plans.


The models are trending north of there for landfall, but you're definitely not off the hook.
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Don't want to say this, but if it misses Hispaniola...

There is your next weather disaster for 2011.
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To be honest the Carolinas were already predicted to be under the gun this year due to the weather patterns and such.So I would not be surprised if Irene ended up somewhere in that area.
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Quoting P451:
We're in business. WNW it continues - aiming right for eastern PR. Strengthening. Tightening up. ETc...it's all right here to be seen.






If you notice as well, it appears as thought the center took a jump north. This is not looking good.
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2313. Gorty
Quoting FDNYR:
Link


Holy crap, that is bringing 50kt winds close to my area! And I live in southern New England.
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Quoting lucreto:
Looks worse than Emily geez you guys are ready to jump on anything if it has support from a group of models most know nothing about.


Oh, I'm dying to hear your forecast.
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Irene's core is certainly tightening up quickly...Radar is telling us that in precise terms.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Looks like Harvey wants to be reborn in the EPac....

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22319
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


95 mph?


Yes. Because I think 85 knots = 90 mph and 90 knots = 100 mph.
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Quoting P451:
We're in business. WNW it continues - aiming right for eastern PR. Strengthening. Tightening up. ETc...it's all right here to be seen.






here we go. seatbelt /on
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Quoting ElConando:


They do, they don't use 55 and another number.


95 mph?
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For the sake of "what-ifs"... If Irene were to scrape the East coast of FL, this is the water that it would have to encounter:

Buoy 41009 (20 NMI East of Cape Canaveral, FL)
Water Temperature (WTMP):

86.0 °F

Buoy 41010 (120 NMI East of Cape Canaveral, FL)
Water Temperature (WTMP):

85.8 °F
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Take your finger and put it on the screen where the loop starts. Take another finger and put it where it ends. At that current projection, it would only clip the NE part of Puerto Rico. Right??
Yes.
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Thanks for all the good info and responses, especially from my NC companions! Will be back later to see what Irene has up her sleeve for us tonight.
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weather channel just made a notation that it appears that Irene is going to be just north of Hispanolia as it passes...if this holds true, then the whole thing changes...they are already hinting at a Carolina hit...
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Quoting P451:
We're in business. WNW it continues - aiming right for eastern PR. Strengthening. Tightening up. ETc...it's all right here to be seen.






I held a ruler from St. Kitts to that "eyeish" position...you're right...Irene has been going WNW...and using that same ruler edge...she's going to go just N of Hispaniola....

...Folks...this could be early signs of a major event for the southeast US coast (and areas inland depending on landfall)....Irene looks to be going just north of the DR....
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Quoting stormpetrol:
If Irene keep moving in the direction its moving now, Irene center will pass just south of PR.


Based on NWS radar, it looks like the center will go right over P.R.
It will be close. If a more westerly movement takes place, the center could skirt the southern coast.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
If Irene keep moving in the direction its moving now, Irene center will pass just south of PR.

Too late. Look at comment 2263. The eye (or center) is at Southern PR's latitude. And heading WNW.
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2295. zparkie
the more west it goes the chances rise on a south florida hit, either way rain, wind, squally weather next weekend
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Quoting Grandpato4:


That is very irresponsible and should be noted by blog administrators.


There are 3 people posting these fake models. One is lucreto, the other is lovemamatus. They also post of the McTavish or some such thing. Also a fake model.
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Quoting hurricane23:


Looking better for sfl based on this evenings models. Still plenty of time to watch.



Do you think Irene will go north of Hispaniola?
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nvm, i miss read the comment.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3757
2290. MZT
Sure does look like a wrap is taking place up the east (and even northeast) sides on the radar. The storm is getting together and headed to PR.
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2289. xcool


hmm move sw imo
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2288. Seastep
The birds are checking out the situation in PR:

Webcam
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Quoting P451:
We're in business. WNW it continues - aiming right for eastern PR. Strengthening. Tightening up. ETc...it's all right here to be seen.







is that a eye wall froming on the rader?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115235
2286. JLPR2
Current location seems obvious.
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Quoting weatherjr:
To me PR will avoid the worst (northern-northeast)part of the storm, even if center passes directly over it. God is great!


dude, storms rotate. did u get the memo?

that north part will rotate and thus we will feel it's effect. even by tuesday we will still be under rain

by the way, the storm is due south, not north... if it were to pass 100mi off the north i would agree with you
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Interesting to note, the NHC is requesting supplemental soundings from New York southward, and from Slidell eastward. I think it's very cool how upper air soundings from as far away as New York will be instrumental in accurately pinpointing the track and intensity of Irene.
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Quoting P451:
We're in business. WNW it continues - aiming right for eastern PR. Strengthening. Tightening up. ETc...it's all right here to be seen.






Take your finger and put it on the screen where the loop starts. Take another finger and put it where it ends. At that current projection, it would only clip the NE part of Puerto Rico. Right??
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Quoting FromAn11YearOldBoy:
Why does TWC still have it going through Florida? Did something change?
The NHC official forecast has Irene making landfall in S Fl. The weather channel uses the NHC's track for its updates (as it should.)
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Very well put TropicalMiami! Jumping on every model shift is so dangerous.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I'm going with 55 mph to 65 mph range for 5 pm.



plzs note that they do not do 55mph on storms any more so it will go too 60mph if they bump it
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Quoting zerveftexas:
18z PLANFALF model takes Irene out to sea as a major hurricane......


Link please
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
i still think its going to come dangerously close to SE florida


Looking better for sfl based on this evenings models. Still plenty of time to watch.

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2277. Grothar
Quoting Seflhurricane:
i still think its going to come dangerously close to SE florida


Well, this is the GFDL. I want to see when the new one comes out in a few hours. It looks like Irene wants to start taking on that comma shape soon.

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Irene should go right over P.R. It will be interesting to see what if any effect P.R. has on the circulation.
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If Irene keep moving in the direction its moving now, Irene center will pass just south of PR.
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2274. zparkie
you can tell it is heading towards south florida, its not going to make that northerly turn in time, if it goes over puerto rico, it would have to make a drastic turn for it to hit Gorgia or north Florida
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Quoting caneswatch:
If Irene misses Hispaniola, it's a whole new ballgame.


Will be watching the PR radar very closely tonight to see if it does just that. Sounds like whether it goes over or N of Hispanolia will decide a lot about the path it takes, and even more so about the future intensity.
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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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