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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Any guesses on the 5PM intensity?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2222. luigi18
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

~25mph gusts, and a lot of rain, some thunder after it passed.


ada monzon good info very sharp irene over pr
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2221. hotrods
Irene looks to be pretty close to the Hurricane Centers points. I see the models have shifted again east,if irene stays on these points could have a shift once again back to west slightly, imo.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
will some one say some in about this or i keep posting this in tell some one dos lol


21/1745 UTC 17.5N 63.7W T3.5/3.5 IRENE -- Atlantic


Seems like a good number for now...3.5 is 55 knots, or 65 mph.

Maybe a little lower at 60 mph though.
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Quoting washingaway:
http://euler.atmos.colostate.edu/~vigh/guidance/n orthatlantic/track_early2.png


You have a space in that URL. That's why it's not working.
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My best guess is that the center of circulation at this point, based on radar, is on the southern part of the precipitation free "eye-like" feature... ESE of the easternmost point of St. Croix, moving W. Any thoughts?
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Quoting lottotexas:
But not none ?


Only a few models show it recurving out to sea without making landfall.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
For those who like the Storm Alert music, I believe they only use it for major hurricanes.

We may here it anyways...

My favorite is last year's Tropical Update Intro. They used the same music (thank God) this year, but changed the intro slightly.
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2214. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Seflhurricane:
if she continues to move WNW she is going to make a direct hit on puerto rico and skirt the northern coast of dominican republic which means a very strong storm over the bahamas .
something wicked this way comes
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If it misses Hispaniola, do not rule out any intensity...Whether that is a 75 mph Category 1 or a 160 mph Category 5.

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I think Irene will be like a mix of Hugo and David.
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will some one say some in about this or i keep posting this in tell some one dos lol


21/1745 UTC 17.5N 63.7W T3.5/3.5 IRENE -- Atlantic
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Quoting TampaMishy:
I live in Tampa do I need to be concerned with Irene or is it to early?


Tamp is the perfect place to be NOT to havre any interaction with this storm
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Always liked this compared to all the other ones..

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Quoting wolftribe2009:
It should be noted that any land interaction that disrupts Irene and weakens it will lead to a storm headed more westward and missing the trough. In other words it would be headed up the eastern gulf.


I dont think the GOM scenario is likely no matter what.. As observers though I think there are two near term things to look for so far as the track. Prior to shifting Eastward all of the models had Irene going on the south of the islands or at least the southerm portion of the landmass. The models have shifted and the CMC, GFS and HWRF all take Irene somewhat over Puerto Rico exit and along the north coast of DR/Hisp. Most of them have Irene moving almost WNW at this point. It Will be interesting to see if she stays on the southern coast or just south of puerto rico and continues straight west into DR/Hisp rather than going WNW earlier.
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Thank you
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I am quite terrified of the impacts this system could have if it ends up missing Hispaniola completely. It could be very strong.
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Quoting AllStar17:


I wonder what this year's music will be. I'm sure they'll use it for Irene.
That's still a mystery.I guess the answer to our question will be answered later this week.
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Yeah...its called eye of the storm by stephen arnold music as the posters on youtube say....

It really set the mood when it debuted for Katrina...that was a very very weird day....
Awwww yes.I remember when it first debuted to.It debuted two days before Katrina made landfall.When I first herd it I was like.....whoa is that really coming from TWC?
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Quoting weatherxtreme:
Does it look like we will need to worry much here in NE FLA with the model shifts now? Since it looks like it could potentially be more NC,SC etc down the road? I need to still get some more supplies if so, gas for generators etc...
I wouldn't rule out Florida landfall just yet.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7897
Quoting AWeatherLover:
The NHC center call is going on right now. Interested in hearing what they say. Keeping up with Irene's progress is important for all those in or near the forecasted track. Starting tomorrow they will start special balloon releases at NWS Tampa.


Keep us informed with what they say.
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
What are the chances Irene misses the U.S completely?
LONG TERM /WEDNESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY/...
AS OF 3 PM SUNDAY...MAIN STORY FOR THE PERIOD IS IRENE AND WHAT/IF
ANY IMPACT IT WILL HAVE ON THE ILM AREA. WEAKNESS IN THE UPPER RIDGE
WILL DEVELOP AS SERIES OF WEAK UPPER TROUGHS DIG OVER THE EASTERN
US...ALLOWING THE STORM TO TURN NORTH. SOME OF THE MEDIUM RANGE
GUIDANCE HAS CONTINUED SHIFTING THE TRACK OF IRENE EAST...BUT THERE
HAS NOT BEEN A LOT OF RUN TO RUN CONSISTENCY SHOWN IN THE GUIDANCE
AND CONFIDENCE THROUGH THE PERIOD IS LOW. IN FACT THE RANGE OF
SOLUTIONS HAS THE STORM MAKING LANDFALL ANYWHERE FROM THE EASTERN
GULF COAST TO MISSING THE EAST COAST AND RECURVING INTO THE WESTERN
ATLANTIC. THE NEXT 24 TO 28 HOURS SHOULD PROVIDE
A MUCH CLEARER
PICTURE.






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Quoting AllStar17:


Just keep an eye on it. However, direct impacts to Tampa do not look likely at this time...especially with Irene's northward shifts.
BUT if South Florida gets out of this one its a miracle
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Quoting TampaMishy:
I live in Tampa do I need to be concerned with Irene or is it to early?


It's not going to the GOM.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:

Hey, if you had to leave Wilmington, which school is open for shelter? I know Wake/Johnston counties is taking care of that, but I'm wondering if it's my school.


I'm only 14, I don't know!

LOL!
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The NHC call is going on right now. Interested in hearing what they say. Keeping up with Irene's progress is important for all those in or near the forecasted track. Starting tomorrow they will start special balloon releases at NWS Tampa.
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Quoting AllStar17:


I like the song, too. But I also agree with your last sentence. What about these???
Link


LOL...I like'd the 2005 one they did for Dennis in that video...the rest stank.....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 437 Comments: 3600
Quoting lottotexas:
But not none ?


Yeah...Probably none.
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2194. rv1pop
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
...I wonder what the McTavish numbers are.
Under the B-8, I-23....
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Yeah, I live just north of Wilmington.

Hey, if you had to leave Wilmington, which school is open for shelter? I know Wake/Johnston counties is taking care of that, but I'm wondering if it's my school.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7897
if she continues to move WNW she is going to make a direct hit on puerto rico and skirt the northern coast of dominican republic which means a very strong storm over the bahamas .
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Does it look like we will need to worry much here in NE FLA with the model shifts now? Since it looks like it could potentially be more NC,SC etc down the road? I need to still get some more supplies if so, gas for generators etc...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
For those who like the Storm Alert music, I believe they only use it for major hurricanes.

We may here it anyways...
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Quoting TampaMishy:
I live in Tampa do I need to be concerned with Irene or is it to early?


Just keep an eye on it. However, direct impacts to Tampa do not look likely at this time...especially with Irene's northward shifts.
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Now that its coming into focus on the PR radar, the center is clearly visible, almost closed off with thunderstorms, and is DEFINITELY moving slightly north of west. For now.
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:
Follow up to my last post...

If Irene does avoid Hispanolia enough to remain completely intact.... how strong do you guys think it would be by landfall? If there is really nothing to stop it (as far as land), plus little shear, and warm water... could this be a major hurricane coming towards the east coast?



Maybe.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Very slim.
But not none ?
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Seeing that the center is going to go pretty much over
St. Croix, Irene is north and east of the forecast path.
The NHC forecast path is south of St. Croix.
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21/1745 UTC 17.5N 63.7W T3.5/3.5 IRENE -- Atlantic
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Quoting washingtonian115:
TWC has always had good storm music.


I wonder what this year's music will be. I'm sure they'll use it for Irene.
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Quoting P451:


Look at how far north the center is on that radar imagery.



What latitude do you judge it to be....?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 437 Comments: 3600
I live in Tampa do I need to be concerned with Irene or is it to early?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Looking at radar, seems Irene is trying to form an eyewall, and is just east of St. Croix.
looks to me a direct hit on puerto rico is very likely
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Yeah that one.I don't actually mind because I like the song.All though knowing a bad hurricane is about to hit somehwere on your country's shore is pretty shellfish.NCHurricane2009 yes.


Yeah...its called eye of the storm by stephen arnold music as the posters on youtube say....

It really set the mood when it debuted for Katrina...that was a very very weird day....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 437 Comments: 3600
Irene continues to be a good ways north of the NHC forecast points. 5:00 pm Intensity forecast will be interesting.
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i do have a question for Levi or Drak why have the models shifted to the right is the trough going to be stronger than expected to pull it further east of florida
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Quoting AllStar17:


I like the song, too. But I also agree with your last sentence. What about these???
Link
TWC has always had good storm music.
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:


Hello USA, do you know when the trough is suppose to move in or maybe have a piture of it coming.I am curious to see when she is suppose to start heading northwest again, and how strong the trough is right now. Thank you


Irene's forward speed may slow a bit if/when she makes a turn. Still moving at 20 mph from the information I've seen.
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
What are the chances Irene misses the U.S completely?


Very slim.
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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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