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 JrWeathermanFL:
What are the chances Irene misses the U.S completely?


Very slim.
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Quoting P451:


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


Looking at radar, seems Irene is trying to form an eyewall, and is just east of St. Croix.
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21/1745 UTC 17.5N 63.7W T3.5/3.5 IRENE -- Atlantic
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115244
--  Mean Intensity Trend (negative indicates TC deepening) --
        & nbsp;       &nb sp; 6hr         ;   12hr       &nbs p;   18hr       &nbs p;   24hr
*Very Favorable* VF  <-3.0mb/ 6hr   <-6.0mb/12hr   <-9.0mb/18hr   <-12.0mb/24hr

The UW-CIMSS is estimating a steady decline. Irene continues to impress.
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13 mph, 1005 mb. in St. Croix
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
What are the chances Irene misses the U.S completely?


Slim.
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2166. Relix
Quoting luigi18:


your friend live at el yunque?

Nah that's her backyard in Vega Alta.
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2725
What are the chances Irene misses the U.S completely?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Yeah, I live just north of Wilmington.


I feel just at home here! Glad several others are looking at this the same way I am... as we are all naturally inclined to think about impacts to ourselves first. This storm is looking better every frame, the models shifting closer to us every run... I am starting to really think this could be coming our general way, after nearly losing interest just 2 days ago on the farrrr east part of the "cone"
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I gotta agree with the westerly motion guys. Sorry I may be over tired tho :)
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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.


I like the song, too. But I also agree with your last sentence. What about these???
Link
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


How bad was that squall? Looks like thunder and lightning in there with some brief gusts...right?

~25mph gusts, and a lot of rain, some thunder after it passed.
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http://euler.atmos.colostate.edu/~vigh/guidance/nor thatlantic/track_early2.png
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:


Seems a lot of the well-respected people on here have said that today. Seems like that might be good news for everyone west of the Florida Keys. Bad news for everyone east.... if it misses Hispanolia there is basically nothing to prevent strengthening before a US landfall... right?


Would seem that way. Certainly no difficulties with water, it's all 29 degrees and above. The ULAC should stop shear from becoming a problem. Environment is fairly moist around that area too.

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Looks like the eastern eyewall is starting to form. Radar out of PR shows this nicely. It is going to get really dicey later tonight for those folks.
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Quoting USAFwxguy:
17.5, 64 ... headed 2D west.


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
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sigh... my classmates still don't know about this storm or it's going to hit Carolinas... they are just talking about first day of school this Thursday and football game on Friday.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8031
Quoting washingtonian115:
My avatar has three happy girls in it with bright colors with a bright background.Everyone else's looks serious and dark.


Well...its good...keeps the balance of the blog instead of all gloom and doom...

....better than mine certainly....mine is so boring (nuthin)....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 497 Comments: 3688
2153. ncstorm
NWS in Wilmington, NC 3pm update
.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.

Morehead City 3pm Discussion
FOCUS LATER IN THE WEEK AND INTO THE WEEKEND WILL BE TROPICAL
CYCLONE IRENE. LATEST NHC TRACK TAKES IT INTO FLA THEN N WELL
INLAND FROM THE CST. 12Z GFS IS FASTER AND FURTHER E SO AS WOULD
EXPECT PLENTY OF UNCERTAINTY THIS FAR OUT ON WHERE IRENE WILL GO.
IT DOES APPEAR IT WILL BE CLOSE ENOUGH TO PRODUCE DECENT CHC OF
SHRA AND A FEW TSRA NEXT WEEKEND...SINCE SO FAR OUT HAVE SOLID CHC
POPS STARTING FRI AND CONT THRU SUNDAY AND CAN RAISE THESE LATER AS
FORECAST BECOMES MORE CLEAR. ALL INTERESTS SHLD CONT TO MONITOR
LATEST FORECASTS FROM NHC FOR IRENE AS COULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT
IMPACT ON ERN NC.
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2152. Gorty
I think I know why the models shifted east... because she is now going wnw.
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Quoting AllStar17:


This?
Link
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.
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2150. luigi18
Quoting Relix:


A friend's house


your friend live at el yunque?
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481
What do you guys think the 5PM intensity will be?
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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?

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Seems the squall that slammed me is heading SW, and maintaining strength.


How bad was that squall? Looks like thunder and lightning in there with some brief gusts...right?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 497 Comments: 3688
Quoting mynameispaul:


Haven't seen any mentioned on here.


Thanks, not worried about Irene, just worried that the high will move in September and the Gulf will open up with alot pent up heat.
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2144. MZT
WeatherNerdPR: Looks like the radar is showing wrapping up the southeast side now from that image. The storm has been improving structually all day.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:



Beware of the hook!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Ugh....Almost an eye, I think.

Looks like it.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
TWC might be playing there dooms day hurricane song this week depending on how strong Irene is at that time.


Do you mean this song?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kCEcTk2K2I

That song is called "eye of the storm" by Stephen Arnold Music...debuted during Katrina...very very epic and heart sickening song.....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 497 Comments: 3688
Someone posted a good visible sat. animation, and one thing I noticed was that the low level circulation that could be seen between gaps in the middle circulation did not seem to line up. Is this storm tilted... is their a product that would show that?
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Quoting floodzonenc:
No!   Bright and happy are welcome here!

I guess you need the light to brighten a dark situation as they say.
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St. Thomas
Speed / Dir
31 mph from ENE
Wind Gust
50 mph
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2137. IMA
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Whoa...its too early to presume a direct strike at or near Miami...why did Reed Timmer post that?

I know, I was a tad disgusted when I saw that post on FB, especially since he's a trained met. He could easily teach a few people about the cone of UNcertainty but chose to instead just try to sensationalize early on. Unfortunately, he's much more a tv personality than a responsible met.
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2136. Relix


A friend's house
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2725
Quoting washingtonian115:
TWC might be playing there dooms day hurricane song this week depending on how strong Irene is at that time.


This?
Link
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Im wondering whats in store for us in September?? Will there be mostly fish storms or a few GOM and Carribean storms?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:



Ugh....Almost an eye, I think.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Ponce is going to get hit soon.


opening the 2nd corona mmmmmm
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I know man...by the way are you too in the Carolinas or something? It seems when they talk about how it could go there...me and you seem to react...LOL


Yeah, I live just north of Wilmington.
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


I really think that Irene will only skirt northern Hispaniola. Levi said the same on his tidbit. Not good news for the East Coast if that's true. Nothing but many hundreds of miles of very warm water and very low shear.


Seems a lot of the well-respected people on here have said that today. Seems like that might be good news for everyone west of the Florida Keys. Bad news for everyone east.... if it misses Hispanolia there is basically nothing to prevent strengthening before a US landfall... right?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Seems the squall that slammed me is heading SW, and maintaining strength.


yup, it's reaching ponce (me) :D
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
St. Croix should be getting the western side of Irene's *eyewall*.


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2126. luigi18
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Seems the squall that slammed me is heading SW, and maintaining strength.

yup it just passed me bayamon hills
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Seems the squall that slammed me is heading SW, and maintaining strength.


Ponce is going to get hit soon.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


(Very sad face)


I know man...by the way are you too in the Carolinas or something? It seems when they talk about how it could go there...me and you seem to react...LOL
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 497 Comments: 3688
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


P451 is on to something....I wanted to say west...but I switched back to saying WNW after I saw all the low-level cloud motions beneath the high cloud tops continuing WNW....


radar has depicted this for a while now
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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.