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 MississippiWx:
Irene looks like a flea. Nasty.



Hmm. Look at the that red blob with a yellow speck in it. It's not quite over the center, but I wonder if that's the very beginning of a CDO or at least a stronger core?
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Nasty looking in St. Croix..

Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Lots of "bubbly stuff" going on around Irene's center. I take this to mean that the system is building an eyewall and building a tighter core.



Yeah she's tightening up for sure. As an earlier poster mentioned, probably going to be 60-65 mph at the 5, perhaps our first cane by 11?
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Quoting P451:


Been trying to point that out with little luck.

She went over St. Kitts. She's going to go over St. Croix. Extrapolate that and it's not Due West. It's more like 280 or so. Continue further and it landfalls in PR.

It's not too difficult to see this if you apply a little patience.... unless you try to focus on a dry patch of air and follow it swirling around the circulation center.
Now that you point that out, you are right. Looking at a conical chart illustrates your point. I have been a "due wester" up until now.
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Is it me, or the towers in middle of Irene building an eyewall?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Quoting MyrtleCanes:


SC 9 and SC 22 in Horry county, SC, but 22 bottlenecks with 501 in Aynor, SC


Everyone going to the beach in SC, love going the Aynor. The speed trap of SC.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


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


He was just posting the official NHC forecast.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


P451...(and MississippiWX) you are right...that was a temporary transient feature and not an eye...and P451...you are right about it moving WNW still...the low-level center beneath the high clouds...in this sat loop you posted....you can see is still moving WNW...


I was about to say the exact same thing (albeit I know MUCH less than most people on here so i question myself a lot lol). On the unenhanced IR... you can see (in the lower levels like you said) there is clearly a northward component to its westward movement.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I was right about Igor last year in my pre-name season predictions.In pre-name season predictions this year I said Irene would probally come back for revenge and stir the pot.I seriously hope i'm wrong.I don't want rocks to be thrown at me.Difference is while Igor was an intense hurricane he stayed out in the ocean.Irene is different.She's interfering with land.and could pose danger to lives later on down the road.
Matter of fact she's doing it right now.Could possibly become a major and head twords the U.S if she stays over water longer than originally forecast.
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A tip for IE users re UTube video posts: you can usually find the offending post because before it all the posts will look "normal", while after it blogger avatar pictures will usually be positioned UNDER the post number. If the post is near the end of the page, refresh is your friend. If you, like me, use the 200 posts view, you may have to use [Ignore] till you get to the end of the page.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Quoting presslord:


Pizza, anyone?

I just ate some >:)
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Quoting presslord:


Pizza, anyone?


I'll bring the Fresca, make mine a Dr. Pepper.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2343
Can I get a DOOM-CON update before I go lift??
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Just got hit by a squall. Gotta say, Irene packs quite a punch. And it hasn't even gotten here.


Did it knock your power out? You left for a while..
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2058. Dennis8
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Just got hit by a squall. Gotta say, Irene packs quite a punch. And it hasn't even gotten here.


.32 " rain and gust to 30 mph..YUP
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Irene looks like a flea. Nasty.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
I'll give it a couple of days. But like I said, after Charlie, I always have my guard up. A surprise hurricane knocking on the door is never a good thing.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


LOL. More importantly, I wonder where the "PLANFALF" model has Irene going.. GOM? East Coast?


Africa.
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Quoting KanKunKid:


But not for this blog. It reminds me of jackals surrounding a dead carcass ripping it up and chewing it to shreds, while biting those who are plundering the corpse next to them.


Pizza, anyone?
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Wow... have to use the "low" zoom to show the full beauty of Irene. Once this gets going, it is going to be very impressive....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Lots of "bubbly stuff" going on around Irene's center. I take this to mean that the system is building an eyewall and building a tighter core.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
...I wonder what the McTavish numbers are.


LOL. More importantly, I wonder where the "PLANFALF" model has Irene going.. GOM? East Coast?
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Quoting yonzabam:


I had to put dfwstormwatch on ignore. He had a video embedded in his post. Fixed the prob.


Tools/Compatibility View should fix the blog stretch. Enable it, then reload the page.
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From the NWS office in Melbourne, FL:

Thursday Night...Tropical storm conditions possible. Considerable cloudiness with scattered showers and thunderstorms. Lows around 80. Chance of rain 40 percent.

Friday...Tropical storm conditions possible. Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 90s. Chance of rain 50 percent.
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Just got hit by a squall. Gotta say, Irene packs quite a punch. And it hasn't even gotten here.
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I was right about Igor last year in my pre-name season predictions.In pre-name season predictions this year I said Irene would probally come back for revenge and stir the pot.I seriously hope i'm wrong.I don't want rocks to be thrown at me.Difference is while Igor was an intense hurricane he stayed out in the ocean.Irene is different.She's interfering with land.and could pose danger to lives later on down the road.
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Quoting Torgen:


If you insist on using broken applications, don't expect the rest of the world to bend to your whim. YOUtube works perfectly fine with the majority of the world's browsers. Do you complain that you can't get FM stations on your AM radio, and scream that the radio stations should cater to you?


Google Chrome dev should be used anyway, it's mostly stable despite the name and does render the blog correctly (the stretching is caused by inner flow (div) being expanded into non rendered areas of the containing div, which is the correct way to render), and any problems should be fixed by the website prohibiting the specification of video width beyond a percentage of the div (hence it shouldn't overflow). If you refuse to update your browser then we shouldn't have to cater to your relatively ancient software.

Regardless, can somebody post a series of images containing the current runs at the point where Irene is supposed to make landfall (or closest to it)?
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Quoting SavannahStorm:


They won't even have to leave the runway to do the next center fix, LOL


It would be somewhat ironic if they weren't able to take off due to "bad weather"
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Fortunately, I'll never know since I have them on ignore.


lol, I don't think that member is on the blog anymore..
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Quoting Smoothseas:


Interesting,thanks forn the heads up,I hope it dosen't get that strong though


Whoa...its too early to presume a direct strike at or near Miami...why did Reed Timmer post that?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 494 Comments: 3688
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
...I wonder what the McTavish numbers are.


Fortunately, I'll never know since I have them on ignore.
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2038. shawn26
Same here, I am not buying into huge swing in models though. I give it a couple more runs and lets se what happens
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...I wonder what the McTavish numbers are.
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Quoting Jebus:


We have a much better plan in place now than Floyd for contraflow on I26. That is to say, we actually have a plan in place at all now. :P


SC 9 and SC 22 in Horry county, SC, but 22 bottlenecks with 501 in Aynor, SC
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Quoting muddertracker:
ok...who do I have to put on iggy so that I can see the blog???


I had to put dfwstormwatch on ignore. He had a video embedded in his post. Fixed the prob.
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Last Re-post for those just tuning in:
TS Irene Video Update
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2031. ncstorm
Quoting MyrtleCanes:


KILM is a conservative office, they are use to this since they are threatened almost ever year. They'll start honking the horn Tomorrow night or Tuesday morning if models stay consistent. Horry County (Myrtle Beach) will take 30-40 hours to evacuate being that its still high season for tourists. Ill stay if its a 3 or less, roads just become a cluster around here during evacs do to all the newbie tourons and folks who have moved here in the last 10 or less years a have no clue about hurricane evacs....


just thank heavens, this storm isnt coming during Bike week..LOL..you will never be able to get out
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Quoting shawn26:
Where do you think the storm is going to go Mason?
Wow don't ask me! Things change so quickly and so it goes with a storm. I have vivid memories of Charlie. Your thoughts?
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Quoting SavannahStorm:


They won't even have to leave the runway to do the next center fix, LOL
If that's the case, which I think it is, (PR radar and visible sat. ), then it has been moving due west, or close to it for sometime now. or so it seems
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Quoting P451:
One heck of a tower of storms seems to be heading for St. Croix.



P451...(and MississippiWX) you are right...that was a temporary transient feature and not an eye...and P451...you are right about it moving WNW still...the low-level center beneath the high clouds...in this sat loop you posted....you can see is still moving WNW...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 494 Comments: 3688
2027. Dennis8
Quoting sdswwwe:


September 12 is a big day everywhere for storms
.

But that dater is also that date that we wind down the Texas season....
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Thanks NCHurricanes. Still trying to learn but its all coming so fast right now it is hard to keep up.

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2025. Torgen
Quoting CosmicEvents:
Did I see somebody call me a hard core weather weenie? I'm not sure I like that whole statement.
.
.
.
.
.
This storm is a difficult one for the media, and the forecasters at the NHC.


Better than having a soft core... uh, never mind.
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Quoting Abacosurf:
Repeat....someone asked where the hurricane hunters were...

And the above was my reply.

They the HH are on St. Croix. getting slammed.....Not me.
lol, i'm sorry, i only got 2 hours of sleep
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.