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 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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Quoting interstatelover7165:
What Route? Bahamas?


Ya, she is gonna stay off the big islands....Looks like a Major Hurricane is not out of the question now.
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7421. nash28
Quoting overwash12:
So much for land interaction,huh! Carolinas here comes Irene!!!


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.
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7420. Grothar
Quoting portcharlotte:
That is called pumping of the ridge which tends to a more west track and is something the models overlook except for the GFDL.






Shh! We are not allowed to mention "pumping the ridge on here. Even though I have witnessed it many times, there are some on here who do believe it exists.
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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!! :)


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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!! :)


GFDL and UKMET still point at a SFL landfall
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Not sure how long this trough is gonna stick around......
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7416. jfm1975
I just worry about this one for one reason more than any other. I am getting to same sick, nervous, yet fascinated feeling I had when Andrew hit and Wilma hit. Anyone else in sofla get that this time around ?
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Looks like the Old girl is gonna take one of the best routes to put on some more weight.......DAMIT
What Route? Bahamas?
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7414. Patrap
12z Early Cycle NHC model tracks
Irene
Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)




Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129908
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7412. scott39
Quoting Grothar:
Good Morning everyone. I should write this in my blog, because it will get lost in a few minutes. Here is what I think may be causing a divergence in the models.

Irene is now becoming a compact storm, which would indicate strengthening. I have written for a number of days that while interaction with land is probably the most important disruption on a system, it is not always a destroyer. However, many storms regenerate and remain strong. If Irene gets stronger, which is now very possible, she will respond much more to any weakness in the trough to its North. However, I believe the models are taking into consideration that these storms have a tendency to create a good environment to their North. In effect, they can create their own high pressure which would keep them on a more westerly track. The models have to work with many variables and I believe this is one of them. Because the models have shifted East, it is just that based on the current steering and strength, this is what they expect. If you have any questions, make them fast, because these spurts of brilliance I have don't last long these days.
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
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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!! :)
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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!
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Much anything beyond this time frame is still guessing.
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7406. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129908
At this point the COC is still a little north of all the models

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7404. hydrus
Quoting Grothar:
Good Morning everyone. I should write this in my blog, because it will get lost in a few minutes. Here is what I think may be causing a divergence in the models.

Irene is now becoming a compact storm, which would indicate strengthening. I have written for a number of days that while interaction with land is probably the most important disruption on a system, it is not always a destroyer. However, many storms regenerate and remain strong. If Irene gets stronger, which is now very possible, she will respond much more to any weakness in the trough to its North. However, I believe the models are taking into consideration that these storms have a tendency to create a good environment to their North. In effect, they can create their own high pressure which would keep them on a more westerly track. The models have to work with many variables and I believe this is one of them. Because the models have shifted East, it is just that based on the current steering and strength, this is what they expect. If you have any questions, make them fast, because these spurts of brilliance I have don't last long these days.
!1988,s Gibert this.. Isabel ttoo...03..
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So much for land interaction,huh! Carolinas here comes Irene!!!
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7402. Patrap
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129908
Quoting mcluvincane:
Looks like us cat adjusters will be busy next week.


That's for sure..and several weeks/month after that.
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Quoting Drakoen:


And the skill of the UKMET increases lol
That caught my eye also... lol... isn't UKMET one of the eastern outliers??? lol
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0z JMA
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7397. MahFL
Don't cat 2's develop eyes, generally ?
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Quoting Drakoen:
Irene dealing with some dry air in her core:



Could also be she is just moving away form the radar?
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Is it me, or do most of the models show a quick dip to the south in 24/36 hours before returning to WNW?
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Quoting Drakoen:


And the skill of the UKMET increases lol


Both of which are on the western side of the model envelope!
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I'm making final prep today for live streaming. I will post a link in my blog so you can follow along on ChaserTV.
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Hey Nash...good to see ya on board!
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Quoting jfm1975:
I have a question for anyone kind enough to reply. I havent seen the 8 AM models and I know that Hurricanes never go the line they draw on tv. They wobble along. But I see chatter about the GFDL model being an outlier and want to hit SE FL, along with a couple other models, but the latest run from 8 AM sounds like it shifted a bit left/west. Is this the case. I am in Ft Lauderdale, and if this hits this vicinity, it will at minimum be another Wilma. Your thoughts and commetns I'd love to hear. Thanks


At this point, you are still in the cone, as I am.

There are any number of outcomes still in play for S. FL, and they range from nearly nothing all the way to a direct strike.

You should be preparing now for the possibility of a hurricane... however likely or unlikely it may appear at this point. It is still four days out, and according to the NHC the four day track has a margin of error of roughly 200 miles.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
From Dr. Master's blog the other day. Notice the track skill of the GFDL drops off after 72 hours.


Hmmm. Looks like they all drop after 72 hrs.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 532
Looks like us cat adjusters will be busy next week.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


00Z models this evening, which the GFS starts coming out at about 11:30 PM EDT.
I've followed ever run for the past several days. I don't think it will change too much on this run
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It looks like the eye will steer clear of Hispaniola which is not good news for the Southeastern states. I think once this hits the Bahamas region it could explode into a Cat 2 or 3. Than it will go under more rapid intensification as it heads over the Gulf Stream and I wonder how the strength could influence how this reacts with the trough and high pressure.
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Seems as if the entire south half of the frames are blacked out right now.

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Quoting AussieStorm:

Here is a very good site that has great info if you have a pet or pets of any kind.


and another good link to help you prepare!

Link
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7384. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129908
7383. Drakoen
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
From Dr. Master's blog the other day. Notice the track skill of the GFDL drops off after 72 hours.




And the skill of the UKMET increases lol
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30841
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
From Dr. Master's blog the other day. Notice the track skill of the GFDL drops off after 72 hours.


Not all the comforting when you look at where the GFDL has it in 72 hours.
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Quoting mcluvincane:


What Terrain?


Hispaniola.
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7380. Drakoen
I don't think that Hispaniola will disrupt the storm much. I see it passing over the northern coast.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30841
Good morning all! I just dropped off my youngest boy in kindergarten and my oldest in 3rd! I wish that they wouldn't grow up so fast! :( :( sigh Anyway, I live in South Florida....do you feel that we are pretty much going to be ok? We really don't have a lot of extra money at this time and so I don't want to go buy supplies....also, I love our power and roof tiles!! lol I know that I should ALWAYS rely on nhc....but I love reading all of your opinions...I just can't wait until I am told that the storm is definately NOT coming here...lol...
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7378. hydrus
Quoting naplesdreamer28:
I see several people talking about the GFDL, I see it shows a S FL hit. Is this a reliable model. I'm in SW FL thinking not to have any worries because of the cone shift, but then I see that model and its a direct slam. I don't want this to hit anyone, but also don't want to get caught in the "frenzy" if we should be preparing over here. Any thoughts?
This storm is in a dagerous region ot the tropics and a lot change. When it Central Cuba, we have to watch just how fast it happens, if its slow, Florida could be looking at a landfall.
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Looks like the Old girl is gonna take one of the best routes to put on some more weight.......DAMIT
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7376. MahFL
Quoting EastTexJake:


That's why you fill the bathtub or some large vessel of water. It doesn't have to be totally clean to use a gallon or so to pour into the toilet and make it flush.

Unless the toilet is actually physically destroyed, it still works.


Not if the local sewage system is backed up with flood water/surge......
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Quoting MahFL:
Looks like a more westerly movement right now, so west coast of Fl ?
Really???
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Quoting BenBIogger:


Yup.

Might keep her from strengthening much this morning.

Upcoming Terrain might effect Irene even more.


What Terrain?
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Naples, always prepare!! We still have the heart of hurricane season ahead of us. A tip. I start buying food etc. in April, a bit each week. Right now all I have to do is get last minute items and board up.
BTW Cape Coral here.
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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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