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 MZT:
Agree with P451. Don't worry about spotting the center right now, look at how the mass of circulation moves. It's been WNW all day.


I am starting to think NW and WNW motion from last night all the way till it got to St. Kitts this morning...then a turn to due west since St. Kitts into this afternoon...it may be leaning more left right now....
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Dont be surprised if the models shift more towards NC
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1770. scott39
Quoting charlottefl:
The NHC nor any of the NWS local forecast offices have been irresponsible in regards to this storm. They just use the information they have at hand. And weather is fluid it's constantly changing. You have to look for consistency before you can follow every flip flop of the models, cause if the NHC made drastic changes in the track every advisory no one would consider them reliable. They are very good at what they do. The biggest impact I can see on the long term track at this point is Hispanola. Once it clears the island either over the Northern coast or directly across the spine, you should know with more certainty the ultimate track of Irene.
Well said!
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Still there:
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Quoting Floodman:
Y'all wanna see something cool?

"North Carolina is one of the Carolinas"

wait for it...
You do remember that I set up a script to set off his house and car alarms, as well as send him a text message, every time that word appears here.

In testing, it was a 3 second delay between "Post Comment" and all of the above.
;-)
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1767. Dennis8
Quoting charlottefl:
The NHC nor any of the NWS local forecast offices have been irresponsible in regards to this storm. They just use the information they have at hand. And weather is fluid it's constantly changing. You have to look for consistency before you can follow every flip flop of the models, cause if the NHC made drastic changes in the track every advisory no one would consider them reliable. They are very good at what they do. The biggest impact I can see on the long term track at this point is Hispanola. Once it clears the island either over the Northern coast or directly across the spine, you should know with more certainty the ultimate track of Irene.


EXACTLY
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Irene should clip the northern part of Hispaniola and not weaken much..

I agree. And if that happens, then someone in the SE USA is gonna get smacked.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


I'm starting to long for the milk jug debate to return and replace this one.


LOL!
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Quoting scott39:
Jeremy are you a met?

Not quite i am pursuing a degree in meteorology from Penn State!!!
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From Dr. Masters' blog:

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.

There is no eye yet.
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I think the models will shift more left later today...the atlantic high is building strong. This could mean Irene will have more interaction with land and that may change the eventual track and she may be less intense. Everyone needs to pay attention to this storm, from eastern Gomex to nc.
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1760. Patrap
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


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The NHC nor any of the NWS local forecast offices have been irresponsible in regards to this storm. They just use the information they have at hand. And weather is fluid it's constantly changing. You have to look for consistency before you can follow every flip flop of the models, cause if the NHC made drastic changes in the track every advisory no one would consider them reliable. They are very good at what they do. The biggest impact I can see on the long term track at this point is Hispanola. Once it clears the island either over the Northern coast or directly across the spine, you should know with more certainty the ultimate track of Irene.
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Quoting Dennis8:


Definitely a hole in the center and possible eye forming


look at that loop patrap posted just below u, seems like the cold cloud tops have gone, possibly reforming around the COC before St Croix / PR landfall
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1975
Quoting ecflweatherfan:
Based on what I am seeing from radar loops and satellite loops, the center appears to be moving due W, not WNW, or NW... W. I am thinking this will graze the southern coast of PR, or move over the SW part of PR, then move through the northern part of the DR, keeping it weaker, thus moving it farther west. The only ones I would say don't need to worry about this storm are residents from AL, MS, LA, and TX... FL to NC need to be vigilant indeed.


Your obs of a direct west movement (IMO) show a path entirely through Hispaniola and not just the northern part of DR...keeping it weak enough to lean more toward FL and not the east coast (Carolinas and GA) as much...if this trend continues of a due west track...this means the models will just as quickly go back to the left....this is getting real tedious....we really don't know right now....
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1756. MZT
Agree with P451. Don't worry about spotting the center right now, look at how the mass of circulation moves. It's been WNW all day.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


For 24 hours people keep saying due west and all Irene keeps doing is gaining latitude. I would not call that due west.


The majority of the westerly movement has been the past 5-6 hours.

But it still has some northly component to it.
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Center is coming into view on the PR radar. It's very easy to tell that the east side is wide open...No eye.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10159
Quoting violet312s:
What s/he said. NC is considered a Southeastern state


I'm starting to long for the milk jug debate to return and replace this one.
Member Since: August 29, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5236
Y'all wanna see something cool?

"North Carolina is one of the Carolinas"

wait for it...
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1751. mbjjm
False eye likely dry air slot









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1750. Dennis8
The eye is moving due west
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1749. scott39
Quoting xtremeweathertracker:
Tropical Weather Update With Video
(Discusses TS Irene)
Jeremy are you a met?
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1745. Patrap
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1744. Dennis8
Quoting snow2fire:
I just looked at the NOAA tropical floater loop - last visible pic is 1815Z.

It looks to me like eye is starting to form – and if
that’s the eye, it appears that’s it already at lat
of next forecast point

So is it north of forecast track?


Definitely a hole in the center and possible eye forming
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Quoting MississippiWx:


RapidScan is a beautiful thing, Doc. No eye.

Yup. gone, now.
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Quoting Clearwater1:
and what if it does weaken significantly while traversing Hispaniola? A weak storm would not be affected as much by condition north, as a strong storm would be affected. Right. That's why I think, after it moves over the big island things may change.



a weak storm would go more weastward however if that trough deepens it may stil pull in northward,, if u look at the current steering currents the ridge in the ATL has strenthen and push alittle westward today we'll se how it plays out
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Quoting USAFwxguy:
Is it even worth mentioning that Tropical Storms don't form eyes or eyewalls.

Do they?


Yes, they do.
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Quoting DocNDswamp:
Next couple frames coming on vis imagery will reveal whether that's an eye-like feature or not - right now I'm guessing might well just be a circular patch of dry air rotating around the center lying just SE of it...

And, LOL, it's absolutely impossible to read all comments and even come close to staying current on this blog!
;)


RapidScan is a beautiful thing, Doc. No eye.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10159


Getting there (St. Croix, Chritiansted Harbour).
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1735. Skyepony (Mod)
96W~ in the havoc...


An inter-island ferry with at least 75 people caught fire then sank amid stormy weather in the central Philippines on Sunday, leaving 3 people dead, one missing while the rest were rescued, officials said. The steel-hulled M/V Island Fastcraft 1 was cruising toward Cebu province when it caught fire during a downpour, prompting several passengers to jump into the churning waters. Three of them drowned. Henry Dungod said he, his wife and two young daughters were watching television with other passengers in a cabin when smoke suddenly wafted from below the ferry, sparking a panic. He and his wife grabbed life jackets and then jumped to the sea, each holding one daughter. “It’s scary, especially when something like this happens and you’re with your family,” Dungod told The Associated Press by telephone, adding he and his loved ones were plucked from the waters by a passing ship after nearly an hour. Most of the passengers were rescued by a passing ship, coast guard officer Fidel Hibaya said. Coast guard chief Admiral Ramon Liwag said one passenger was reported missing. It was not immediately clear what sparked the blaze, but there was a report of an electrical problem in the engine room before the fire. An investigation was under way, Liwag said. The captain apparently ordered passengers and crew to abandon the ship when the fire began to spread, said Hibaya, commander of the coast guard detachment in Tubigon town in Bohol Province where the ferry originated. The dead included the chief mate and two passengers, the coast guard said. Liwag said his personnel alerted ships in the area to help in the rescue, preventing a larger number of casualties. Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

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We might in deed have a sloppy eye trying to form. The very latest vis sat shows the "eye" moving west. If it were a dry spot it wouldn't move due west. It would move with the overall circulation of the storm.
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Quoting sigh:

Your belief is wrong. I've never heard anyone call NC a Mid-Atlantic state, and officially (i.e., according to the U.S. Census) it's not. The Mid-Atlantic runs from Virginia to New York.
What s/he said. NC is considered a Southeastern state
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From the looks of the newest steering out, and in conjunction with the new northern coc, I could see Irene going right over P.R. and completely to the north of Haiti/D.R.. Of course, that means less land interaction in the short term, which would lead to a increased possibility of significant dev. If I was anywhere from the North East Fla. coastline right on up to the N.C./VA border, I'd pay close attention in the coming couple days. Like others have said, maybe not a system that's going to plow inland, but one that will be in that area deep enough to give a large portion of the East Coast a pretty good swat.
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:


This is a dramatic shift in the models the past few days. I realize the past week we've had models point from galveston to cape hatteras...... but the last 3 days has been a big change, and consistently east. It looked like the gulf, specifically the panhandle of FL and tampa, were in the bullseye. Now, its looking like the SE US is. This is important because the storm is less than a week away now, and people here in NC are not only unprepared but for the most part dont even know Irene exists. You guys can poke fun at whoever may be exaggerating right now but the fact is, the gulf and florida were expecting this storm, now a whole new group of people is expecting it... with less days to prepare. I am shocked my area of NC is back in play as it looked VERY unrealistic just 2 days ago when the NWS Wilmington specifically said the pattern just didnt seem possible for our area to be affected.

I understand people may be freaking out or whatever, but if the models hold true and this is a SE US storm, people will need to start acting quickly and seriously in the next 3 days


I hear ya...this is getting tedious...but just as quickly the models could shift back to the left if Irene continues to go due west such that it directly hits Hispaniola...making it weaker...and hence taking a more southerly/westerly track in the models....
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Irene should clip the northern part of Hispaniola and not weaken much..
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Irene about to run over St croix, then Into PR she goes....
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I personally think Irene will move due west now for quite a bit, my guess it will pass south of PR and barely skirt the south coast of DR/Haiti, after that not so sure!jmo.
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Quoting sigh:

Your belief is wrong. I've never heard anyone call NC a Mid-Atlantic state, and officially (i.e., according to the U.S. Census) it's not. The Mid-Atlantic runs from Virginia to New York.
Wow, you are debating that?
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Based on what I am seeing from radar loops and satellite loops, the center appears to be moving due W, not WNW, or NW... W. I am thinking this will graze the southern coast of PR, or move over the SW part of PR, then move through the northern part of the DR, keeping it weaker, thus moving it farther west. The only ones I would say don't need to worry about this storm are residents from AL, MS, LA, and TX... FL to NC need to be vigilant indeed.
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Quoting sigh:

Your belief is wrong. I've never heard anyone call NC a Mid-Atlantic


I am so glad we got that straightetend out...man that was bothering me!

LOL
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1724. Dennis8
Quoting HoustonTxGal:
Interesting.. the UKMET still has the path going into the GOM


hOUSTON hEIGHTS HERE
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I just looked at the NOAA tropical floater loop - last visible pic is 1815Z.

It looks to me like eye is starting to form – and if
that’s the eye, it appears that’s it already at lat
of next forecast point

So is it north of forecast track?
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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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