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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1573. Walshy
Quoting MZT:
OK I want back and watched the last half and he did not say anything about comparing to Hugo. But he was clear that the weakness of the trough will be short lived and that is a large reason why he expected a landfall in the southeast.


Okay that makes sense.
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You can see once the mid-level center and low-level center aligns, it develops that eye.

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1570. BA
Quoting BahaHurican:
Can I ask, on behalf of other IE users, that fellow bloggers link utube videos rather than post them directly into the blog? Almost every Utube video posted here now seems to discombobulate the blog. It's particularly annoying because the only way to rid oneself of the offending post is to put the blogger on ignore until the next page...



you can ask, but it isn't going to happen
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


Ah, I see the surface pressure has risen, to 99999mb. Fairly high.

WU FAIL
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1568. shawn26
The GFDL solution is still very much on the table.
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http://stormw.wordpress.com/
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Quoting charlottefl:
I'm just waiting to see to what degree it clears Hispanola, that will tell a lot about future Irene.

honestly if it keeps its current motion it will steer clear of haiti and about 1/2 of the d.r
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Quoting presslord:


please stop being so rational


ok...then here is irrational...i will run around my living room for the next 30 seconds flinging arms wildly....ready...set...go!
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Over the BOC?Link
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That appears to be the big difference in the W and E models. The ones that take it more to the W into the GOM take it directly over Hispanola, and the ones that take it east skirt the northern coast. That's the thing to watch for...
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Holy mother of pinhole eyes everywhere...


Ah, I see the surface pressure has risen, to 99999mb. Fairly high.
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Quoting Clearwater1:

Exactly, I know I can't afford to even properly "board up" before a major storm. I'd have to just evacuate my family to the nearest shelter and hope I had a home to come home too. Insurance premiums and high hurricane deductibles are a big concern to me and I'm sure others. My understanding now, or it's in the works is that the insurance companies want to see proof that the homeowner has shelled out in repairs an amount equal to the deductible before they will covere any other repair.n. Catch 22, if this is true. Any FL agents care to clarify or know anything about this.
I just hope Irene takes a track like Earl last year.He was far enough off shore to not cause any real problems besides the outer banks.But I don't think that's gonna happen.And the nation as a whole has heard about Florida's insurance crises.Very bad down there if a storm let alone a major one were to hit.
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1560. Dunkman
Euro landfall at Charleston at ~138h.
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Quoting charlottefl:
I'm just waiting to see to what degree it clears Hispanola, that will tell a lot about future Irene.


please stop being so rational
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Holy mother of pinhole eyes everywhere...
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12z ECMWF easily develops Irene into a MH due to little land interaction.
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1555. nigel20
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Eyes don't form without an eye wall. I don't doubt that the hole in the convection is about where the center is, but it's not an eye. If you look throughout the core of the storm, there are other holes as well. I will say that it's getting better (stronger), though. Still don't believe it has time to work out its core issues to become a hurricane before Puerto Rico.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
i want the HH back lol
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Now...I still can't call it an eye...but if it is...this is good and bad news in short term...

Bad news...Irene may be surprising us and strengthen to a hurricane before Puerto Rico...

Bad news...That eye position is due west of St. Kitts...meaning that it has been going straight west since it was centered over St. Kitts earlier today...more direct strike for Hispaniola and more rain for Haiti?

Good news...if it hits Hispaniola rather than grazing the north coast...it will reduce the ultimate intensity that Irene can gather before reaching the US....
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1551. MZT
Quoting Walshy:


I did not either. Hugo track took it inland from Charlotte to Tennessee. Something the GFS does not show. More of a hard swipe and that coast and north it goes.
OK I want back and watched the last half and he did not say anything about comparing to Hugo. But he was clear that the weakness of the trough will be short lived and that is a large reason why he expected a landfall in the southeast.
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1550. A4Guy
this storm has to be setting a record for going from Gulf casting, to SoFla casting, to Carloina casting, faster than any storm in recent memory.

The only thing I am sure of is where the storm has been, is now, and I am pretty certain of where she'll be in the next 24-48 hours....but that's about it.
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I'm just waiting to see to what degree it clears Hispanola, that will tell a lot about future Irene.
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1548. scott39
Quoting nola70119:


As I understand it there are upper level patterns that steer these storms from the top.....although a really powerful storm can make its own way. StormW used these charts to figure out his forecasts, and I believe that they are a essentially a pressure map of a certain level of the atmosphere. Levi32 can talk about this I am sure....
I have seen those. I just dont know how to read them. I must not have been paying attention in Levis class that day. dang
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Quoting presslord:


ask Wednesday morning and you can get a far more meaningful answer...

So Thursday is a great time for me to have scheduled meetings down there? :)
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
THERE'S NO EYE, you dont get an actual EYE, until there's a Eyewall formed...


Its an eye..
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This may very well be a hurricane in the making.
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1543. nigel20
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
THERE'S NO EYE, you dont get an actual EYE, until there's a Eyewall formed...

May be a pocket of dry air.
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Link

Another "eye" POV on Visible GOES-13 Rapid Scan. Very cool.

Takes a a minute to load by the way.
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Very weak eye

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Link
Wow.
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Last time I checked, it had to be a hurricane for it to forms an eye?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8041
Quoting NICycloneChaser:
Still not entirely convinced that's an eye.

We'll know better once we get radar on that area from PR.


Here is a link to that radar:

Link
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Quoting presslord:


ask Wednesday morning and you can get a far more meaningful answer...


hey ya press! just got back from Edisto...camped all weekend...it was nice...but think i will be here lots over the next few days...
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Quoting tiggeriffic:


I havent had much time to look stuff up...we litterally just got back from camping all weekend... i was here for Hugo...it was rough...only advantage i have now is my youngest is 7 years old, back then i had a 9month old and formula went bad before i could use it all...and now i have a generator...gonna go ahead and fill the gas cans tomorrow before lines get long if it does hit...then if it doesn't i will just put it in the vehicles...not liking this...need to read Levi's blog


Good luck with it man. I know what it is like to deal with storm issues with kids. Keeping them properly fed, hydrated and cool. At least since you are a camper, you have equipment to cook without power. I camp and backpack so I also enjoy that advantage. Bad thing is my home floods so evac is often necessary.
Hoping the best for you east coast guys.
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1535. Patrap
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SJ: WUMail
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The fact that Irene is now developing an eye tells me that the system should be at 60 mph soon...Arlene, Bret, and Cindy all developed eyes at 60 mph.
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1532. dmh1026
Looks like an eye to me..
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1531. WxLogic
Quoting USAFwxguy:
12Z Euro gives a glancing blow to FL coast


Sure does... very close.
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Quoting txag91met:
Getting more confident that this may go just east of Florida...but not quite there yet. ECMWF/GFS now leaning that way. So Savannah maybe in the path...still a ways out though.

Agreed.

Howdy, BTW.
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Quoting USAFwxguy:
12Z Euro gives a glancing blow to FL coast


80 miles off shore on the west side is squalls to TS strength... nothing much
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1719
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Hey, Levi32/MississippiWx? I have my mom's family living in Charleston, SC right now and we are very concerned about this. Do you think this will eventually curves out like many other hurricanes, or that high pressure in mid-Atlantic forcing a hurricane into Florida/Carolinas this time? I'm just worry if this is one of those "overhyped" East Coast storm (Earl for example last year...)


Totally different situation than we had with Earl. The trof is going to lift out too quickly and the high build back in too fast for this to go out to sea. If I lived in GA/SC/NC, I would be making preparations now, and not waiting until I had a hurricane watch or warning. By that time, everyone knows and it's chaotic.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Bluestorm5:
but Charleston is right on sea level. Storm surge can crush the city off the map. I'm from Charleston and I know it will have major problems with Category 4.

it is better to be hit by the eye actually...NE quad of hurricane is worse...if Chas is hit by eye then we dont get the worst of it...that saved us during hugo actually but not saying i want a hit...just saying would rather be on the eye end than the eye hitting 30-60 miles south of us
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THERE'S NO EYE, you dont get an actual EYE, until there's a Eyewall formed...
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Quoting presslord:


ask Wednesday morning and you can get a far more meaningful answer...
ok, I was just worried if this is one of those "overhyped" storms (Hurricane Earl in 2010 for example.)
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8041

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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.