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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Well, enough with doomcasting... is there ANY chance it'll recuvre out to sea or brush Cape Hatteras?
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Quoting Bradenton:


Good lord.



lol
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Quoting MrsOsa:


There are no levees on the MS Gulf Coast. Doesn't anyone remember that Katrina actually smashed MS and not just New Orleans? The disaster in New Orleans was largely manmade and occurred after the worst of the storm was past.


I do. I have pictures of what the 30Ft storm surge did to MISSISSIPPI and it was not a pretty sight. It was the worst scene of hurricane destruction I ever wish to see. A once in a lifetime event that I hope no one has to ever see again.
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Quoting breald:


I am not sure if you were around when hurricane Fran hit Wilmington, NC and then did some major damage in Raleigh. I was living in Raleigh, at that time, and I was without electricity for almost a week with lots of damage all around. Just because you are not on the coast does not mean you would receive any damage. Don't forget about tornadoes.


Dude...I lived in Raleigh during Fran...that is exactly how I got into hurricanes...and why Irene is giving me the creeps...if this storm does indeed only graze N side of Hispaniola like Levi said it could....this could be Raleigh's next Fran.....I can't believe I am seeing this...but if it happened before...it can happen again....
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Quoting MississippiWx:


12z GFDL is already out...



Has the gfdl ever been a real player in this storm. I mean, it has constantly been the outlying model. Right?
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
well, I still have long way to learn... this model is suggusting Category 2 into Charleston.


107 knots is a major hurricane.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:




hey storm what website is this?
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
well, I still have long way to learn... this model is suggusting Category 2 into Charleston.



933mb would be a strong cat 4 or low end cat 5
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1365. 7544
was that a eye forming there
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6676
1364. Patrap
AL092011 - Tropical Storm IRENE

Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)

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12z euro 48 hours out
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Quoting Tazmanian:





how dear you say that too are storm thats my line




is that a pine hole eye? froming?


Good lord.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


You think it's going to become a hurricane before impacting PR? It has a lot of work to do.


Well, it does have some things to work on, such as the dry air that it is dealing with. However, it is trying to filter it out, and the storm IS strengthening at this time. It should pass by Puerto Rico sometime after midnight tomorrow morning, and may wait until early morning tomorrow morning. If it isn't a hurricane by Puerto Rico, it will be close (65-70 mph or so)
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Quoting MississippiWx:
The core is still pretty weak. Should keep it below hurricane status before impacting PR/DR.



But still, something for PR to contend with.
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1359. MrsOsa
Quoting ncstorm:


the levees had mountains of ocean water flooding into NO..storm surge is totally different from what happened in New Orleans..


Right. Storm surge is what happened in MS. Land that is at sea level. This poster is not wrong at all that storm surge will crush a town sitting at sea level. We had water all the way up to Interstate 10 in Hancock County because there is nothing to stop it.
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Levi,you think it may become a hurricane before it hits PR?
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


That graphic shows the wind at 900 mb, not at the surface. 12Z HWRF surface winds at the end of the run:

HOUR: 96.0 LONG: -76.70 LAT: 26.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 940.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 101.00
HOUR: 102.0 LONG: -77.30 LAT: 27.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 936.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 104.00
HOUR: 108.0 LONG: -77.90 LAT: 28.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 935.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 102.00
HOUR: 114.0 LONG: -78.70 LAT: 29.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 934.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 103.00
HOUR: 120.0 LONG: -79.20 LAT: 30.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 933.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 108.00
HOUR: 126.0 LONG: -79.90 LAT: 31.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 933.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 107.00


Still a strong storm.
well, I still have long way to learn... this model is suggusting Category 2 into Charleston.
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Quoting ncstorm:


there are no levees in SC..this wont be a Katrina


Worst case would be if the hurricane rode up the Savannah River. There are plenty of levees and it's a long river.
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Quoting P451:


Or perhaps, their Hugo.

Oh, wait a moment.... let me think this over for a spell.





Ya' know...before Andrew in 1992 and the 2005 'canes...Hugo was the costliest hurricane in US history....
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1353. breald
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Well, Category 4 in Charleston = Category 1/2 in Raleigh? Uh-oh. Also, my school is one of few shelters inland NC for people that lives on coast of NC. And just in time for first day of my junior year on Thursday...


I am not sure if you were around when hurricane Fran hit Wilmington, NC and then did some major damage in Raleigh. I was living in Raleigh, at that time, and I was without electricity for almost a week with lots of damage all around. Just because you are not on the coast does not mean you would receive any damage. Don't forget about tornadoes.
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Quoting Patrap:
It'sa Pin-H&*% Eye maybe ?



Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery








how dear you say that too are storm thats my line




is that a pine hole eye? froming?
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1351. zparkie
Nobody knows where it is going, All those lines on a map, satelites, opinions, guestimations, technology, profession forecasters, it will hit where it hits, thats about it, Andrew was supposed to hit Ft Lauderdale, then at the last minute dove down and went thru homestead, no one predicted that.
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Quoting Levi32:
Outflow boundaries indicate quickly-sinking air as some of the thunderstorms in Irene's core collapse due to dry air infiltration. This indicates that there are still some struggles to overcome, but the storm is strengthening.



Fortunately, it's not going to have time to strengthen much. I would put hurricane chances under 50% before it hits PR. Not really anything going on convection wise right now to get it there.
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1349. ncstorm
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Are you forgetting what happened in Mississippi?!?! They got CRUSHED by 25-30 feet storm surge, and is holding the record for worst storm surge ever.


Relax..Im not calling any storm possibly heading my way one of the worst weather disasters as some people are saying..in good time, we will know what is coming for the South East
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Quoting Clearwater1:
Been right on NHC track all along.


r u on crack
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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.


People are so dramatic it's unbelievable... "Crush the city off the map" is untrue and ridiculous, it's still standing and doing better than ever after Hugo, eh? Major problems yes, crush it off the map, no...
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1346. Levi32
Convection is very weak in the core right now.

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Quoting zparkie:
South Florida will be in a mess, thousands of forelosed houses with no shutters, the banks wont send anyone out to board them up, windows will go and roofs will fly off, banks will lose millions and tax payers will have to give the banks another 800 billion to stay in business. All those poor people who had to sell thier shutters for scrap metal to survive. I mean anything could happen, it could get into the warm waters of the bahamas and crank up like andrew did, could you imagine? South Florida has the worst unemployment and economy in the country, might create a bunch of work. Hope no one dies and god bless.


From the home of Frances and Jeanne, thanks for your concerns and well-wishes!
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Quoting dfwstormwatch:
except of course the gfs which says a cat 3





yup thats why i say cat 3 4 or 5 storm
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I need a break from all this. I can guarantee that the models will continue to shift east and west until landfall if there ever is landfall.
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1342. Patrap
It'sa Pin-H&*% Eye maybe ?



Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery



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Based on radar out of San Juan, CoC is heading nearly due west. Based on this, I am thinking that the center may cross over the SW part of PR.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


OK...obviously the UKMET is really out to lunch on this one...LOL....



I think they are all on "Holiday" in Aug. - LOL!
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1339. ncstorm
Quoting MrsOsa:


There are no levees on the MS Gulf Coast. Doesn't anyone remember that Katrina actually smashed MS and not just New Orleans? The disaster in New Orleans was largely manmade and occurred after the worst of the storm was past.


OMGosh..I was speaking of the flooding in New Orleans..not going to get into a discussion over Katrina..
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1338. divdog
Quoting MississippiWx:


You think it's going to become a hurricane before impacting PR? It has a lot of work to do.
I'm with u on this one. Alot of work still to be done and not alot of time to do it. Big storms can take time to get cranked up. Land interaction not that far down the road.
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Quoting ncstorm:


the levees had mountains of ocean water flooding into NO..storm surge is totally different from what happened in New Orleans..
Are you forgetting what happened in Mississippi?!?! They got CRUSHED by 25-30 feet storm surge, and is holding the record for worst storm surge ever.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


You think it's going to become a hurricane before impacting PR? It has a lot of work to do.


IMO...its a close call because pressure dropped to 999 mb...but I don't see a brilliant convective burst over the center either...so I am getting mixed messages about strengthening....

...if this hasn't strengthened wind-wise by 5 PM at all...then I don't see this ever becoming a hurricane before PR....
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Quoting Tazmanian:
guys all mode runs will this about have been forcast at lest a strong cat 3 4 or 5 storm some where from S FL up too NC and SC for the past few days now or sould i say when this was back too when it was 97L


so i find it hard too be leve the mode runs are worng on this sorry too say
except of course the gfs which says a cat 3
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18z models will have the new position.

Anything before that is outdated.
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AAAAWWWWW NUTS!!!! I go camping for the weekend to come home to see IRENE (my aunts name lol) and DR Masters mention GA, SC, NC as possible targets depending on the northern turn...looks like we will have weather this coming weekend regardless...think i will wait to make those camping reservations for labor day weekend for a little bit instead of making em now...may end up camping in my own yard if she decides a SC hit
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Quoting dfwstormwatch:

12z gdfl 72 hours out


12z GFDL is already out...

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1330. Levi32
Outflow boundaries indicate quickly-sinking air as some of the thunderstorms in Irene's core collapse due to dry air infiltration. This indicates that there are still some struggles to overcome, but the storm is strengthening.

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12z gdfl 84 hours out...
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1328. MrsOsa
Quoting ncstorm:


there are no levees in SC..this wont be a Katrina


There are no levees on the MS Gulf Coast. Doesn't anyone remember that Katrina actually smashed MS and not just New Orleans? The disaster in New Orleans was largely manmade and occurred after the worst of the storm was past.
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Quoting ecflweatherfan:


For some reason, I think the intensity on the 12Z HWRF is out to lunch... I just dont see the reality of a Cat 5 heading toward S. Carolina... 142kt= 163mph


That graphic shows the wind at 900 mb, not at the surface. 12Z HWRF surface winds at the end of the run:

HOUR: 96.0 LONG: -76.70 LAT: 26.00 MIN PRESS (hPa): 940.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 101.00
HOUR: 102.0 LONG: -77.30 LAT: 27.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 936.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 104.00
HOUR: 108.0 LONG: -77.90 LAT: 28.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 935.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 102.00
HOUR: 114.0 LONG: -78.70 LAT: 29.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 934.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 103.00
HOUR: 120.0 LONG: -79.20 LAT: 30.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 933.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 108.00
HOUR: 126.0 LONG: -79.90 LAT: 31.80 MIN PRESS (hPa): 933.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 107.00


Still a strong storm.
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Quoting InTheCone:
TVCN still over SE FL, so NHC will probably keep the cone near there for the time being.



OK...obviously the UKMET is really out to lunch on this one...LOL....
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Quoting Bretts9112:

who says there having a cat 4 so far the nhc hasnt even said anything about it becomeing that strong...
few of models disagrees with you. If this thing miss Hispaniola, it's Katrina for East Coast.
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Quoting ncstorm:


there are no levees in SC..this wont be a Katrina


I LOVE when people start talking about New Orleans Levees and Katrina. All they remember is New Orleans. It ticks me off because Mississippi got the worst of the storm's wrath. I have a friend who lived there during Katrina and he lost his house in the storm as it wiped it right off the beach.

The person above was stating that a CAT 3-4 in SC would be like Katrina in Mississippi. I understood what they meant. Enough on the freaking levee stories.
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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.