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.

Links
Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters

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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
A few individuals here seem to think the GOM is off the table. That's not true. While it certainly seems the threat to the GOM has diminished, until this thing starts moving more north than west, it is not a done deal. Don't let your guard down and rememeber how IVAN was forecast to go north much sooner than it did.


There is a difference between it is being forecast and it actually happening. Ivan was FORECAST to move more northerly sooner than it did, but Irene IS moving more northerly than expected.
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It's official. I'm not going to school tomorrow.
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1271. zparkie
come on islands, do your job, smash this thing to peices!
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1270. ncstorm
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
If the GFS proves to be correct, I feel sorry for South Carolina. This could end up being South Carolina's Katrina. I will keep you all in my prayers



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

But this one's threatening half of all the landmasses in the tropical Atlantic :P Didn't see Cristobal do that, did ya?


True....but this storm hasn't passed by Hispaniola yet...and if keeps jogging west instead of WNW...it will weaken over Hispaniola and potentially not be as significant in the end (no longer being a devil cane)....
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GFDL still on the western side of the cone


HOUR:126.0 LONG: -82.39 LAT: 26.53 MIN PRESS (hPa): 962.52 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 84.58
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1267. 7544
so south fla might be out of the cone at 5pm according to the models
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6617
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
A few individuals here seem to think the GOM is off the table. That's not true. While it certainly seems the threat to the GOM has diminished, until this thing starts moving more north than west, it is not a done deal. Don't let your guard down and rememeber how IVAN was forecast to go north much sooner than it did.

yep here is ivans path Link
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1265. ncstorm
Quoting P451:


No. They finally sampled the low pressure center that went over St Kitts at 1002mb earlier today.

So it's dropped from 1002 to 999 in a few hours.

Strengthening.



P451, I saw Keeper post a message last night saying "RI flag on"..do you have a link to that site..tia!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
A few individuals here seem to think the GOM is off the table. That's not true. While it certainly seems the threat to the GOM has diminished, until this thing starts moving more north than west, it is not a done deal. Don't let your guard down and rememeber how IVAN was forecast to go north much sooner than it did.


Pretty unlikely it ends up in the GOM though. Will be interesting to see if it even survives it's interaction with mountains...That's a 'spensive plane ticket.
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Irene Timeline:
2 PM:(Current) 50 MPH
5 PM: 60 MPH
8 PM: 60 MPH
11 PM: 65 MPH
~
2 AM: 65 MPH
5 AM: 75 MPH
8 AM: 75 MPH(Nearing PR)
11 AM: 70 MPH(Landfall in PR)
2 PM: 65 MPH(Over PR)
5 PM: 60 MPH(Over PR)
8 PM: 60 MPH(Leaves PR)
11 PM: 60 MPH(Nearing NE DR)
~
2 AM: 60 MPH(Skimming NE DR Coast)
5 AM: 65 MPH(Skimming NE DR; Beginning NW track)
8 AM: 70 MPH(Leaving DR, Over Turks and Caicos)
11 AM: 80 MPH(Over Turks and Caicos; Bahamas)
2 PM: 85 MPH(Over Bahamas, Moving WNW/NW)
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If the GFS proves to be correct, I feel sorry for South Carolina. This could end up being South Carolina's Katrina. I will keep you all in my prayers

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Well, any chance this will curve out? Some of models are suggusting a brush with Cape Hatteras (as usual...)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Yes, the possibility of a major hurricane increased when the center formed farther north than expected.




ok plzs note that i was not trying too forcast DOOM on any one lol
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Can somebody predict how/when this will likely affect the Augusta, Georgia area? This is where the evacuation route takes people from the coast. The blog suggests we might need to anticipate severe weather. Thanks.
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The ridge is strong and should continue to push Irene generally westward. But it would not take much more of a jump to the north for her to pass Hispaniola to the north. That would be bad news for the Bahamas and the East Coast.
Member Since: August 10, 2010 Posts: 2 Comments: 1970
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
*GULP*


No doubt...Irene headed STRAIGHT AT PUERTO RICO....right now...
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Quoting ncstorm:


SHIPS is being generous with Irene's intensity.
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NFI, maybe their drunk?
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1253. zparkie
just called my doctor, he says he already ran out of xanax, time to panic
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


LOL...well its not like every storm that reaches 999 mb is the devil's cane...

Like Cristobal 2002...that was 999 mb...and probably no one remembers it...LOL

But this one's threatening half of all the landmasses in the tropical Atlantic :P Didn't see Cristobal do that, did ya?
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1251. Walshy
Still a little lost on why Dr. Masters is comparing Irene to Fay..
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A few individuals here seem to think the GOM is off the table. That's not true. While it certainly seems the threat to the GOM has diminished, until this thing starts moving more north than west, it is not a done deal. Don't let your guard down and rememeber how IVAN was forecast to go north much sooner than it did.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



but the center wont be going overe the mts and staying off shore wish would all so mean we could be looking at a march stronger hurricane now?


Yes, the possibility of a major hurricane increased when the center formed farther north than expected.
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1247. ncstorm
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Quoting 7544:


oh yeah and the new cone lol



and that
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she is stacked now...much greater temp separation in and outside of eye

Latest vortex:
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 15°C (59°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,530m (5,020ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 21°C (70°F)
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
A storm not even Cantore could weather.


Unfortunently, it could be realistic.
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1243. nigel20
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Might go for GA.


they NEVER go to GA, but it might be their turn this year?
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Quoting barotropic:




Dont forget the center appeared to be over St Kitts hours ago. ANd they had a 1002 mb press at the time at 11am this morning. St Kitts is at 17.2 or 3


Yep, that's the area I've been watching all morning. So from there it has moved mostly W.
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Quoting sarahjola:
where is the high and is it building back in?
Someone's analysis yesterday said that Irene would move WSW for a bit before a N-NE turn...sorry can't remember who, I should write these things down. Because of a high maybe? Oh well...we'll watch and see what transpires.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Well, yes and no. It is good because some parts that would have gotten winds if Irene took a more southern path will not get winds. The bad news is, they will still get A LOT of rain.



but the center wont be going overe the mts and staying off shore wish would all so mean we could be looking at a march stronger hurricane now?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
A storm not even Cantore could weather.



This is super duper duper bad for me guys...you all are giving me the creeps....
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The good news is that when it hits PR, it shouldn't be a hurricane...If it is, it will be minimal. I wouldn't expect any sort of rapid intensification until the dry air issue is solved. More gradual or steady intensification is more likely. After PR though, it's game on.
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1236. ncstorm
Quoting Bluestorm5:
He went to Wrightsville Beach, NC (near Wilmington) couple of months ago for commerical filming... was that an omen?


LOL..lets hope not
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1235. wpb
anyone seen the 12z gfdl
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Sunday, August 21st, with Video


Thanks for the concise update Levi32!
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*GULP*
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The trough really lifts out fast. I wouldn't doubt to see a curve back to the WNW at the end of the run when the AB high builds back.

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i wonder what track changes would happen if she moves due west for the next 24hrs,w little or no northly component
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1230. 7544
Quoting Tazmanian:





the disussion will come out at 5pm


oh yeah and the new cone lol
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1229. ncstorm
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
A storm not even Cantore could weather.

He went to Wrightsville Beach, NC (near Wilmington) couple of months ago for commerical filming... was that an omen?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
I felt like part of me just died XD
Also if you write 999 on a piece of paper and then flip 180 degrees it says 666. :O


LOL...well its not like every storm that reaches 999 mb is the devil's cane...

Like Cristobal 2002...that was 999 mb...and probably no one remembers it...LOL
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IMO, this is going north of PR and will strengthen rapidly over the open waters.
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Let's see where Cantore sets up shop!
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1224. ncstorm
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Quoting Tazmanian:



so is this good news now for Hispaniola. i hop?


Well, yes and no. It is good because some parts that would have gotten winds if Irene took a more southern path will not get winds. The bad news is, they will still get A LOT of rain.
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About JeffMasters

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