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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May have a three-some:

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Heading directly for Charleston at 126



If a model has it hitting Charleston 6 days out, that means it probably will miss by 200 miles..
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721. MZT
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Heading directly for Charleston at 126
There has been much growth along the S.C coast since Hugo, and people are not familiar with what these storms are like.

I remember driving through there in 1991 and the trees around Florence were still leaning from the wind. Visited Charleston in 1995 and you could still see evidence of buildngs under repair.
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We are still more than 5 days out from a potential landfall on Thursday/Friday (if it hits Florida).

Models are often WRONG by up to 200/250 miles this far out in time and the NHC often cites this in their discussion when they issue their forecast path out 5 days.

Yes, storm may go to NC - it may go to Florida and if it stays weaker due to land interaction, it could make it into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

It comes down to timing and right now, its going to be close.... but ONE model run doesn't mean it is going anywhere... you need to look for consistency and wait for all the computer models to come into better agreement, which right now there are some differences.
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Quoting rkay1:
I heard they have a great leader down there, Caesar.



A great leader can only do so much with so little. If he is so great, why are people still living in tents.
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Can someone post the latest GFDL?
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Takes a trip to the Carolinas...and yes, there is a system developing in the Central Atlantic.

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Quoting CCSoFLA79:
Hello all! I enjoy reading all your posts and they are very helpful! So thank you.
My questions is. I live in Fort Lauderdale. Is this something I need to start preparing for? I have seen some chatter saying it is going up the coast. I know it is too early to tell but it just scares the bagebeez outa me.


My 2 cents is to always have your hurricane plan ready because we don't have skill to know more than 2 days out where exactly the storm can end up...but execution of your plan (just my opinion) right now still too early...

...for east coast of US and FL....(including myself)....I wouldn't execute a plan until I see Irene has just grazed Hispaniola to the north...going through the Bahamas and then making a Bee-Line toward SE US....

....for west FL and eastern GOM region....wouldn't execute a plan until after storm goes through Hispaniola and Cuba....staying weak such that it makes a Bee-Line toward SW FL and into the eastern GOM....

The answer lies with how Irene passes by Hispaniola...
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looks on the last model shes offshore riding up the gulf stream e cen fl. would be the the weaker side
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Quoting rkay1:
Why aren't you praying for the kids in Haiti? I think we have ourselfs an...infidel!!

That's exactly why I don't want this to hit Hispanola. I find it very sick to see people WANTING it to hit the island to disrupt the storm. It smacks of "they are not white people, so who cares what happens to them".
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Quoting Tazmanian:
even if this stays off the coast of FL by 1mile or so there is still going too be a lot of wind damge and storm sure damge and any thing us i can think off

Exactly. And as we all know, A strong storm generally does not track in a straight line with the steering pattern set up we have here. They wobble all the time. If the GFS forecast track were to pan out, we could have multiple hits to the coastline. That is on reason why you never should look at the forecast line but look at the cone.
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16:12Z
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
No, not by a long shot all we are doing is looking at a play-by-play of a model.




once again for it miss fl would be very tough GA SC be prepared but its not going to happen
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Quoting Gorty:
Last time posting this (since I don't want to be a troll or what not)

Link

Invest 98L and the next threat



your late 98L had a ch of 50% at its peak but the chs of 98L being any thing big is going down in fac they may drop 98L later today all so 98L is heading out too sea
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Everyone is freaking about one model shift, LOL.

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the GFDL looks intersting...

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report from Sabana Grande, PR: winds are picking up a bit, getting really cloudy. no rain yet.
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Quoting connie1976:
...so....I'm confused....South Florida is now out of it? Why does the nhc still have us in the cone then? will they change it at 5?
No, not by a long shot all we are doing is looking at a play-by-play of a model.
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Quoting connie1976:
...so....I'm confused....South Florida is now out of it? Why does the nhc still have us in the cone then? will they change it at 5?
arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh h. double arrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
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Quoting chrisdscane:




dispite what all the GA SC and NC wishcasters say who havent had a storm in like 5 yrs it will be very hard for this system not make a landfall in southflorida all the models that are being liked have a tendency to be right biased


Thank you for the response. I seem to think the same. I will begin preps making sure my supplies are ready Just incase. Thank you again
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ok here ya go latest recon shows due west movement
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Quoting sullivanweather:
Believe it or not, a storm stalling over the Gulf Stream off the coast would tend to weaken it. There's plenty of dry air over towards the Southern Appalachians in all the model runs by the time the storm gets there so it would be likely that the storm would ingest this dry continental air being stalled so close to the US mainland.



Definitely not true.
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...and us comfortable Canadians...and Austrailians...etc.
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting connie1976:
...so....I'm confused....South Florida is now out of it? Why does the nhc still have us in the cone then? will they change it at 5?


Bloggers are just guesses of future tracks based on model runs. We need to wait and see...
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5pm cone shift.. expect the "ts" dot the NHC has to move up and off the coast slightly.  The NHC never makes a "major" shift.  I bet we will see a "h" icon just off the florida coast.  however, this can certainly change back after the next set of model runs.
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For the people who have asked me questions..

Here is the link to the site I use.

Link

To those asking for intensity, 970s mb. and 910s mb.
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Believe it or not, a storm stalling over the Gulf Stream off the coast would tend to weaken it. There's plenty of dry air over towards the Southern Appalachians in all the model runs by the time the storm gets there so it would be likely that the storm would ingest this dry continental air being stalled so close to the US mainland.

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I couldn't agree more.
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Quoting rkay1:
This is an outdated cone and does not reflect the new East sided models.  I believe you can expect most of SFL to be out of the cone and to be shifted way north/east on the new update.


Show me the updated cone you have seen?
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Radar ominous for PR...center headed straight there....

...this radar also shows a messy center fundamentally...Irene NOT on her way to hurricane status right now...and if she stays like this through PR and Hispaniola...will be disrupted and weak for a while and do something more like GFDL....

Irene is just getting into the radar's view, which explains why it's center looks messy. When it gets closer, Irene's true colors will be unveiled.
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and BTW she will not go north of hispaniola she would have to go on a 291 heading not going to happen
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Quoting muddertracker:


I wonder if they even know what's out there...how are communications there? Truly, truly sad. Blessings to those in those tents!


communication within the camps is primarily through rumor...which will only serve to exacerbate worry, panic, etc....on the very best day, it's a bleak situation...at times like this, it becomes unimaginable for us comfortable Americans...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting Patrap:
Dvorak more centered every frame lately.


2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

Pat do you see this as a hurricane before PR?
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...so....I'm confused....South Florida is now out of it? Why does the nhc still have us in the cone then? will they change it at 5?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Sorry Georgia...I didn't wish it on you...


Is that a developing storm in the central Atlantic?
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...and once again the models give out ridiculous and wildly fluctuating values.

These were the predictions last night.

ships- 105 in 48h, 65 in 120h
gfdl- 100 in 48h- 135 in 120h
ivcn-130 in 130h
hwrf-75 for a while, 120 in 132h

Now, in 12 hours, the models have COMPLETELY changed, and still contradict each other.

Cue the denial about the uselessness of the models in 3, 2, 1....

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Afternoon everybody, and I am so disappointed to see only 675 comments in the last two hours... lol

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22728
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679. Gorty
Last time posting this (since I don't want to be a troll or what not)

Link

Invest 98L and the next threat
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Heading directly for Charleston at 126

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WeatherNerdPR

Best make ready for Cat-1 conditions there.

Shes gonna roll thru after dark.

Take advantage of the Daylight to rush them preps and Good Luck.
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I think Irene will barely miss Hispanola, which is BAD NEWS for the Carolinas. :-(
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Quoting CCSoFLA79:
Hello all! I enjoy reading all your posts and they are very helpful! So thank you.
My questions is. I live in Fort Lauderdale. Is this something I need to start preparing for? I have seen some chatter saying it is going up the coast. I know it is too early to tell but it just scares the bagebeez outa me.




dispite what all the GA SC and NC wishcasters say who havent had a storm in like 5 yrs it will be very hard for this system not make a landfall in southflorida all the models that are being liked have a tendency to be right biased
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Quoting AussieStorm:

There would be no humor in a Storm of any grade hitting Haiti. Tents and strong wind and rain do not hold up well. I wish and pray to GOD that Irene does miss Haiti. Her people are barely surviving let alone able to cope what could be heading there way.
happens too often on this island hope she stays south of that place sorry i disagree with dr masters on comparing this one to fay fays the baby in the family then
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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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