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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Rincon here, NW tip of the island. Dead calm punctuated
by gusts to about 25-30 mph from NE. I don't know about the stores since we did all our preparations pre-Emily and I topped off my tank yesterday. I have my hardest to install tormenteras (shutters) up and the yard cleaned. Waiting to decide on the other tormenteras and whether or not to lower my solar panels. Buena suerte a todos!

Quoting Relix:
Puerto Rico Wugggers... post your conditions and how are things around! As said before... lines in gas statios and super markets slowly getting packed here in Levittown. Cloudy and just now sightly windy
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Quoting scott39:
If Irene misses those mountain islands. ITS TIME TO GET THE MILK JUGS READY!
To the N of those Islands is the assumption right now with me. I am not liking that for the SE Coast!
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Important thing to note is that highest winds are
displaced North of COC Until storm gets better organized affects will be in this area.

Signed

Master of the Obvious
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I'm surprised they issued a hurricane warning in the first place, since this is still a 50mph storm. It's going to strengthen, but still.
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Complete Update

Models have mellowed on the Intensity

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI





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Quoting P451:


Yesterday...I was thinking Irene was average sized...but it continuously has grown larger and looks really large in that image you posted...
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Quoting P451:
right on the forecast track there,heading west
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Via Stormcarib

- Out of trouble

By eliantigua
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2011 11:01:46 -0400

Irene has pretty much left us unscathed with one palm tree branch being our only damage. Isolated reports of 50 mph gusts and one 70 mph gust on a hill on sw of d island. I hear not much flooding. Airport open in an hour and biz as usual tomorrow. Winds out the south now at about 20. No rain falling. All good. Just got a call from "Bushy" telling me that I can bring some boxes to collect some of his massive Edward mangos. Yes!

Sent from my HTC
+1268 7257263
www.adventureantigua.com
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Quoting amd:
A dropsonde was released from the recon plane that landed at 17 N 62.7, and winds were out of the NNW at 5 mph, and the sea level pressure was 1007 mb.

Simply stated, the 1002 mb reading is erroneous, IMHO. There would have to be winds of near 50 knots at that dropsonde to justify a 1002 mb pressure.


Winds don't always correspond to pressure and vice-versa.
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Quoting HCW:


Great graphics, can I get a link to the site? TIA
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Would be nice if Recon investigated the St. Kitts area.


Thats where the center was...now just west of there. I think recon did fly thru there.
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211. amd
A dropsonde was released from the recon plane that landed at 17 N 62.7, and winds were out of the NNW at 5 mph with the sea level pressure measured at 1007 mb.

Simply stated, the 1002 mb reading is erroneous, IMHO. There would have to be winds of near 50 knots at that dropsonde to justify a 1002 mb pressure.
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Have all the wishcasters written or called in to the NHC to tell them their cone is wrong?,that the left side of the current cone needs to be by the east coast of Florida?
The CONE is on both sides, so the NHC already knows :)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Would be nice if Recon investigated the St. Kitts area.


Agreed....
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Quoting Dakster:


They cancel elementary school here for Hurricane Warning... (Sorry, I could resist)

I bet all classes will get cancelled, but since I am not a PR official, you will have to go to them for the ultimate decision.

They probably will. They cancelled for Erika(Half the island) and Omar, both which did nothing.
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205. HCW
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morning everyone, until she gets her act together and ashe keeps going west...the models are going to shift more to the west...just reminds me alot of Ivan, but he was much lower but still... he's going north...but kept on going west till that low picked him up through the uprights...just don't like the "I" storms for the GOM..at all...but still alot of time left...anything can happen..been a crazy season as it is..lol
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Would be nice if Recon investigated the St. Kitts area.
Seems like they can't find the south half of the storm.....lol
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Quoting P451:

convection is really starting to wrap around the southern half.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Hurricane Earl almost did it to us, but we haven't been slammed by a major storm since Isabel in 2003. Before that, it was Floyd.
I'm on the Jersey Shore, Seaside Heights, yes, the filming locale of show, don't judge me. I saw the biggest play, I filmed in, in 9/99 with Floyd, but less with Isabel in '03. Ernesto ('06) brought more damage to structures, but it was extratropical by then. Ida brought us A LOT of wind and rain, but it wasn't tropical by the time it reached us: a hybrid at best. Charley ('04) brought a lot of rain. I worry about Irene!
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Quoting presslord:


yep...looks like we may not have to travel too far...
sorry brother you may not even get out of you're own backyard
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
NHC is probably waiting for another cycle before shifting the cone eastward again. This keeps up however, east shift at 5pm is highly likely.



I think east shift over time is likely also.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

If the power goes out, I'm not going.
lol


I would think if you guys are under Hurricane warning you would not be going to school lol. But if its anything like the U.S. check the local news tonight.
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Quoting Pensa2woodtx:
TWC...just said major storm.....bad feeling...Ivan..Ike..Irene
same really bad feeling here, took in all things outide and the backyard, things that would blow around etc, cleaned the gutters and the plywood is all ready to be installed...whew im too old for this LOL
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
MODELS ARE OFF ON THE LEFT ITS TO THE RIGHT OF PR
???????
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Would be nice if Recon investigated the St. Kitts area.
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NHC puts Irene just S of Miami making landfall in 5 days. I would expect the threat for the E coast N of there to go UP!!
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
HURRICANE WARNING????!!!!!
I wonder if I'll have school tomorrow.


They cancel elementary school here for Hurricane Warning... (Sorry, I could resist)

I bet all classes will get cancelled, but since I am not a PR official, you will have to go to them for the ultimate decision.
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Have all the wishcasters written or called in to the NHC to tell them their cone is wrong?,that the left side of the current cone needs to be by the east coast of Florida?
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
NHC is probably waiting for another cycle before shifting the cone eastward again. This keeps up however, east shift at 5pm is highly likely.



O_o

OMG...a whole lotta NC impacts on those runs...crap....
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Quoting Hhunter:
August 21 11:08 AM by Joe Bastardi
The ob from ST Kitts which is at 17.3 had the pressure fall to 29.59 ... 1002 mb with a light south wind now meaning the storm is a) at least 4 mb stronger and b) further north.. under the cloud shot swirl.


Yeah, I see on Twitter that JB is in full "The NHC is full of idiotic liars!" mode. Go figure... ;-)
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
People, do not focus on center line of cone. Focus on whole cone. NHC did not rules out GOM just yet, so we still don't know where it's going.


Anyone know if the Texas ridge will be still up and blocking in about 5 days?
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TWC...just said major storm.....bad feeling...Ivan..Ike..Irene
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Quoting Dakster:


Hey Press... How's it going? Getting Portlight ready I hope!


yep...looks like we may not have to travel too far...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


If it were here, we would not have school tomorrow. Considering the system is expected to pass just south, or make landfall, or/in Puerto Rico late tonight into early tomorrow morning, it would be wise to cancel, or at least delay, school.


If the power goes out, I'm not going.
lol
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August 21 11:08 AM by Joe Bastardi
The ob from ST Kitts which is at 17.3 had the pressure fall to 29.59 ... 1002 mb with a light south wind now meaning the storm is a) at least 4 mb stronger and b) further north.. under the cloud shot swirl.

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Quoting Abacosurf:
They are holding the split Florida in two track.

Does anyone notice how much NW movement is shown towards the end of the cone on day 5.

hmmm


All I see is a continuation of the track from the previous 5 am cone....that's because I believe they are split between models that take the storm west of FL...and others that take it east of FL....although I continue to personally lean toward the east of FL models until
(1) Irene stops trying to regenerate north...
(2) Irene some how miraculously ingests dry air and stays elongated at the surface, etc. such that it never gets its act together quickly....
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Brb... if I'm not back in few minutes, my parents are holding me a hostage to their chores...
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I'm sure you'll be fine, Just don't barf. It can hold 2 people right.


yessir
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NHC is probably waiting for another cycle before shifting the cone eastward again. This keeps up however, east shift at 5pm is highly likely.

Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5401
Quoting presslord:


were I not recently humbled...I'd be raisin' hell about this...


Hey Press... How's it going? Getting Portlight ready I hope!
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Hope all in the Caribbean stay safe though it shouldn't be too bad of a ride for most though a possible cat 1 isn't something not to be concerned about somewhat.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
MODELS ARE OFF ON THE LEFT ITS TO THE RIGHT OF PR
If Irene misses those mountain islands. ITS TIME TO GET THE MILK JUGS READY!
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People, do not focus on center line of cone. Focus on whole cone. NHC did not rules out GOM just yet, so we still don't know where it's going.
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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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