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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Quoting wpb:
did not see that writing in any nhc product....


Dr. Masters' entry.
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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


gonna check my gas stove and other tings in a bit, ponce is lined up to be hit hard
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Yeah, Irene's center of circulation is somewhere around that location.


Heck yeah...I was saying based on visible that this is (was) dead centered over St. Kitts just before we switched to this blog....
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Quoting P451:
What's this?







LOL your name is IRENE not Emily.

Its called an ill defined center.

At this point the storm is staying weak and tilted.

Trends west for later IMO.
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Quoting IceCoast:
Thoughts on this anyone?

Current Weather Conditions:
Golden Rock, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Link

10 AM (14) Aug 21 78 (26) 78 (26) 29.59 (1002) S 9 light rain
9 AM (13) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.74 (1007) ENE 9 rain showers
8 AM (12) Aug 21 75 (24) 75 (24) 29.77 (1008) NE 13 heavy rain
7 AM (11) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.94 (1014) NE 16 rain


I have been saying for 2 hours that center was over st kitts....based on press. It was. System not stacked.
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Quoting hurricanehanna:
so at this point, the GOM, other than FL looks safe, right?
I wouldn't rule out GOM states just yet, but I can ALMOST rule out Texas. However, never say never.
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Thanks Doc. Looks like we will have to wait and see what the strength is and just where it comes off of Hispanola to determine the timing of the north turn. Will be interesting to watch and I can see the models moving back and forth east to west quite a bit over the next few days.
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Quoting P451:
What's this?







LOL your name is IRENE not Emily.

NO PLEASE NOT EMILY AGIAN.
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65. wpb
Quoting RobbWilder:
"All interests in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida should prepare for the arrival of this dangerous storm."

This is telling me its pretty much coming to these places right?
did not see that writing in any nhc product....
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Thanks DRM.
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Quoting P451:
What's this?







LOL your name is IRENE not Emily.



Well...this moreover shows that Irene is elongated SW to NE....
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12Z NAM 500MB:

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so at this point, the GOM, other than FL looks safe, right?
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Quoting presslord:
As to my post in the last blog regarding Labor Day: I apparently lost a week there somehow.....I'm sure this will give Storm Junkie great fodder to make fun of my age....and, as a matter of fact....he may be right...
ehh. you had me fooled.
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"All interests in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida should prepare for the arrival of this dangerous storm."

This is telling me its pretty much coming to these places right?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Don't say that!


Dude...I haven't felt threatened by a storm like this in a while here in NC....even Dr. M saying likliest track 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"

OMG........
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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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We are expecting 70mph winds by 2am down here and probably higher gusts well over 90mph i guess
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Quoting IceCoast:
Thoughts on this anyone?

Current Weather Conditions:
Golden Rock, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Link

10 AM (14) Aug 21 78 (26) 78 (26) 29.59 (1002) S 9 light rain
9 AM (13) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.74 (1007) ENE 9 rain showers
8 AM (12) Aug 21 75 (24) 75 (24) 29.77 (1008) NE 13 heavy rain
7 AM (11) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.94 (1014) NE 16 rain


Yeah, Irene's center of circulation is somewhere around that location.
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man, my spelling and grammar are awful... anyway, when's the next major model runs?
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Quoting KanKunKid:



How do we know you're not the imposter?


Look at his join date, its Taz, trust me.
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Thoughts on this anyone?

Current Weather Conditions:
Golden Rock, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Link

10 AM (14) Aug 21 78 (26) 78 (26) 29.59 (1002) S 9 light rain
9 AM (13) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.74 (1007) ENE 9 rain showers
8 AM (12) Aug 21 75 (24) 75 (24) 29.77 (1008) NE 13 heavy rain
7 AM (11) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.94 (1014) NE 16 rain
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Quoting Ameister12:

Irene.

if Irene looked like 96W, I would hate to see this blog.
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Quoting P451:
North of 17N, north of the forecast points. This trend started last night and continues. You can't rule out a PR landfall with this setup.



If this continues she could come in on the southern coast of PR and exit the northern coast of DR and head north of Haiti - intensify - and target Florida as a major.

Note, I said COULD, I have not put much thought into it.

All you can do is look at imagery and that is what it is showing.

While steering currents would lead you to believe she should bend a little more westward with time that's not quite how they work or are to be interpreted. These aren't roads and the storm is not a car on a road.

990-999mb storm




970-989mb storm




A stronger system goes further north.


I agree, Puerto Rico, you better start preparing for Irene if you haven't already.
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47. HCW
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Irene.
Quoting AussieStorm:
Irene


96W



Which looks better.


irene.
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Quoting KanKunKid:



How do we know you're not the imposter?
Wunderception.
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As to my post in the last blog regarding Labor Day: I apparently lost a week there somehow.....I'm sure this will give Storm Junkie great fodder to make fun of my age....and, as a matter of fact....he may be right...
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morning doc

thanks for new box
here is a couple of images for ya

09L/TS/I/C0
MARK
17.60N/62.45W
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Bottemline for NC: If it miss Florida, expects a low end major hurricane... wow.
A major hurricane is a heart pounding experience. You will be safe, but very errie.
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Thank you, Dr. Masters. I feel it will go north of PR and parallel the Florida East Coast, and smash into the Carolinas or Northeast. I'm in New Jersey, a barrier island on the coast, and we are YEARS overdue.
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Anyone remembered Hurricane Hugo in terms of intensity? It was a Category 2 and was forecasted to turns away from Charleston (according to my mom, survivor of Hugo). But instead, it kept going toward Charleston while running over warm Gulf Stream. Became a Category 4 storm at landfall... hope it's not the same for Irene if it shaved East Florida.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
plzs note there is a amposter thats name Tazmanian1 in the chat room if he comes in here and start posting report him and Ingore him its likey jason

We know there is and will only be one TAZ
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Quoting gugi182:
I'm writing from PUERTO RICO as i write this in the southwest part of the island it it's mostly cloudy a band of light rain just past by. As i speak i'm in the process of putting storm shutters as everybody is crazy in the gas stations and in the supermarkets as we speak. Well got to go. WE ARE UNDER A HURRICANE WATCH and under a TROPICAL STORM WARNING


Stay Safe!
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Irene


96W



Which looks better.

Irene.
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FINALLY, Greg is Dead.
...GREG BECOMES A REMNANT LOW...
8:00 AM PDT Sun Aug 21
Location: 20.3°N 122.8°W
Max sustained: 35 mph
Moving: W at 9 mph
Min pressure: 1008 mb
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Thanks, Dr. Masters. Great as always.
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Irene


96W



Which looks better.
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I'm writing from PUERTO RICO as i write this in the southwest part of the island it it's mostly cloudy a band of light rain just past by. As i speak i'm in the process of putting storm shutters as everybody is crazy in the gas stations and in the supermarkets as we speak. Well got to go. WE ARE UNDER A HURRICANE WATCH and under a TROPICAL STORM WARNING
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plzs note there is a amposter thats name Tazmanian1 in the chat room if he comes in here and start posting report him and Ingore him its likey jason
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Good morning, thanks Doc. I see recon is already finding substantial winds in the northwest quadrant and they haven't been to the northeast yet. Guess it's time to start paying attention.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Bottemline for NC: If it miss Florida, expects a low end major hurricane... wow.

SHUSH!
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Thanks Doc.
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Quoting Relix:
St Kitts: 10 AM (14) Aug 21 78 (26) 78 (26) 29.59 (1002) S 9 light rain

1002MB Pressure there.
If thats correct then expect the convection to wrap around the south very soon.
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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.