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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6923. aquak9
Quoting StormJunkie:


Well did not expect to find that when I woke up this am...

IR makes it look like she's off the coast, but that could be the sleep in my eye's or that I haven't looked enough yet.


You?? Me too!! there's a stinkin' H all the way up my coastline!! WTH???
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 25825
Quoting StarnzMet:


Interesting..
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Quoting Hurricanes12:
We need recon in Irene ASAP.


Air Force plane scheduled to depart in about half an hour and will reach the storm by 8AM Eastern.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Irene is choosing to go the northern route. Doesn't look like she'll stay over PR for very long.



Well did not expect to find that when I woke up this am...

IR makes it look like she's off the coast, but that could be the sleep in my eye's or that I haven't looked enough yet.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Yep. Center might even be a bit farther north of the 6am position.



How accurate are these TDWR radars?
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6917. Becca36
Quoting aquak9:
Ya'll a buncha slackers!! :)

I go to sleep with things looking fairly good, I wake UP and NHC has an H sitting offa my coast in about five days? where'd all the S's go? Clearance sale?

Geeez...leave it to night shift...

Good morning Aqua! The first thing I did even before coffee was turn on my computer. I'm hoping this isn't knocking on my door here in Boca Raton later this week.
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Quoting hahaguy:
This might be a stupid question but could Irene slow down even more?


Yes it could and it will most likely do so in a day or two once the influence of the subtropical ridge is decreased by the approaching upper trough.
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One key factor of intensity will not just be land interaction, but whether it has to go through a EWRC at any point in the next few days.
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GFS is well off FL coast now closer to euro
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Quoting RussianWinter:
The worst part of south FL being a target for what is potentially a major hurricane is that unlike other parts of the US coastline is that you need to go a lot further north just to escape category one winds. Not to mention the further south you are the more people to the north of you that will also be trying to escape and force major traffic. I hope the NHC will be smart enough to start voluntary evacuations early.


It appears at this time that South FL will not get a direct hit....that could change, but right now its looking better and better for FL each update. That dosnt mean to not be prepared or ready, just saying im sure people in SE FL are feeling a little better.
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We need recon in Irene ASAP.
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Quoting MoltenIce:
That's well over water.


Yep. Center might even be a bit farther north of the 6am position.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
Quoting atmosweather:


They are going through some kind of ravaging this morning...I bet Irene has taken the majority of people there by surprise. She is one of the more intense developing tropical cyclones I've seen in a long time.


Just shows that when atmospheric conditions are right combined with warm SST's, create disaster.
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6909. hahaguy
This might be a stupid question but could Irene slow down even more?
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6908. bwat
Quoting RussianWinter:
The worst part of south FL being a target for what is potentially a major hurricane is that unlike other parts of the US coastline is that you need to go a lot further north just to escape category one winds. Not to mention the further south you are the more people to the north of you that will also be trying to escape and force major traffic. I hope the NHC will be smart enough to start voluntary evacuations early.


Not NHC's call to do evacs, thats up to local "town, county, city," officials.
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Quoting atmosweather:


They are going through some kind of ravaging this morning...I bet Irene has taken the majority of people there by surprise. She is one of the more intense developing tropical cyclones I've seen in a long time.



Its only gonna get worse
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I'm seeing 75+ knot velocities only 1200 feet above the surface.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Really closing off now...

\




Its ready to go I really think the NHC intensity forecast is very conservative
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Really closing off now...

That's well over water.
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6903. aquak9
Ya'll a buncha slackers!! :)

I go to sleep with things looking fairly good, I wake UP and NHC has an H sitting offa my coast in about five days? where'd all the S's go? Clearance sale?

Geeez...leave it to night shift...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 25825
Quoting WCSCTVCharleston:
Gusts up to 120mph in the mountain regions of PR


They are going through some kind of ravaging this morning...I bet Irene has taken the majority of people there by surprise. She is one of the more intense developing tropical cyclones I've seen in a long time.
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Hour 78 on 06z gfs has Irene a little more to the north and east compared to the 00z
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The worst part of south FL being a target for what is potentially a major hurricane is that unlike other parts of the US coastline is that you need to go a lot further north just to escape category one winds. Not to mention the further south you are the more people to the north of you that will also be trying to escape and force major traffic. I hope the NHC will be smart enough to start voluntary evacuations early.
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
000
WTNT64 KNHC 220958
TCUAT4

HURRICANE IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE...CORRECTED
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
550 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

CORRECTED TIME IN DATE/STIME HEADER

PRELIMINARY REPORTS INDICATE THAT WIDESPREAD TREE AND POWERLINE
DAMAGE HAS OCCURRED ON PUERTO RICO...AND MORE THAN 800 THOUSAND
HOMES ARE WITHOUT POWER ON THE ISLAND.

ALSO...FAA DOPPLER WEATHER RADAR INDICATES WINDS TO NEAR MAJOR
HURRICANE STRENGTH ARE NOW OCCURRING IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS OF
THE INTERIOR MOUNTAINOUS REGIONS OF PUERTO RICO.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Update Statement From NHC


Wow, prayers go to out to the entire island of Puerto Rico.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


?

18.6, 66.6 is well over water.

is it? Sorry, I was doing that off my phone's Google maps. not sure how accurate it is.
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Really closing off now...

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
Gusts up to 120mph in the mountain regions of PR
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One aspect of land interaction not mentioned is the frictional forces that can occur and pull the storm on a westward track like a sawblade digging in. Something I will be watching when it gets near the DR. One thing is for sure, Irene is currently on a disaster path. I'll be getting supplies today.
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
000
WTNT64 KNHC 220958
TCUAT4

HURRICANE IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE...CORRECTED
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
550 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

CORRECTED TIME IN DATE/STIME HEADER

PRELIMINARY REPORTS INDICATE THAT WIDESPREAD TREE AND POWERLINE
DAMAGE HAS OCCURRED ON PUERTO RICO...AND MORE THAN 800 THOUSAND
HOMES ARE WITHOUT POWER ON THE ISLAND.

ALSO...FAA DOPPLER WEATHER RADAR INDICATES WINDS TO NEAR MAJOR
HURRICANE STRENGTH ARE NOW OCCURRING IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS OF
THE INTERIOR MOUNTAINOUS REGIONS OF PUERTO RICO.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Update Statement From NHC
wow.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
still over pr.

Although just barely over land.


?

18.6, 66.6 is well over water.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864


Eyewall trying to close off.
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Seems like Irene is really doing a number on Puerto Rico
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Needs some time to get itself together again.

Might be the combination of dry mid-levels and minimal land interaction.
thank you...
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nvm.
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6888. WxLogic
On the latest TDWR image/loop that I'm looking at from San Juan, it definitely looks much better structurally wise, but not quite there yet.

Given land interaction with PR the southern periphery still not well developed but won't take much once it gets past PR in a couple hours before arriving to DR's NE coast
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4960
000
WTNT64 KNHC 220958
TCUAT4

HURRICANE IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE...CORRECTED
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
550 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

CORRECTED TIME IN DATE/STIME HEADER

PRELIMINARY REPORTS INDICATE THAT WIDESPREAD TREE AND POWERLINE
DAMAGE HAS OCCURRED ON PUERTO RICO...AND MORE THAN 800 THOUSAND
HOMES ARE WITHOUT POWER ON THE ISLAND.

ALSO...FAA DOPPLER WEATHER RADAR INDICATES WINDS TO NEAR MAJOR
HURRICANE STRENGTH ARE NOW OCCURRING IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS OF
THE INTERIOR MOUNTAINOUS REGIONS OF PUERTO RICO.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Update Statement From NHC
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6886. hahaguy
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Fellow WPB'er here. I'm watching this one closely.





Same here. Woke up to see a 2 right off the coast.What a great thing to see to start you day.
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Quoting OminousCloud:
Good Morning everyone! Why does the CDO look flat on the west side? just asking....


Needs some time to get itself together again.

Might be the combination of dry mid-levels and minimal land interaction.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
It was a year ago today that Danielle was named, kicking off a hyperactive period. 'Twill be interesting to see what happens this year, no?

Speaking of: look at the beauty spinning into the Atlantic from Africa today:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
When's 00z?


That's 8PM Eastern time, but the information will not be inputted into the models until the 12z runs tomorrow (8AM EST).
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If this storm does make landfall in the Georgia area, it will be almost 108 years to the day of 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane. The path up the east coast of FL is almost identical to the predicted path. Savannah could be in for it.
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Good Morning everyone! Why does the CDO look flat on the west side? just asking....
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AT 600 AM AST...1000 UTC...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE
IRENE WAS ESTIMATED BY FAA DOPPLER WEATHER RADAR TO BE
NEAR LATITUDE 18.6 NORTH...LONGITUDE 66.6 WEST...OR ABOUT
40 MILES WEST-NORTHWEST OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO AND ABOUT
40 MILES EAST-NORTHEAST OF AGUADILLA PUERTO RICO.
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6879. WxLogic
@00Z There was a general slight left shift of the model suite. Even GFS brings it closer to FL coast line (riding along it).

Here's a comparison of the 12Z Friday:

12Z (8/21):


00Z (8/22):


As you can see above... yesterday the evolution of Irene was projected to be quite quicker which produced a further offshore track along the FL coast line into SC and a stronger weakness to its N.

On the 00Z run you can see that given the slower motion that the TROF/weakness is not as pronounce this time and a bridge is now better established between the CONUS High and the Bermuda High which prompts for a track closer to US and landfall close to GA as NHC is currently projecting.

Timing is everything and specially on how fast Irene moves. If she stalls or slows down further than projected then it would prevent it from feeling the strongest weakest point for it to recurve further out to shore and therefore bring it closer to US coast line.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4960
Quoting atmosweather:


There is a NOAA surveillance mission scheduled for 00z tonight which will definitely provide the models with more useful information about the large scale environment.
When's 00z?
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Agreed with the sentiment the last few pages: feels like she's gone flirt with everyones on the dance floor and put on a show today/tomorrow.

Gulp.
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Quoting flasooner:
Good morning from West Palm Beach, FL. Starting to appear that we'll be experiencing Irene's first U.S. landfall. Guess it's time to fill the propane tank . . .


Fellow WPB'er here. I'm watching this one closely.



Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15864
Quoting Cotillion:
Morning all.

So, the tropical storm streak is ended. What a shame. Unfortunately, intensity estimates keep rising.

Seems sort of north of PR. I think it was P451 who mentioned this possibility first (and he's made a lot of good posts on Irene, kudos his way).

Btw, oil prices down further due to Libya reaching (hopefully) the conclusion. Good news for... well, everyone.


It's been my experience the so called, "experts" are better at tracking hurricanes than tropical storms so in a way, it might be better that she's a 'cane now. At least we might have a better idea of where she is headed, maybe.

All that aside, this is a good time of the year to review your haul and/or hunker plans. Preparedness does not mean waiting till the storm is at your doorstep. The lines at the grocery, department and home improvement stores grow quickly. Patrap and other bloggers here have great links and resources.

NOAA's Preparedness Page

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Quoting Jedkins01:



Based on what I see, data feeding into models doesn't suggest a big shift back over the West Coast of Florida anytime soon, that high over Texas was underestimated again early on, the high over Texas is wanting to hold strong. So, as of now, I don't see how Irene will head any further west than the NHC center point right now unless the trough comes down weaker than expected, or unless the ridge in the Atlantic strengthens and squeezes the path of least resistance farther west.
Quoting Jedkins01:



Based on what I see, data feeding into models doesn't suggest a big shift back over the West Coast of Florida anytime soon, that high over Texas was underestimated again early on, the high over Texas is wanting to hold strong. So, as of now, I don't see how Irene will head any further west than the NHC center point right now unless the trough comes down weaker than expected, or unless the ridge in the Atlantic strengthens and squeezes the path of least resistance farther west.


There is a NOAA surveillance mission scheduled for 00z tonight which will definitely provide the models with more useful information about the large scale environment.
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Good morning from West Palm Beach, FL. Starting to appear that we'll be experiencing Irene's first U.S. landfall. Guess it's time to fill the propane tank . . .
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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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