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 Relix:
I highly doubt the COC is offshore. Winds are still coming from North to South for me in Levittown, PR. No change at all so far.


Which means the COC could be offshore to the north.
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She hasn't stalled and the movement of her MLC will not allow her to stall.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
TVCN shifts east




Again they will continue to shift east NC or out to sea is how this will end up it always does. History doesn't lie computer models do.
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wow that wobble almost puts the storm exiting off the north side of the Island in what a couple of hours.Anyone know how much lat the system gained 1 degree or so?
Member Since: May 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 91
Quoting thedawnawakening3:
No problem winter123. I have been on these blogs since 2004, under many aliases. Not to mention thedawnawakening 123. I have gathered so much knowledge on these blogs, my tremendous interest in weather and hurricanes has been intensified by the knowledge on this blog and countless days of research. This is my future profession.

You should start blogging! (On your own blog with pictures, etc rather than commenting on JM's blog) Just a suggestion, take it or leave it. I tried to for a while but I simply like looking at storms, and it will never be more than that.
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She looks to have stalled just south of San Juan on the last few frames.
Or is that just tomfoolery with the radar return and the mountains?
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Im not saying that the surface center is north of PR already, I'm saying that IR satellite imagery is suggesting that the Mid Level Circulation is.
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TVCN shifts east

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15790
6565. Wariac
Total darkness here in Fajardo, PR. It is actually more windy now than before.
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Quoting RyanFSU:
Closer zoom...


Typically these storms carry the nastiest stuff in the NE quadrant. This system seems to be more of a symmetrical shape. Would you comment on this please?
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6563. Relix
Half the metro area of PR without power as well. I am lucky!
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6562. Relix
I highly doubt the COC is offshore. Winds are still coming from North to South for me in Levittown, PR. No change at all so far.
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Quoting Levi32:


It's one run. It guarantees nothing. All of the southeast U.S. coast is at risk here, and it is more than likely to be a landfall. I don't see how it is going to avoid the coast. We have a while yet to watch this storm, and folks should be preparing while they can.

I'm out for the night. Back tomorrow.


Goodnight Levi thanks for all your insight.
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6560. Levi32
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Is Florida being counted out now? Lots of Eastward talk...


It's one run. It guarantees nothing. All of the southeast U.S. coast is at risk here, and it is more than likely to be a landfall. I don't see how it is going to avoid the coast. We have a while yet to watch this storm, and folks should be preparing while they can.

I'm out for the night. Back tomorrow.
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Live in NC for 4 years, no storms of note. I leave, 2 months later this. Sheesh. I should hire myself out as a storm shield.
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No problem winter123. I have been on these blogs since 2004, under many aliases. Not to mention thedawnawakening 123. I have gathered so much knowledge on these blogs, my tremendous interest in weather and hurricanes has been intensified by the knowledge on this blog and countless days of research. This is my future profession.
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Is Florida being counted out now? Lots of Eastward talk...


Absolutely not, a landfall or coastline brush in Florida is very much on the table still. Models will continue to shift in the next day or two until the large scale pattern comes to fruition with the NE-ern trough breaking down the subtropical high.
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Well, got to sleep. Got alot of AP homework tomorrow...
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7913
6555. RyanFSU
Closer zoom...
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Is Florida being counted out now? Lots of Eastward talk...
No florida is not out of the picture still could hit here but it looks more like a Ga/sc/nc event at the moment
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Is Florida being counted out now? Lots of Eastward talk...


Nothings out. Don't jump to conclusions. Folks are simply discussing the possibilities...
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6552. luigi18
Quoting winter123:
Thanks for that detailed post thedawnawakening3. I think Irene was trying to enter a RI cycle just before landfall but PR just made it level off in intensity instead of continuing to strengthen. Apparently one of the radars is down in PR? But this one still works fine.

Total darknes in the north area at the moment!
Close to San Juan dorado bayamon
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Man, tough to focus on math, since another question just popped in my head! As it was when I first posted here, it's a question about momentum flow in these storms.

It may be silly -- obviously, we're not dealing with a rigid body here -- but could a moderately tall island like PR, through frictional effects and rerouting airflow, briefly exert a torque by effectively dissipating the angular momentum on the south side of the storm? If so, that might lead to the wobbles that I hear about on here so frequently.

But then I again, I could be totally wrong. That's why I'm asking!
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Quoting emguy:
Poleward bias of the models this season contines to concern me...and then I remember reading all those Tropical Weather Discussions of Frances and Jeanne in 2004 during their approach and landfall in FLorida...Both left behind in a weakness, but still affecting Florida under a wrap around high, "ridge bridge" affect. As a matter of fact, during those dicussion, the NHC specifically stated this is the year of the "wrap around high". Its interesting to note that Jeanne actually went well west of track over Florida due to this too...Eventually passing way closer to Tallahassee than expected.

Irene is gonna run into this obsticle at some point in time as the Bermuda High swarms in following the trough passage. I expect her to slow to a creep as she gains lattitude and creep right into Florida. That will either be on the east coast, up the spine, or just up the western side. Mention of 70 mile shifts being small and non significant? That's up for conjecture...but I can assure the NHC is not going to dismiss the GFDL. They've always respected it, and that respect increased after it called for Katrina going directly over their wheelhouse in Coral Gables when the other models didn't. Sure enough, they had an eye passage over the NHC that night.


Quite the doomcast. I will mark this and look you up in a few days....
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Quoting Levi32:


Might be, though it brings hurricane conditions to a long stretch of the eastern seaboard.


Is Florida being counted out now? Lots of Eastward talk...
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Irene continues WNW or possibly a little NW overnight. Radar imagery suggests that the northern portion of Irene's coc is ready to emerge into the Atlantic OCean. IR imagery suggests that this dry spot on IR is a potential MLC. The centers are a tad decoupled, but not by much. This will likely take another 12 to 24 hours before Irene will be allowed to explode in intensity. SC/NC/GA/FL and the rest of the East Coast need to monitor the latest on Irene.
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Quoting RyanFSU:
A 936 mb hurricane east of the DelMarVa peninsula is quite an ominous sight. ECMWF 00z moves a bit east again. There is still a decent chance that Irene will not touch Florida or the Carolinas.



Great graphic. Do you have one off shore St. Augustine area?
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Again history tells us that when it is aimed at FL GA or SC its always hits NC thanks for reminding us 00z euro.
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Quoting RyanFSU:
A 936 mb hurricane east of the DelMarVa peninsula is quite an ominous sight. ECMWF 00z moves a bit east again. There is still a decent chance that Irene will not touch Florida or the Carolinas.

I don't really believes it'll recurves, but I am not ruling out that. I think it's 35% Florida, Carolinas 45%, neither 15%.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7913
Quoting RyanFSU:
A 936 mb hurricane east of the DelMarVa peninsula is quite an ominous sight. ECMWF 00z moves a bit east again. There is still a decent chance that Irene will not touch Florida or the Carolinas.



Very interesting.
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6543. 7544
we are in a blackout peroid
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6701
6542. Levi32
Quoting help4u:
Levi,so it is going out to sea according to euro?


Might be, though it brings hurricane conditions to a long stretch of the eastern seaboard.
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Quoting Levi32:
Euro is gone bonkers...926mb. Looks like a Cape Hatteras scrape on this run.



Very rare for the ECMWF to be that aggressive, joining the HWRF and GFDL in calling for at least a Category 3 storm.
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Quoting RyanFSU:
A 936 mb hurricane east of the DelMarVa peninsula is quite an ominous sight. ECMWF 00z moves a bit east again. There is still a decent chance that Irene will not touch Florida or the Carolinas.



Hey Ryan..looking forward to hearing your take on things...
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After that nw wobble looks like irene is back on a wnw heading
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6537. Dunkman
Quoting help4u:
Levi,so it is going out to sea according to euro?


More like rakes the whole east coast from Wilmington north and finally moves onshore over SE Mass.
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Disparity between the center on radar and potential center on satellite imagery indicates a potential reformation to the north of San Juan, PR, or this could be a temporary lull in convection in the northwest quadrant of the storm, too early to tell and need more imagery to confirm my original thoughts on this development.
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6535. Relix
Seems to be moving west now
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Relax, neighbor. No way this will even be close to cat 3 in Raleigh, even if it tracks like Fran did.
problem... I'm 15 miles to SE of Raleigh in Johnston County. I'm only 100 miles from the coast.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7913
6533. RyanFSU
A 936 mb hurricane east of the DelMarVa peninsula is quite an ominous sight. ECMWF 00z moves a bit east again. There is still a decent chance that Irene will not touch Florida or the Carolinas.

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6532. luigi18
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
There's your center...


Thanks that's why is getting nice and sweet!
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6531. help4u
Levi,so it is going out to sea according to euro?
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Thanks for that detailed post thedawnawakening3. I think Irene was trying to enter a RI cycle just before landfall but PR just made it level off in intensity instead of continuing to strengthen. Apparently one of the radars is down in PR? But this one still works fine.


Thanks hurricanejunky for the link!
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
great news for Carolinas... not. Never been in a hurricane before and this COULD be my first one. Bad news, it had to be some sort of super hurricane. Good news, I'm in Raleigh (still going to be low end major though).


Relax, neighbor. No way this will even be close to cat 3 in Raleigh, even if it tracks like Fran did.
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6528. Levi32
Quoting EastTexJake:


Just how "bonkers" is that? Is it flatly impossible? Or just very unlikely?


It may be a bit overboard, but to have the Euro so bullish is concerning, and highlights the real possibility that the eastern seaboard could be dealing with a major hurricane.
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I'm not really buying recurving out to sea at Cape H... I'll wait until other models decides tomorrow.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7913
Quoting winter123:

Do you have a link for that? Might be an interesting read while I wait for Irene to exit PR... no chance I will sleep with this going on. Hope everyone in PR prepared for hurricane conditions.


Here is the link to buy the book and preview it:
Florida's Hurricane History

Here is the only web page I could find for it:
Jay Barnes Florida Hurricane History


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Quoting Levi32:
Euro is gone bonkers...926mb. Looks like a Cape Hatteras scrape on this run.



Just how "bonkers" is that? Is it flatly impossible? Or just very unlikely?
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6524. Dunkman
WOW
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6523. emguy
Poleward bias of the models this season contines to concern me...and then I remember reading all those Tropical Weather Discussions of Frances and Jeanne in 2004 during their approach and landfall in FLorida...Both left behind in a weakness, but still affecting Florida under a wrap around high, "ridge bridge" affect. As a matter of fact, during those dicussion, the NHC specifically stated this is the year of the "wrap around high". Its interesting to note that Jeanne actually went well west of track over Florida due to this too...Eventually passing way closer to Tallahassee than expected.

Irene is gonna run into this obsticle at some point in time as the Bermuda High swarms in following the trough passage. I expect her to slow to a creep as she gains lattitude and creep right into Florida. That will either be on the east coast, up the spine, or just up the western side. Mention of 70 mile shifts being small and non significant? That's up for conjecture...but I can assure the NHC is not going to dismiss the GFDL. They've always respected it, and that respect increased after it called for Katrina going directly over their wheelhouse in Coral Gables when the other models didn't. Sure enough, they had an eye passage over the NHC that night.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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.