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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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.
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Last post of the night...gotta get some sleep since I have to be up at 6:30am. :-/



Should emerge north of PR in the next hour.

People in the GA/SC/NC should really start making preparations if they haven't already. A major hurricane is looking very possible within the next few days for them. Florida is certainly still in the bull's eye, but models are really starting to come into a consensus just east of the coast of Florida. Good luck to all in that area and let's hope Irene has inner-core issues that keep her from getting too strong.
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how many hours does euro run out to
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6520. Relix
Haven't received any windshift here where I live. The center must still be in the middle of the island. And its windy... haaard.
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Quoting Levi32:


I think someone confused the blog earlier with the pressure levels and the HWRF. 943mb is the surface pressure. It doesn't make sense to have a 943mb pressure at the 850mb pressure level, because by definition the pressure at that height is 850mb.
ok... still got long way to learn I guess.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Convection within the spiral bands within the NE quadrant have really intensified, not surprising given the fact that they have remained over water this whole time.

One thing to note for the next 24 hours is how the overall circulation reacts to PR as it travels away from the island given that the NE quadrant will remain consistently the strongest as momentum and convection will remain the most intense. However PR will act to shut off the fetch from the south side of the storm until it is fully over water once again. Outflow restricitions will likely impede any RI cycles over the next 24 hours on the south side of the storm.
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Quoting luigi18:

Is blowing very hard close to San Juan!

Good thing it's moving through overnight; there'd be no way for flights to come in or out with it blowing through. They should resume without issue by morning.
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6516. Levi32
Euro is gone bonkers...926mb. Looks like a Cape Hatteras scrape on this run.

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Quoting thedawnawakening3:
Storms cannot intensify over landmasses. Islands like the Bahamas are not large enough to stop intensification, but islands like PR, Hispaniola and Cuba are all large enough to stop intensification and begin weakening as the islands have large mountainous regions and are rather large themselves cutting off the supply of warm moist air into the circulation. However right now the circulation of Irene is staying far enough to the east over PR to allow a steady fetch of warm moist air into her circulation allowing her spiral bands to continue to feed over the waters and not become disrupted by the mountains to her west.

Once she remerges into the Atlantic Ocean, she should reintensify again. Once east of the Bahamas or over the Bahamas she could intensify into a category three or stronger hurricane admist an indeal atmospheric and oceanic environment where SSTs and their depths are favorable for intensificaton along with the associated upper level anticyclone she has developed for herself will allow intensification throughout her life cycle as a tropical cyclone. The main impediment remains dry air entrainment and possible decoupling of the mid and surface low centers. If this occurs are dry air becomes an issue again this will likely hamper Irene throughout her travels over the open Atlantic and halt any tries at a rapid intensification cycle, and once her core gets it together potential EMRCs will impede development as she gathers her two centers.

However if she maintains an adequate core and the centers of circulation do not decouple, chances are two or three periods of rapid intensification could take place as well as one potential EWRC period and this will allow maximum potential intensity as she makes landfall along the East Coast. THe inner core circulation problems that Hurricane Earl of 2010 had to deal with kept him from reaching category five intensities as he had one shot at a complete EWRC before reintensification could take place, but once this happened he had increasing wind shear to deal with as he raced northward up the east coast. Anyone from Cape Cod, MA southwestward towards Miami, FL have to watch this cyclone intently as any short term deviations now could have significant intensity and track implications as I have mentioned above. With every northward wobble could put more residents north of Miami, FL at potential risk for a more potential monster.


Wow, what a quick response to what I assume is my question -- if I understand correctly, you're saying that for larger, more rugged land masses, a few miles either on or off the coast can make a huge difference, which I suppose makes sense. Thanks. A corollary question, then. If a storm is skirting the coast (as Irene might be doing now), could mountains that lay onshore induce upward motion and actually mitigate the fact that the circulation is partially over land?

Naturally, it'd be disastrous if the circulation was actually moving completely over land. But the question appears to be relevant right now. Plus, it's interesting physics.
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Quoting thedawnawakening3:
Storms cannot intensify over landmasses. Islands like the Bahamas are not large enough to stop intensification, but islands like PR, Hispaniola and Cuba are all large enough to stop intensification and begin weakening as the islands have large mountainous regions and are rather large themselves cutting off the supply of warm moist air into the circulation. However right now the circulation of Irene is staying far enough to the east over PR to allow a steady fetch of warm moist air into her circulation allowing her spiral bands to continue to feed over the waters and not become disrupted by the mountains to her west.

Once she remerges into the Atlantic Ocean, she should reintensify again. Once east of the Bahamas or over the Bahamas she could intensify into a category three or stronger hurricane admist an indeal atmospheric and oceanic environment where SSTs and their depths are favorable for intensificaton along with the associated upper level anticyclone she has developed for herself will allow intensification throughout her life cycle as a tropical cyclone. The main impediment remains dry air entrainment and possible decoupling of the mid and surface low centers. If this occurs are dry air becomes an issue again this will likely hamper Irene throughout her travels over the open Atlantic and halt any tries at a rapid intensification cycle, and once her core gets it together potential EMRCs will impede development as she gathers her two centers.

However if she maintains an adequate core and the centers of circulation do not decouple, chances are two or three periods of rapid intensification could take place as well as one potential EWRC period and this will allow maximum potential intensity as she makes landfall along the East Coast. THe inner core circulation problems that Hurricane Earl of 2010 had to deal with kept him from reaching category five intensities as he had one shot at a complete EWRC before reintensification could take place, but once this happened he had increasing wind shear to deal with as he raced northward up the east coast. Anyone from Cape Cod, MA southwestward towards Miami, FL have to watch this cyclone intently as any short term deviations now could have significant intensity and track implications as I have mentioned above. With every northward wobble could put more residents north of Miami, FL at potential risk for a more potential monster.
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).
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
6513. luigi18
Quoting quakeman55:

Looks like it'll head right over the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

Is blowing very hard close to San Juan!
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I think some people are confusing the data on the GFDL and HWRF models. The wind speeds the models have are at 900mb which is a certain level of the atmosphere, likely 1 to 2 thousand feet above sea level, however the separate pressure reading is known as the SLP (Sea Level Pressure) which is used to gauge intensity to some degree, however not officially used to qualify a hurricane for a certain level of the Saffir Simpson Scale.
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There's your center...

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Read Jay Barnes' Florida Hurricane History about it and also "Storm Of The Century" which also covers other things happening around the storm. Incredible stories and reports from that storm. It's been said there may have been gusts to 250 mph in that storm but generally it's usually said to have had 200+ mph winds.

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.
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Quoting Levi32:


I think someone confused the blog earlier with the pressure levels and the HWRF. 943mb is the surface pressure. It doesn't make sense to have a 943mb pressure at the 850mb pressure level, because by definition the pressure there is 850mb.


Yeah, I think I confused him with the millibars and surface winds. The actual pressure shown on GFDL and HWRF is actual surface pressure.
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Its funny about 12 days ago the GFS had a hurricane hitting South Carolina around Charleston about 9 days ago then lost it. Not that i am saying it will happen but alot of times they have something down the road lose it for a week then its right back on the table
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Quoting TampaBayWX:


why are they in a black hole?


I heard they turn them off at this hour, although I am not 100% confident what happens, but the satellites show a glitch at this time.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
943 mb at 850 mb level? Isn't that like 120 MPH? Still new with 500/700/850/900 models.


Global models are different. They really don't have the resolution to pick up on the extremely low pressures of strong hurricanes. However, the European is a little better than most global models. 943mb on the Euro is likely close to 943mb at the surface.
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6505. Levi32
Quoting Bluestorm5:
943 mb at 850 mb level? Isn't that like 120 MPH? Still new with 500/700/850/900 models.


I think someone confused the blog earlier with the pressure levels and the HWRF. 943mb is the surface pressure. It doesn't make sense to have a 943mb pressure at the 850mb pressure level, because by definition the pressure at that height is 850mb.
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6504. Levi32
0z Euro continues to show the track that makes sense to me right now, a turn to the NNW or north and into the Carolinas, straight through the weakness along the eastern seaboard.
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
Don't forget Charlie. He was on the upswing at landfall, and as I recall, actually intensified.


Charley didn't intensify after landfall but was moving so fast it didn't lose much intensity until it was further inland.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2899
Quoting MississippiWx:
120:



Euro has really locked onto a solution just east of Florida. Not good for GA/SC/NC.
943 mb at 850 mb level? Isn't that like 120 MPH? Still new with 500/700/850/900 models.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
I didn't have problems sleeping when Rita was headed in until the actual night of the storm. That was the night I joined WU after all, check my login date :).

Course I was disappointed when my power went out like a few minutes after landfall and I had nothing to do but listen to the wind rock my trailer next to Lake Livingston. I still slept some though, after I opened a window a little to let the wind cool the place down. It was the night after that was miserable, no AC and it was sweltering hot.
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I would agree more so with a NC/SC/GA landfall no matter how rare a GA landfall is then a FL landfall given the intensity of longwave troughs this summer and the fact we are heading to the last week of August as troughs become more of the norm and Irene is already more north then currently forecasted to be.
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6499. luigi18
Quoting quakeman55:

Looks like the COC is over El Yunque right now...about to head into San Juan.

Blowing nice 40knts
Hill at bayamon!
No lights
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Quoting thedawnawakening3:
Satellites are now in the black hole, this period of the night sucks.


why are they in a black hole?
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Just throwing this out here


O_o
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6496. Levi32
This is the buoy to watch upon Irene's exit. It is along the northern coast of PR near San Juan. We are receiving high-density data every 10 minutes.

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Satellites are now in the black hole, this period of the night sucks.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:


Um, I agrees with you. Went from Tropical Storm to almost 200 MPH Category 5 in only a day or two. Officially, it's 185 MPH storm... but 200 mph winds may have occurred during this storm. Nasty one...



I have to wonder how much of that is due to observational failures. Not saying that's what it is, but I have a strong skepticism of any tropical cyclone data recorded before satellites, and even more so of data collected before the 40s (when real storm reconnaissance began).

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Oracle - I think you mean "CHARLEY - 2004" - there were a series of 3 storms in 1950-1952 named "CHARLIE."  (The names sound the same, but have a different spelling.)
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120:



Euro has really locked onto a solution just east of Florida. Not good for GA/SC/NC.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Man, I can not fall asleep, lmao. Need to be awake in 3 and a half hours. Eeeeek.


School?

Ouch.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Florida will not be off of hook until this storm dies out. I would just get ready just in case...

thank you
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Read Jay Barnes' Florida Hurricane History about it and also "Storm Of The Century" which also covers other things happening around the storm. Incredible stories and reports from that storm. It's been said there may have been gusts to 250 mph in that storm but generally it's usually said to have had 200+ mph winds.
wow... it's like being in EF5 tornado for couple of hours.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Storms cannot intensify over landmasses. Islands like the Bahamas are not large enough to stop intensification, but islands like PR, Hispaniola and Cuba are all large enough to stop intensification and begin weakening as the islands have large mountainous regions and are rather large themselves cutting off the supply of warm moist air into the circulation. However right now the circulation of Irene is staying far enough to the east over PR to allow a steady fetch of warm moist air into her circulation allowing her spiral bands to continue to feed over the waters and not become disrupted by the mountains to her west.

Once she remerges into the Atlantic Ocean, she should reintensify again. Once east of the Bahamas or over the Bahamas she could intensify into a category three or stronger hurricane admist an indeal atmospheric and oceanic environment where SSTs and their depths are favorable for intensificaton along with the associated upper level anticyclone she has developed for herself will allow intensification throughout her life cycle as a tropical cyclone. The main impediment remains dry air entrainment and possible decoupling of the mid and surface low centers. If this occurs are dry air becomes an issue again this will likely hamper Irene throughout her travels over the open Atlantic and halt any tries at a rapid intensification cycle, and once her core gets it together potential EMRCs will impede development as she gathers her two centers.

However if she maintains an adequate core and the centers of circulation do not decouple, chances are two or three periods of rapid intensification could take place as well as one potential EWRC period and this will allow maximum potential intensity as she makes landfall along the East Coast. THe inner core circulation problems that Hurricane Earl of 2010 had to deal with kept him from reaching category five intensities as he had one shot at a complete EWRC before reintensification could take place, but once this happened he had increasing wind shear to deal with as he raced northward up the east coast. Anyone from Cape Cod, MA southwestward towards Miami, FL have to watch this cyclone intently as any short term deviations now could have significant intensity and track implications as I have mentioned above. With every northward wobble could put more residents north of Miami, FL at potential risk for a more potential monster.
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Quoting yesterway:


you might do better not sleeping. Catch up tomorrow...

I've been there. It's ALWAYS better to get a little bit of sleep, than none at all. At the very least just lay down. I know a landfalling storm is interesting but Irene will still be here when you get up!

Kind of looks like a yin-yang symbol, doesn't it!?
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Quoting TigerFanOrl:


Have you ever flown over South Florida? It's pretty much water with a little land mixed in and flat as can be without being below sea level. Not a whole lot to do much disruption. I believe Katrina did well over South Florida.


The extreme southern tips, the 10,000 islands area and everglades is mostly water but the rest of the peninsula isn't mostly water. Florida will certainly disrupt storms.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2899
Quoting Levi32:
Irene is headed straight for Carolina, Puerto Rico. Pressure down under 995mb with 56mph wind gusts out of the north.

Looks like it'll head right over the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
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Quoting oceanblues32:
i am in the ft lauderdale area and from hearing everyne this is less and less a south florida storm am i correct?
Florida will not be off of hook until this storm dies out. I would just get ready just in case...
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96

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Well, I can't sleep, and so might as well watch how Irene skirts Puerto Rico while doing some math homework.

There's a matter on which I'm pretty curious, though. To what extent does a tropical cyclone sense the delineation between land and water? One always hears about how a cyclone has to be "over water" in order to maintain strength or intensify, but is the storm really taking energy directly from the top sea surface layer? To me, it would make more physical sense for the surface winds to extract moisture from the sea surface, which then rises as the winds swirl into the core to produce the storms energy; if this is the case, I would think that the delineation would be rather fuzzy. Thoughts are appreciated!
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Fay was one of the rare notable instances where a TC strengthened after landfall.
Don't forget Charlie. He was on the upswing at landfall, and as I recall, actually intensified.
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COC appears to be headed towards a San Juan Bay exit now.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:


Um, I agrees with you. Went from Tropical Storm to almost 200 MPH Category 5 in only a day or two. Officially, it's 185 MPH storm... but 200 mph winds may have occurred during this storm. Nasty one...



Read Jay Barnes' Florida Hurricane History about it and also "Storm Of The Century" which also covers other things happening around the storm. Incredible stories and reports from that storm. It's been said there may have been gusts to 250 mph in that storm but generally it's usually said to have had 200+ mph winds.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2899
6475. Levi32
Irene is headed straight for Carolina, Puerto Rico. Pressure down under 995mb with 56mph wind gusts out of the north.
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i am in the ft lauderdale area and from hearing everyne this is less and less a south florida storm am i correct?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Man, I can not fall asleep, lmao. Need to be awake in 3 and a half hours. Eeeeek.


you might do better not sleeping. Catch up tomorrow...
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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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