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 MississippiWx:
is these the strength of winds at surface? 154 knots = 178 mph?
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6372. nigel20
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European output has started...

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
All right........bed time.......got a 10am tee time at Rocky Point.........if anyone in Tampa knows where its at........have a good nite......will get up to look at everything tomorrow......
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Does anyone know what types of systems they use to run the models? Mainframes? SMP (Symetric Multi-Processing) clusters? Distributed or standalone systems?
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Irene appears to be headed towards an exit east of San Juan
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Doesn't look like Irene likes the taste of land interaction and is moving more northwestward tonight. Seems like spiral banding is becoming more pronounced on her northeast quadrant.
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6365. Michfan
This is going to be a fun week.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
She's not going to stay over PR very long. She's pushing off Puerto Rico...

well, that answers my question... it won't affect Irene much, i guess.
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Quoting Levi32:


You're right - I haven't even peeped at it all day until you mentioned it. It's still over land. We'll see if the thunderstorms survive a day or two over water. Until then, we don't know much.
Okay. The reason I mentioned it is because the GFS has been quite consistent on developing another tropical cyclone not long after Irene is out of the picture.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...



Repost... I was noting on the satellite how the convection got really deep in the past few hours, really symmetric, but puerto rico is messing it up JUST enough where it might not be able to become a hurricane tonight, or even tomorrow. It looks to pass over NE puerto rico, and possibly even completely miss hispaniola? That would be very bad for the east coast + bahamas!
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Quoting Levi32:


It's worth keeping in mind that the HWRF more often than not is overly aggressive on intensity. We will know more about Irene's peak intensity after she gets away from Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.
okay. Guess I'll have to keep eye on it... do you think Puetro Rico will affect Irene, or it'll weaken just 5-10 mph? Sorry for annoying questions :\
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6360. 7544
time for the eruo will it agree with gfs or the cmc ? place yourbets now
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She's not going to stay over PR very long. She's pushing off Puerto Rico...

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Levi32:


I didn't have it in me to break her heart.


LOL. Your forecasts and insights on this blog are always very much appreciated by me. Thank you!
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lol
Quoting Levi32:


I didn't have it in me to break her heart.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Land interaction affecting Irene



excellent
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6355. Levi32
Quoting Bluestorm5:
well... how strong is HWRF suggusting at surface? Just wondering because I got family in Charleston.


It's worth keeping in mind that the HWRF more often than not is overly aggressive on intensity. We will know more about Irene's peak intensity after she gets away from Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.
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Let's see what happens... odds are the will name it a Hurricane AFTER Puerto Rico, this has been the scenario before. Since at this point 70 or 75mph is pretty much the same, I wouldn't be surprised if for insurance purposes they hold it off and upgrade it once it's someone elses money.
I say this because it has happened before, Jeanne I believe, the storm enters like this one and once it is out on the Mona Passage it is upgraded.
End result, farmers who loose crops can't ask for money from insurance because it wasn't a hurricane... only a TS.
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6353. NCSCguy
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I can tell you 1 thing...I am very screwed if that FIM model continues to be spot on....
Amen to that... Me too.
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Quoting Barkeep1967:



Obviously

I guess you could show me the last time someplace in Louisiana received 10 + inches of rain in 10 hours and had 40 + mph winds for 10 + hours ?

my guess would be that would be part of a tropical system.

The flooding in Louisiana this year had little to do with rain in Louisiana. It was rain in Il KY Mo that pushed the Mississippi up. And yes slow moving super cells can dump rain like that but it is usually very localized.


Barkeep,
You might want to check this: Link
No high winds, but torrential rains without tropical storm. That flooding was legendary until the floodwall failures of 2005.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



whats see 922 wound be about a cat 5
um... HWRF model are for 500 mb level, not surface.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Land interaction affecting Irene



Can I please have a link?
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6349. Levi32
Quoting weatherb0y:
Hey Levi, I know your and most other's eyes are on Irene, but what is your take on the vigorous tropical wave about to emerge off the African coast?


You're right - I haven't even peeped at it all day until you mentioned it. It's still over land. We'll see if the thunderstorms survive a day or two over water. Until then, we don't know much.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
well... how strong is HWRF suggusting at surface? Just wondering because I got family in Charleston.



whats see 922 wound be about a cat 5
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115357
6347. Levi32
Quoting swflurker:
Did ya hook up with that flight attendant?


I didn't have it in me to break her heart.
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well... how strong is HWRF suggusting at surface? Just wondering because I got family in Charleston.
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Hey Levi, I know your and most other's eyes are on Irene, but what is your take on the vigorous tropical wave about to emerge off the African coast?
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Quoting HuracanTaino:
Punta Santiago in Humacao, now begins her 100 mile journey accross Puerto Rico, unless she decides to take a short cut and exit to the north, instead of heading WNW,,,




i think she will take the short cut and exit too the N


now am off for real
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115357
6343. Levi32
Quoting ChrisDcat5Storm:




were some of the models broke tonight?


To be blunt, I think the 0z CMC is trash. The rest are ok, but some may be jumping it west too much right off the bat. We'll see what the long-term movement is tomorrow, as these storms like to dance around the islands and wobble all over the place due to frictional effects.
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Irene's nighttime landfall in Puerto Rico will just add to the problems. This is just my opinion, but I think the NHC's intensity forecast is too low.
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Land interaction affecting Irene

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Quoting MississippiWx:


North, maybe north-northwest


If it's going NNE then it landfall is at almost the same point, just diffent timing.
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Quoting HuracanTaino:
Punta Santiago in Humacao, now begins her 100 mile journey accross Puerto Rico, unless she decides to take a short cut and exit to the north, instead of heading WNW,,,


Which it looks like she is doing.
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Did ya hook up with that flight attendant?
Quoting Levi32:


Florida is still very much in the high risk area. Even without a direct landfall, the storm could scrape the coast with its wind field, causing tropical storm or hurricane impacts on a long stretch of coastline before going on to make landfall farther north. A landfall in Florida is still possible as well. I personally favor a landfall north of Florida, but only a very small shift in the track left or right could mean the difference between hitting Florida and hitting the Carolinas, so that entire stretch of the SE US coastline could still see the storm come ashore, and again, impacts could be widespread no matter where the landfall is.
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Irene,right on the GFDL track, go girl


HWRF path would be problematic...
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Tazmanian:
WTNT64 KNHC 220530
TCUAT4

TROPICAL STORM IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
130 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

AT APPROXIMATELY 125 AM AST...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL
STORM IRENE MAY LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF
PUERTO RICO NEAR PUNTA SANTIAGO.
Punta Santiago in Humacao, now begins her 100 mile journey accross Puerto Rico, unless she decides to take a short cut and exit to the north, instead of heading WNW,,,
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Quoting JRRP:


Irene,right on the GFDL track, go girl
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Quoting Levi32:


Florida is still very much in the high risk area. Even without a direct landfall, the storm could scrape the coast with its wind field, causing tropical storm or hurricane impacts on a long stretch of coastline before going on to make landfall farther north. A landfall in Florida is still possible as well. I personally favor a landfall north of Florida, but only a very small shift in the track left or right could mean the difference between hitting Florida and hitting the Carolinas, so that entire stretch of the SE US coastline could still see the storm come ashore, and again, impacts could be widespread no matter where the landfall is.




were some of the models broke tonight?
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000
WTNT64 KNHC 220530
TCUAT4

TROPICAL STORM IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
130 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

AT APPROXIMATELY 125 AM AST...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL
STORM IRENE MAY LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF
PUERTO RICO NEAR PUNTA SANTIAGO.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
000
WTNT64 KNHC 220530
TCUAT4

TROPICAL STORM IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
130 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

AT APPROXIMATELY 125 AM AST...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL
STORM IRENE MAY LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF
PUERTO RICO NEAR PUNTA SANTIAGO.

may???? made!
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


What direction is the 'cane traveling in those runs?


North, maybe north-northwest
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting MississippiWx:
Difference between 18z and 00z HWRF

18z



00z



What direction is the 'cane traveling in those runs?
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WTNT64 KNHC 220530
TCUAT4

TROPICAL STORM IRENE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
130 AM AST MON AUG 22 2011

AT APPROXIMATELY 125 AM AST...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL
STORM IRENE MAY LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF
PUERTO RICO NEAR PUNTA SANTIAGO.




has of this good night
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115357
Quoting Levi32:


It's already north of the PR southern coast...

This is a direct hit.
excellent,tear that center up
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Very large shift West with the CMC....Heck of a lot more then 50miles.


Yes it is...
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6325. Seawall
Pressure and winds from Puerto Rico. Sorry if it's already been posted.

Ceiba Flood Warning Flood Watch / Flood Statement Unknown 77 °F N/A% 29.58 in (Steady) Light Rain ENE at 31 mph 11:58 PM AST Save
Mayaguez Flood Watch / Flood Statement Unknown 77 °F 94% 29.64 in (Falling) Rain ENE at 33 mph 1:02 AM AST Save
Mercedita Flood Watch / Flood Statement Unknown 77 °F 94% 29.64 in (Falling) Rain ENE at 33 mph 1:02 AM AST Save
San Juan Flood Warning Flood Watch / Flood Statement Unknown 77 °F 94% 29.64 in (Falling) Rain ENE at 33 mph 1:02 AM AST
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6324. Levi32
Quoting swflurker:
For Florida, Thanks Levi


Florida is still very much in the high risk area. Even without a direct landfall, the storm could scrape the coast with its wind field, causing tropical storm or hurricane conditions along a long stretch of coastline before going on to make landfall farther north. A landfall in Florida is still possible as well. I personally favor a landfall north of Florida, but only a very small shift in the track left or right could mean the difference between hitting Florida and hitting the Carolinas, so that entire stretch of the SE US coastline could still see the storm come ashore, and again, impacts could be widespread no matter where the landfall is.
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Quoting Drakoen:
The HWRF 00z think that Irene is inland over PR already:

It is believe me, i'm feeling her,not a pretty girl at all...
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.