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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F5...F5...F5...Comming to the GOMEX I read...I LOL...Yawn...Time to go to bed an pray a bit for those folks in South Carolina. It's comming your way sorry guys.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 7544:
irene is getting stronger at this and we are not even in dmax yet get the coffee ready its going to be a fun night where she might get the title of
MS IRENE


not fun when youre sitting staring at the barrel of a loaded 12 gauge for 24+ hours and not a wisp stirs.

im gonna try sleep see if the gusts wake me to the fun stuff.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
6171. Relix
Seems like the real stuff is yet coming. Seeing the infrared and everything you would believe the island is getting pounded non stop. XD!
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Quoting nigel20:

I think Irene is being affected by its interaction with Puerto rico.


If anything...the interaction just before landfall has shown + effect for Irene...its radar eye structure has really tightened up between the east coast of PR and Viequies island...its alomst as if the east shore of PR and west shore of Viequies has tightened up the convergence at the center of Irene...that eye has really come together on radar now...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 539 Comments: 3712
So what are the experts looking at to dedide that Irene will be a weak hurricane if it reaches Florida? There's a lot of warm water still to go through and little land!
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Hello from Humacao again.
Power is back on! Wooho!!
Still impressive winds and powerful gusts here until recently. Keep in mind my house is on the side of a mountain facing the ocean, so we get the wind uninterrupted and probably a lot stronger than other spots nearby.
Once in a while a strong gust right now but much less rain... I'm guessing we are getting at the eye.
From what I see is going on at Vieques from msphar (which during the day I can literally see from my balcony), the worst is yet to come.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Levi

the TDWR radar SJU still works

http://www.wunderground.com/radar/radblast.asp?ID= SJU
Keep in mind this radar is "half-blinded" to the storm and can only see so far.. Base Reflectivity 0.60 ElevationRange 225 NMI seems to give the best presentation to me though.
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Quoting nigel20:

I think Irene is being affected by its interaction with Puerto rico.




it has not even made land fall yet
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
Where is Skyepony...........i need her to post which model thus far has been the best with the current tracking of Irene.......
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6164. JLPR2
Speed / Dir 33.0 mph from North Wind Gust 41.0 mph

Carolina,PR
Rain coming down in buckets.
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6163. ronmil
Quoting Relix:
So far not much to show here in Levittown, PR. Just... breeze, cool and some rain. *waiting*


Very strong winds and rain here in Caguas... Should not be long for you...
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6162. msphar
You will get yours in due time my friend. However it may be North of you.
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Even though Irene would get almost 2 days over water before hitting FL in this run after crossing Hispaniola, I am not sold it will survive the trip across. She is moving due west, which will take her through the central part of the island.
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6160. Relix
Quoting serialteg:


estoy q voy a comprar newports y darme las 2 birras con un pana. tu sabes lo que es que no se mueva una hoja en 24 horas?

y pasar 12 en Wunderground :/ dando F5


Hahaha same here. There's like 7 people with me in my studio and we are just watching movies like nothing is happening outside. Which is basically true at the moment. The whole day for some breeze... on a system hitting us directly... something is definitely wrong here. XD!
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6159. nigel20

I think Irene is being affected by its interaction with Puerto rico.
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Quoting scCane:
Levi what do you think of the FIM model? So far it has been spot on.

Link


I can tell you 1 thing...I am very screwed if that FIM model continues to be spot on....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 539 Comments: 3712
Quoting msphar:
Fajardo winds 32 Kts. ENE gusting to 41 Kts.


thanks

-0mph in ponce, half-clear skies lol
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Quoting HimacaneBrees:
Boy I step away for a little while, come back and try to read some posts and catch up to what's happening. I read on one post that the GFS has shifted west. Then 5 posts down someone says Oh My The GFS has shifted way East. ???????? WTH? Is everyone looking at the same model runs or are they just interpreting them whichever way they want?


Completely normal around here...I have learned to listen to a few, and be entertained by the rest.
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Quoting Levi32:


It probably won't be able to avoid the island altogether based on its current motion. I expect it to pass over the northern portion of the island, which is not as bad as a pass over the center of it, but still bad enough to knock it down a bit. That doesn't mean that 3 days or water afterwards won't result in it being a formidable storm, as it probably will be.
ok, thanks.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8046
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


You have a point...but what Levi is saying is that the next model run could easily shift the other way by 50 mi....you need the models to show over and over and over again that solution....
Yeah, I completely understand Levi's point...and it's a very good one. Just showing how the most minor of shifts could result in drastically different conditions over the coast.
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6153. Drakoen
Just east of PR now. Northern eyewall conditions going into Fajardo and Carolina.

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Quoting Relix:
So far not much to show here in Levittown, PR. Just... breeze, cool and some rain. *waiting*


estoy q voy a comprar newports y darme las 2 birras con un pana. tu sabes lo que es que no se mueva una hoja en 24 horas?

y pasar 12 en Wunderground :/ dando F5
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
6151. msphar
Fajardo winds 32 Kts. ENE gusting to 41 Kts.
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Quoting Abacosurf:


Yea but you have to mark the center of the vortex.

Its center is still on the southern end of the island. I would guess a 280 ish heading.

It is moving overall N of west. No question.


Isn't the center of the vortex the center of the radar eye?

I suppose recon is still finding the center to be south from where radar shows it...if so...this would be interesting in a storm that should be better organized than that at this point...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 539 Comments: 3712
Quoting Levi32:


This is very true and I myself said that over and over again earlier today. However, hanging on every model run that shifts back and forth between Florida and Carolina 120 hours out isn't going to help. Every run will be 50 miles different from the other. We shouldn't expect anything different than that.

Now if the runs start lining up consistently a few dozen miles farther west several model cycles in a row, then we can talk about a noteworthy shift. As we get closer to landfall those shifts will mean more as well, but we are still 4-5 days out.


Well said Levi
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Completely agree. Look at this updated graph from the NWS. Just a 20 mile shift towards the west would result in gusts in excess of 60mph over the coast.

based on that graphic, wouldn't take much (i.e ~70 miles) to bring those 80/90 mph gusts over populated areas of PBC
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Quoting Drakoen:


Yes, visiting family. I am suppose to head back (by bus) to FSU the same day that Irene could make a potential impact here.


That doesn't sound fun at all, timing is never as we would want it.
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6146. 7544
irene is getting stronger at this and we are not even in dmax yet get the coffee ready its going to be a fun night where she might get the title of
MS IRENE
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Quoting nola70119:


I see thunderstorms worse that that here in NOLA every other month....thats all yellow in there, not even much red.


Don't be fooled by the colors, many of those bands you see are far worse than NOLA thunderstorms :)


It has to due with the fact that convective processes are different in tropical convection, causing the radar beams to think its weaker than it is, and often times convection with lots of ice cores looks worse than it is too.

I had a great article from NOAA explaining all that a while ago, I wish I remember where i found it, cause I don't fee like explaining all the details right now, especially at this time of night.
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6144. Levi32
Quoting Bluestorm5:
and does it have good chance to shaves/misses Hispaniola? Just asking because I got family in Charleston.


It probably won't be able to avoid the island altogether based on its current motion. I expect it to pass over the northern portion of the island, which is not as bad as a pass over the center of it, but still bad enough to knock it down a bit. That doesn't mean that 3 days or water afterwards won't result in it being a formidable storm, as it probably will be.
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Boy I step away for a little while, come back and try to read some posts and catch up to what's happening. I read on one post that the GFS has shifted west. Then 5 posts down someone says Oh My The GFS has shifted way East. ???????? WTH? Is everyone looking at the same model runs or are they just interpreting them whichever way they want?
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Quoting scCane:
Levi what do you think of the FIM model? So far it has been spot on.

Link


Wow...that goes right over my house..ouch
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Completely agree. Look at this updated graph from the NWS. Just a 20 mile shift towards the west would result in gusts in excess of 60mph.



You have a point...but what Levi is saying is that the next model run could easily shift the other way by 50 mi....you need the models to show over and over and over again that solution....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 539 Comments: 3712
6140. Relix
So far not much to show here in Levittown, PR. Just... breeze, cool and some rain. *waiting*
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You all know why the GFS stalls the system on shore of South Carolina.......its HIGH Pressure building back in over head.......if the GFS is a little fast......it pushes Irene back on to Florida.....the next run of the GFS will be very interesting.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


ok...NOW does anyone else see how the eye is just E of Puerto Rico and not along the S coast...that radar shows it very very clearly....


Yea but you have to mark the center of the vortex.

Its center is still on the southern end of the island. I would guess a 280 ish heading.

It is moving overall N of west. No question.
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6137. msphar
Esperanza winds 42 Kts. SSE gusting to 55 Kts.


Big wind increase.
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6136. JRRP


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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


just to compare


NAM shows stronger ridge and then a bridge later in the forecast period...could lead to a stall at some point for Irene...maybe close to Florida. Could this be what doc masters was trying to show by comparing to Fay...hmmmm.
Member Since: July 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1242
6134. Levi32
Quoting scCane:
Levi what do you think of the FIM model? So far it has been spot on.

Link


It looks like a very reasonable track to me, but of course as we have been saying all day, that entire stretch of coastline is at risk.
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6133. HCW
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


It seems these storms when they approach the coast at a perpendicular angle (this case E PR coast)...they slow down and tighten up...and Irene is doing just that very thing...look at how much better the eye gets at the end of those radar frames...


It also looks better cause it's getting closer to the radar
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6132. Drakoen
Quoting ProgressivePulse:



Hoping for greater land interaction here. 92mph over my head in Jupiter ATM, your in WPB right?


Yes, visiting family. I am suppose to head back (by bus) to FSU the same day that Irene could make a potential impact here.
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Quoting Levi32:


Very possibly, yes, especially if there is only minimal interaction with Hispaniola and the landfall is north of Florida. This storm wants to go.
and does it have good chance to shaves/misses Hispaniola? Just asking because I got family in Charleston.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8046
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Hurricane Dora 1964....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Dora
This ain't no Dora

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Quoting hunkerdown:
I disagree, a 70 mile shift from east to west up the coast of florida, or any state for that matter, may mean the difference between the highest winds offshore versus the highest winds over populated areas...
Completely agree. Look at this updated graph from the NWS. Just a 20 mile shift towards the west would result in gusts from 60mph to 90mph over the coast.

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Quoting nola70119:


I see thunderstorms worse that that here in NOLA every other month....thats all yellow in there, not even much red.


Lol...Yellows in a tropical system are much different than yellows in a normal summertime thunderstorm. Radar doesn't pick up the rain rates of tropical systems as well.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284


If this pattern persists and the trof holds in place long enough, Irene will definitely be a South Carolina event.
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This cyclone remids me of the 1715 hurricane.
Is Grothar awake? He'd remember.
Link
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Quoting SavannahStorm:


Like any good driver, Irene slows down before she goes over speed bumps.


It seems these storms when they approach the coast at a perpendicular angle (this case E PR coast)...they slow down and tighten up...and Irene is doing just that very thing...look at how much better the eye gets at the end of those radar frames...
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 539 Comments: 3712
Quoting tennisgirl08:


Been saying it all day Tampa...the eastern Gomex is not out of the woods yet.


Its certainly not out of the woods but its looking less and less likely at least for now. However, there is still time for that to change. The gulf stream IV I think will be flying out tomorrow which helps to improve model forecasting quite a bit. If the gulf stream IV is going out tomorrow, then the subsequent model runs to follow will likely be the start of Irene final path of movement. The models could shift back west again, or even further east is possible too.

Apparently I'm the only dude living in Tampa Bay that doesn't think every tropical cyclone that "could" threaten Central Florida will be a major threat. Really guys, Tampa Bay hasn't been hit in something like 80 years, that comes out to a low probability, so don't be surprised when another one comes and goes without striking.


However with all that said, people in Tampa Bay should ALWAYS be prepared and never blow off storms just because the chances are low. But people in Tampa Bay have no reason to lose sleep over this right now, that is for sure though.
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6123. Levi32
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Levi32- are we still talking about major hurricane if it shaves Northern Hispaniola?


Very possibly, yes, especially if there is only minimal interaction with Hispaniola and the landfall is north of Florida. This storm wants to go.
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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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