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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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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6122. tarps3
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.


well said. This is a huge issue when tracking winter storms on other message boards. Winter weather is my specialty by the way. Fascinated by tropical weather too but snow and ice capture my attention more.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Levi32- are we still talking about major hurricane if it shaves Northern Hispaniola?


Northern Hispaniola isn't very mountainous, most of the mountains are in the south and west, so I would wager dollars to donuts that it wouldn't have much of an effect on Izzy
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...



I see thunderstorms worse that that here in NOLA every other month....that radar has almost all yellow in there, not even much red.
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The real problem here is the angle of Irene's approach to the Florida, as well as the rest of the east coast. It's going to be one that any minor deviation left, or to the right, could have extremely different effects on the eastern seaboard. It could landfall quite early in South Florida, or parallel off the coast (and strengthen), in which any wobble could cause it to move inland in Central Florida. And the idea of a hurricane affecting such a long stretch of coastline could have some costly implications as well.

So many possibilities.
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Strongly agree.


But a small shift still means literally nothing this far out because it can just as easily shift back the other way in a few hours.
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6117. scCane
Levi what do you think of the FIM model? So far it has been spot on.

Link
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...



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....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 535 Comments: 3709
6115. Levi32
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Levi

the TDWR radar SJU still works

http://www.wunderground.com/radar/radblast.asp?ID= SJU


Thanks for the reminder.
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6114. 7544
eruo might be more west than the gfs what time is the run thanks everyone
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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.


The voice of reason in a sea of panic.
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What exactly are you expecting in Gainesville?

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Don't forget Gulf Stream is huge factor in RI mode, if this occurs near the landfall.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8044
Quoting MississippiWx:
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...

Land friction?
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Quoting Levi32:
I feel like I should point out that the GFS shifting a 132-hour forecast by 70 miles is extremely minor, and certainly not a major shift. Don't expect the same exact city to get the hit on every run.
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...
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...



Like any good driver, Irene slows down before she goes over speed bumps.
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Quoting Drakoen:
As we get closer to a potential impact these small shifts can have large implications down the road.



Hoping for greater land interaction here. 92mph over my head in Jupiter ATM, your in WPB right?
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Quoting P451:


I would say the surface circulation is at least half inland.


You can also begin to see the effects of land interaction with the southern part of the CDO strengthening over the waters while the rest seems to lose just a little bit of it's cold tops.



I thought you went to bed.:-/
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Irene = Betsy

No way tracks will look alike but coming out of the same waters within a week of each other albeit 46 yrs apart, going with cat 3 min.
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Quoting Drakoen:
As we get closer to a potential impact these small shifts can have large implications down the road.


Strongly agree.
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Levi32- are we still talking about major hurricane if it shaves Northern Hispaniola?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8044
Kinda put on the breaks just offshore...

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
6101. Levi32
Quoting Abacosurf:
But Levi that 70 mile shift is the difference between palm beach and savanah because of the acute angle of approach.


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.
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So far, nothing too much for Puerto Rico, and I don't expect that the DR will fare much worse....NHC calling for 90mph winds at landfall, thats not great but its really not too considering the possibilities.
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Quoting Abacosurf:
But Levi that 70 mile shift is the difference between palm beach and savanah because of the acute angle of approach.


Just remember this.... 2-3 hours at 15 mph is a turn of 30-45 more miles off shore.... which would equate the difference between a GA landfall and a central SC landfall.... another 30-45 miles gets you a northern SC to southern NC landfall.... thats how close it is guys.
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Levi

the TDWR radar SJU still works

http://www.wunderground.com/radar/radblast.asp?ID= SJU
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Quoting UpperLevelLOL:
Does anyone have the water temp map for the GOM/W. Caribbean? How hot are the waters off Eastern Florida?
bath water
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6096. Drakoen
As we get closer to a potential impact these small shifts can have large implications down the road.
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Quoting SavannahStorm:




or



or



or



or



OK...now we've really answered that question...LOL..
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 535 Comments: 3709
Night everyone
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Quoting TampaSpin:



Are you throwing out one of the most reliable models........i certainly am not!! When you have 2 very reliable models like the GFDL and the UKMET doing something different and now the GFS just moved a bit more West........i am certainly not discounting those 2 models yet.


ok thanks, btw I didn't mean to rile you up, I'm just trying to understand the forecast tracks. I mean with the NHC and other computer guidance showing or forecasting an run up the Fl east coast, I was just wondering why you think that Irene would track into the gulf as suggested by the UKMET & GFDL models.
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Looking at San Juan radar she seems to have wobbled north some.
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6091. Levi32
Quoting ChrisDcat5Storm:
levi did the modles shift west


If they did, it was by a tiny amount. The consensus is still east of Florida, and it makes sense that it is.

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6090. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


just to compare
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Quoting emguy:


Actually, te 5th and the 6th deadliest US hurricanes actually made landfall in Georgia near the SC Border. #5 was the hurricane of 1893, estimated to have killed 1000-2000 persons, #6 was the 1881 Hurricane, which killed almost 700.


Yeah, they are REALLY overdue...lol.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Aaah...thanks for clarifying Levi...yeah 70 miles I concur is not a biggie shift....



but its a trend
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Quoting Levi32:
I feel like I should point out that the GFS shifting a 132-hour forecast by 70 miles is extremely minor, and certainly not a major shift. Don't expect the same exact city to get the hit on every run.
But Levi that 70 mile shift is the difference between palm beach and savanah because of the acute angle of approach.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 490
Quoting Levi32:
I feel like I should point out that the GFS shifting a 132-hour forecast by 70 miles is very minor, and certainly not a major shift. Don't expect the same exact city to get the hit on every run.


Aaah...thanks for clarifying Levi...yeah 70 miles I concur is not a biggie shift....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 535 Comments: 3709
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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6084. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:
I feel like I should point out that the GFS shifting a 132-hour forecast by 70 miles is very minor, and certainly not a major shift. Don't expect the same exact city to get the hit on every run.


Right not a major shift in terms of track, however, it is major in terms of increasing the risk to Florida and the southeast.
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6083. 7544
how long will irene be pouding fla for how many hors looks to be moving pretty slow on the new gfs round tia
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6081. will40
Quoting Tazmanian:





is that a new storm on the GFS?



Yes Tazz looks like it
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Night All.

TVCN still locked on the NHC track 00Z.

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Quoting UpperLevelLOL:
Does anyone have the water temp map for the GOM/W. Caribbean? How hot are the waters off Eastern Florida?


85.8 degrees 80 miles off canaveral

Link
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 490
6078. scCane
Quoting will40:




GFS has her stalling between SC and NC
Wonderful..... literally right over me.....
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Can you give a link to this-pls. thanks
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Quoting P451:


I would say the surface circulation is at least half inland.


You can also begin to see the effects of land interaction with the southern part of the CDO strengthening over the waters while the rest seems to lose just a little bit of it's cold tops.



LOL...I thought you were going to sleep....
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 535 Comments: 3709
6075. Relix
Really this thing is supposed to be over me and I am not receiving winds over 25mph here nor constant strong rains. I am in Toa Baja. Oh and still have power.
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6074. emguy
Quoting tennisgirl08:
This thing is either going to the carolinas or the gulf....lol. But, seriously, when has GA ever been directly hit by a hurricane?


Actually, te 5th and the 6th deadliest US hurricanes actually made landfall in Georgia near the SC Border. #5 was the hurricane of 1893, estimated to have killed 1000-2000 persons, #6 was the 1881 Hurricane, which killed almost 700.
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6073. Levi32
I feel like I should point out that the GFS shifting a 132-hour forecast by 70 miles is extremely minor, and certainly not a major shift. Don't expect the same exact city to get the hit on every run.
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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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