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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5623. scott39
PR is getting a good whack. It sure does look like when you follow those cold cloud tops at the center Irene is going due west
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5622. air360
**asking because i really don't know...not because im trying to "troll"**

What are the factors to be looking for that would cause Irene to go further north/east than forecast. I see the models keep shifting east slowly with their track as does the official forecast...what factors keep that shift going east and how far could it potentially/hypothetically shift?

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Still waiting for first image...
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Chicklit,
how about the Dominican republic weakens it, then it heads due north out of the dominican republic, and spares Haiti, and US.
then we all winners(well, except for PR and Domincan Republic)


Dean, that's the GOM Solution.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
GFS models starting soon. Y'all want me to post it?
ok class, in unison..."yes, please" :)
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Quoting zoomiami:


don't focus on the line -- look at the cone, and that south florida probably will be impacted by the storm -- not necessarily a direct hit.



Well, looks like I will be up on my roof tomorrow trying to fix these nagging leaks I've had for the last few months.
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5616. Gorty
Quoting Tazmanian:




LOL yes you are i still have about 34 names or on on my list and in fac you this make # 35 on my list bye bye


Aren't you a troll too taz?
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Quoting zoomiami:


don't focus on the line -- look at the cone, and that south florida probably will be impacted by the storm -- not necessarily a direct hit.
well that is scripted, heard a million times. Said nothing of HIS thoughts as to what type/intensity of the conditions he THOUGHT we could expect ?
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Quoting atmosweather:
I hate having no radar and no visible imagery at the same time lol.




how have you been
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5612. xcool


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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Time to say Goodnight Irene.


You've been saving that.
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5610. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
99 DAYS REMAIN
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
I want to see the NHC not upgrade Irene to the first hurricane of the season then watch Irene weaken some over Puerto Rico causing an explosion of panic about how the NHC has a bias ;) lol
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I hate having no radar and no visible imagery at the same time lol.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
GFS models starting soon. Y'all want me to post it?




yes
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PR WSR-88D is down.

TWDR is still up for now.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:


Nervous anticipation...


Another center fix coming up in half an hour or so. This will update both pressure, wind and direction. New vortex message expected with this pass by recon.
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Complete Update

HH inbound.. hope they find the Centre before the rocks in the clouds.. its gonna be close.

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI






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San Juan radar appears to be down. Hasn't done anything the last couple of frames.
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GFS models starting soon. Y'all want me to post it?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Well, I'm back after a busy afternoon- storm shutters are stacked in the backyard and ready to go up if need be. Most of my supplies are stocked up, too.

I know that by spending money and doing all this work I'm near-guaranteeing that Irene won't come anywhere near here.
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Quoting hulazigzag:
as long as the track shifs more to the east. The track the nhc has now could be a bad scenario with a strengthening storm riding up the coast.


As long as we are on the west side of it...
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Quoting zoomiami:
Max Mayfield also said that after the Gulfstream goes in later tomorrow the models will have the best information available as to the steering currents.
That's good to know, thanks zoomiami :)
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Quoting rareaire:
Its my opinion this will be in Tampa Spins back yard by friday!!!


Dude, where you been.......LOL......Thanks!....YOur a true friend....
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Now that's a true Mississippian for ya. LOL.


Lol....priorities...
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Quoting scottsvb:
You guys can pretty much throw out the NAM Model cause it doesnt feel the intensity of Irene..infact doesnt feel it for 48hrs at least.. so it will be alot more west in the near term. I would follow the GFS,ECMWF thru 48hrs into Hispaniola and off the NW coast of Haiti by Tuesday night or Weds


NAM is a good model to use for large scale pattern forecasts not for tropical system tracks. The overall setup is useful in determining the ridging/troughing that could be present for a storm to work with.
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looks like too me the center of the storm is going too pass this WNW too NW of PR
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Mississippiwx, not just mississippian, a southerner, its funny when ppl up north move down here, and expect to see what they see up north, But its ROUGHER and x999999999999999999999999999999999 more AGGRESSIVE in the south.... ive seen several coaches fired cuase they were so rough on the guys, Texas Tech stuffing dude in closet cuase of something he did wrong during a game...
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Quoting SCwannabe:
I think many people in the Carolinas will get caught off gaurd this week. It's been awhile for a cane especially a stronger can-poss. cat 2-3 if it continues to stay north of the islands. We have a brand new Gov. in SC with no experience with these things- all IMO of course
I agree... my friends are saying it's just another typical weak hurricane we get almost every year. This will be backward of Floyd, with traffic occuring too late. It's going to be CHAOS.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Quoting nymore:
Have all you people who said we have a hurricane eaten your CROW yet. How does it taste?


Come on now - you're cuttin' hairs in my opinion. Plenty tonight for PR to deal with. Don't you agree?
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Hey mswx I notice the same answers too,that just telling me ya'll are on the same page.keep up the good work ya'll.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Finally !. I am falling asleep waiting on this .
Time to say Goodnight Irene.
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The GFS MODEL is sick on the size it is making Irene......WOW!
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Quoting TCIGolfer:
CRS,

what do you think the atmosphere will be like on island tomorrow??


Nervous anticipation...
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5586. nigel20
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Even though you might be a troll, I still love your name. Lol.


Might be?...you're kidding right?
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Quoting nymore:
Have all you people who said we have a hurricane eaten your CROW yet. How does it taste?
Tastes pretty good with Tabasco.
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Max Mayfield also said that after the Gulfstream goes in later tomorrow the models will have the best information available as to the steering currents.
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Quoting Chicklit:
Rorschach Model

I see a duck...........yea, right
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Quoting rareaire:
Its my opinion this will be in Tampa Spins back yard by friday!!!


Huh?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon has made the northwest turn and is now heading for the circulation.


Where they will soon find should-have-been-updated-an-hour-ago Hurricane Irene lol.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon has made the northwest turn and is now heading for the circulation.


Finally !. I am falling asleep waiting on this .
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Before our friend Irene can even worry about Hispanola tearing it up, its gotta deal with Puerto Rico first. Many may forget here that Puerto Rico has high elevation, not as high or as widespread or Hispanola. But still, plenty high enough to take some toll on Irene. Don't be surprised if some substantial weakening occurs as Irene passes Puerto Rico.

Of course, atmospheric conditions are quite favorable so, that may help to reduce weakening some, but Irene should lose at least some intensity after passing by Puerto Rico.
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You guys can pretty much throw out the NAM Model cause it doesnt feel the intensity of Irene..infact doesnt feel it for 48hrs at least.. so it will be alot more west in the near term. I would follow the GFS,ECMWF thru 48hrs into Hispaniola and off the NW coast of Haiti by Tuesday night or Weds
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Rorschach Model

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.
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Quoting yesterway:

I think you will see it happen...you have to admit that things get better for us with every report.
as long as the track shifs more to the east. The track the nhc has now could be a bad scenario with a strengthening storm riding up the coast.
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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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