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.

Links
Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters

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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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Quoting SCwannabe:


Looks like it will miss most of higher mtns of Hispanola...not good


That would not be a good thing as she for sure would become a major of she stays off shore..... Not wishing this on the DR or anyone tho.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
RandyB's supposed to be in one of the morning flights... so our dropsondes will have Wunderblogging capabilities... lol


That's neat -- get some up close blogging about the HH.
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5569. msphar
Esperanza 25 Kts. ESE gusting to 39 Kts. Might be a telling shift.
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Well darn. It seems that the PR radar is officially out.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
Quoting hunkerdown:
what did Max think for South Florida ?


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.
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Quoting rkay1:
Why are you obsessing over the TWC?  Does the new cone include the area you live in and you want to see it on TV? 

First and only reply to you. It doesn't include my area. Now *poof* off to ignore list.
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5565. Relix
Alternate PR Radar:

http://www.wunderground.com/radar/radblast.asp?zo ommode=zoom&num=6&delay=15&rbscale=0.2869565217391 3044&scale=1.000&noclutter=0&ID=SJU&type=TZL&lat=0 &lon=0&label=you&showstorms=0&map.x=387&map.y=253. 5¢erx=400¢ery=240&lightning=0&smooth=0&sho wlabels=1&rainsnow=0

Lower resolution
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Quoting Ameister12:
If Irene were to move north of Hispaniola, that would be terrific, but that would only mean a stronger storm for mainland U.S. to deal with.




i think i would want too deal with a stronger hurricane for the U.S then haveing it hiting Hispaniola, wish they dont need



not wishing a storm on any one or DOOM just saying
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114760
Quoting Drakoen:
Using the NAM 00z for the 500mb features the trough is much flatter and the subtropical ridge axis extends further westward. Interesting set up.

Yes I don't use the NAM for tracking but it can be useful for showing the upper atmospheric set up's. Will be interesting to see if that run has any effect on the rest of the 00Z models.
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Quoting zoomiami:


Max Mayfield said they will be there for probably another two hours, and then another plane will be early in the morning.
RandyB's supposed to be in one of the morning flights... so our dropsondes will have Wunderblogging capabilities... lol
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Its my opinion this will be in Tampa Spins back yard by friday!!!
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Im thinking somewhere either along the Georgia or SC coast, as either a strong 2 or a 3. I may be chasing down there this weekend, will have more updates later on
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Quoting Drakoen:
Using the NAM 00z for the 500mb features the trough is much flatter and the subtropical ridge axis extends further westward. Interesting set up.


The 12z run earlier today was similar as well. Very intriguing.
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Quoting MississippiBoy:
thanks to all for your thoughts,nobody needs this thing right now,with hs football going on now.


Now that's a true Mississippian for ya. LOL.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
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Bingcrosby,
yep not only no M, not even a cat 2... just saying, and though not wishcasting(laying out the facts), you should at least see a cat. 2 at landfall... up a category maybe...
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Quoting P451:


-80C a common cloud top temperature now.

Dunno why they didn't just call this and be done. Brennan may have to use another special advisory in 90 minutes to say that it's a hurricane....

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Quoting 900MB:
Funky Green in center of funktop!
hit every island Irene
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If this thing stays offsore by 50-100 miles it could ause a lot of erosion, not to mention what happens when it comes onshore
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Quoting Drakoen:
Using the NAM 00z for the 500mb features the trough is much flatter and the subtropical ridge axis extends further westward. Interesting set up.


Yeah, while the NAM isn't a tropical model, it's still pretty decent at diagnosing the upper level features across North America/Western Atlantic. It's still probably out to lunch, but we'll see if the GFS follows suit.

The NAM also has Irene going south of Hispaniola, which seems unlikely at this point.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
If Irene were to move north of Hispaniola, that would be terrific, but that would only mean a stronger storm for mainland U.S. to deal with.
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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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5548. nigel20
Quoting TampaSpin:

Nice graphics.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Looks like it will miss most of higher mtns of Hispanola...not good
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Quoting Tazmanian:





they where the 1st ones to get the info from the nhc be for we did and they had the new cone of DOOM
yea, it's look like cone from earlier. GOM is in it and very little area offshore of FL is in it.
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5544. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Well according to the 11 PM advisory, Irene is officially the strongest storm of the season so far, Arlene was the strongest previously:
Arlene: 65 Mph 993 MB
Irene: 70 Mph 993 MB(Still likely to be stronger)

well thats all i needed to see, GOOD NIGHT EVERYONE


Usually the pressure of a cyclone is used to classify which is strongest of the season.. or that is what people made me believe. =P
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thanks to all for your thoughts,nobody needs this thing right now,with hs football going on now.
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Looks like she's bifurcating.
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5541. scott39
The 11pm NHC discussion was very clear that the sharp turn of Irene and the intensity futher down the track is...................... WIDE OPEN to CHANGES!
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6743
Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Worried about the Eastern eye wall of strong thunderstorms that have formed. Still a few hours over water will give Irene time to strengthen to a Hurricane over night before landing on the east coast of PR.


We don't have the San Juan radar working now but the last few frames about 30 minutes ago showed the beginning of a small eyewall on the W-ern side just about to move onshore on the eastern tip of PR.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Wow...looks like she has slowed down quite a bit, huh Pat??
yup,looks like she gone 30 miles in 5 hours,shes been doing the center re-locate/stacking for some time now
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Indeed. Will be very interesting to see whether the GFS follows suit later tonight...although unlikely.


I will never rule out a Gomex threat until the GFDL and UKMET follow suit. It's never a good sign when all the major models don't agree...just IMHO.
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5537. Drakoen
Using the NAM 00z for the 500mb features the trough is much flatter and the subtropical ridge axis extends further westward. Interesting set up.
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Quoting zoomiami:


Max Mayfield said they will be there for probably another two hours, and then another plane will be early in the morning.
what did Max think for South Florida ?
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CRS,

what do you think the atmosphere will be like on island tomorrow??
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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)
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Most likely, yes. That is why land interaction is going to play such a big role.
I think Paul Hebert would agree with the GFDL, UKMET, and NAM models. :-P
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
No power, On iPad. good Night.

Hang in there WNerd, it could be a long night.
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Quoting JasonIsATOOLMan:
Does anyone still think its gonna hit the FL panhandel? It doesnt look like it I see the models shifting back to the west a bit. Okechobee will keep it a cat 3 thru the whole state.




the models did shift a little west
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5528. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
09L/H/I/C1
MARK
17.79n/65.37w

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting JasonIsATOOLMan:
Does anyone still think its gonna hit the FL panhandel? It doesnt look like it I see the models shifting back to the west a bit. Okechobee will keep it a cat 3 thru the whole state.


Even though you might be a troll, I still love your name. Lol.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
Quoting TampaSpin:



Looks like the GFDL Model just went even further WEST......GEESH
I think its time to pull the plug on it for this time...in the mortal words of Gordon Ramsey, "shut it down"
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Yup taz, it would be sitting in the gulf stream huh?



that would not be good
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114760
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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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