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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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
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Quoting bingcrosby:
Surprised to not see the "M" on the last hurricane marker in the cone. Very conservative strength forecast from NHC.
Do you want another Floyd-stype traffic madness again?
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I guess TWC haven't updated their cone even though they are saying 11 pm update.... FAIL.





they where the 1st ones to get the info from the nhc be for we did and they had the new cone of DOOM
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Quoting Tazmanian:
..IRENE could go under RI when it comes too the coast of the USA


Yup taz, it would be sitting in the gulf stream huh?
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I'd say that Haiti shouldn't get a direct strike on Irene's current heading...at most some of the outer SW rain bands....not worst case scenario for Haiti anymore...
Now Worst Case Scenario for the Bahamas.... [glum]
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22140
Quoting atmosweather:


I refreshed and read this after I posted my comment...no plagiarism I promise!! Lol I said almost the exact same thing.


Lol. I noticed your comment and I almost said something. :-p
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10250
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
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Based on that latest forecast by NHC, the center of Irene, at that time a 95-100mph hurricane, would come ashore in Cape Canaveral, FL, about 7 miles from me.
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Quoting HCW:
Irene took out the P.R radar

rut ro



Let' hope the Dominician Republic is spared; they have misery enough.
Rather than strengthen and veer right into Miami, a compromise would work.
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Quoting ncstorm:
what happened to the "s" over florida on the NHC cone..people, if you havent prepared, you betta get on it..the stores will be ridiculous starting tomorrow in florida and bahamas
if that type of track were to pan out, with a lot of time over water, it could possibly give a serious lashing up the entire east coast of the state...and any deviation or wobble West, well, I don't think I have to say what that would mean...
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2515
Quoting cajunkid:
blog meltdown is coming


Nah I think it'll shift left and miss us....or maybe right?
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Quoting kmanislander:


Recon still heading East on the South side of the storm so I am hoping they will turn and do a leg to the NW for another fix. If not turn comes soon I am out for the night LOL.


They are examining the wind field and will probably do at least one more center fix before leaving.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Most likely, yes. That is why land interaction is going to play such a big role.


I refreshed and read this after I posted my comment...no plagiarism I promise!! Lol I said almost the exact same thing.
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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.


Recon still heading East on the South side of the storm so I am hoping they will turn and do a leg to the NW for another fix. If no turn comes soon I am out for the night LOL.
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I guess TWC haven't updated their cone even though they are saying 11 pm update.... FAIL.
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Quoting Chicklit:
...THIS TRACK KEEPS IRENE OVER HISPANIOLA
FOR 6-12 HOURS WHICH SHOULD WEAKEN THE SYSTEM BACK TO A TROPICAL STORM BEFORE EXITING INTO THE WARM ATLANTIC WATERS.
--From NHC 8 p.m. Discussion




If she follows that pink line track,Irene will be going over the highest mountain in D.R. Pico Duarte, 10,000 feet tall,she better hold on to her britches!!
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Good night everybody.

Y'all bunker down in PR tonight.
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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.
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Quoting MississippiBoy:
will a weaker storm move more westward?

Yes.
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Quoting ronmil:
Strong bands of wind and rain coming over Caguas, PR every 5 minutes...


thanks for keeping us posted

ponce is still super clear... 75mph wind reported by HH east of Vieques

my dad in Trujillo Alto reporting constant wind and gusts, still not heavy (metro area, north northeast)
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Quoting MississippiBoy:
will a weaker storm move more westward?


More likely to, yes. That is why land interaction is the entire key to the legacy of this storm.
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Quoting MississippiBoy:
will a weaker storm move more westward?


Most likely, yes. That is why land interaction is going to play such a big role.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10250
Someone said Hebert's Box?

The geography of the Hebert Boxes is the key to their use as predictors. The boxes are located such that hurricanes have plenty of space to intensify after passing through them, and the prevailing winds tend to push them towards Florida. Conversely, if they pass outside the box they are either too close to land to intensify much, or are far enough away from land that they are more subject to the influences of steering winds and other atmospheric conditions. These tend to either push the hurricane more westward across the Caribbean Sea towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, or into the Gulf of Mexico where they threaten Mexico and the Gulf Coast states, or eastwards causing them to curve outwards over the Atlantic and miss landfall altogether.

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Quoting MississippiBoy:
will a weaker storm move more westward?


yes
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Lurking and waiting for the night shift to clock in

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Quoting bingcrosby:
Surprised to not see the "M" on the last hurricane marker in the cone. Very conservative strength forecast from NHC.


Do you know what that "M" would do to the psyche of millions of FL/GA/SC/NC residents? Oh boy, can we say PANIC?!?
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Looking for recon to turn to the NW any time now for another center fix so I can go to bed.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 22/0300Z 17.9N 65.5W 60 KT 70 MPH
12H 22/1200Z 18.6N 67.7W 60 KT 70 MPH
24H 23/0000Z 19.4N 70.1W 60 KT 70 MPH...INLAND
36H 23/1200Z 20.1N 72.1W 50 KT 60 MPH...OVER WATER
48H 24/0000Z 20.9N 73.9W 55 KT 65 MPH
72H 25/0000Z 23.5N 77.0W 65 KT 75 MPH
96H 26/0000Z 26.5N 79.5W 80 KT 90 MPH
120H 27/0000Z 30.0N 81.5W 75 KT 85 MPH...INLAND

$$
FORECASTER BRENNAN


Mid Category 1 storm about 125 miles of me on that track...we can assume they believe she can intensify to at leaast Category 2 before a landfall if she survives land passage relatively intact.
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5487. JLPR2
My current conditions:
Speed / Dir 31.0 mph from NNE Wind Gust 41.0 mph

How do I have power? I have no idea. XD
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5486. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)



A little something from the West Pacific...
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Expect better model agreement with the 2:00 AM & 8:00 AM packages. Maybe only minor tweaks after that.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Those two dropsondes from recon do not show 285, more like 275. I guess the NHC has discounted that as short term. Hopefully the plane will do one more pass for the center before heading home.


Max Mayfield said they will be there for probably another two hours, and then another plane will be early in the morning.
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Quoting BrockBerlin:
00z NAM shifted a bit south and west, although the NAM is not a tropical model is handles synoptics (like the ridging that will play a large role in future track) pretty well. Obviously the 00z suite tonight is very important.
Indeed. Will be very interesting to see whether the GFS follows suit later tonight...although unlikely.
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will a weaker storm move more westward?
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Just for windsh*ts and giggles....lol.

00z NAM at 84 hours:

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10250
5478. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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5477. Ryuujin
Quoting MississippiWx:


It would most likely go farther west, more in line with the GFDL and UKMET models. However, those 2 models are really the only 2 that see anything like that solution.


Something to keep an eye on. Either they are out to lunch, or have caught onto something because they really havent wavered from that thought for the last few days or so.
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5476. ronmil
Strong bands of wind and rain coming over Caguas, PR every 5 minutes...
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blog meltdown is coming
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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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