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 NCHurricane2009:


What does it mean...intensification?
What? Does lighting mean during a ts?
My upstanding is that during a warm core storm, there is lack of ice, therefore inhibiting lighting discharge. That is why one does not see much lighting during major hurricanes. At least in near the core
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Two things it looks like that are evolving...

(1) Irene is becoming a hurricane
(2) She has tracked far north enough now to only brush the DR north coast...it looks like the rightward shift in the models today will stay more permanent...watch out east coast...
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5121. Grothar
If it isn't a minimal hurricane, it is the best looking tropical storm, I've seen yet.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27211
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Uh-Oh....
What DOES it mean?
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 994
Quoting Bretts9112:

IN Crestview lol

Pensacola. {8^P
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Quoting presslord:
OK...blasty away...but...I'm just not convinced this is gonna become a big deal system...it has some hurdles to scale...not the least of which might be simply runmning out of steam as it works it's way up through the middle of the Fla penn....somebody feel free to enlighten me to the contrary


She's got an anti-cyclone, she looks like she'll miss Hispanola, and she's got prime conditions ahead. Looks to be that Irene has a great chance of becoming not only the first hurricane, but the first major hurricane of the season.
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If anyone has any experience using a droid phone with the blog can you wu mail me? I get 3/4 of the way through loading up the comments and it boots me back to the home screen.

TIA
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Quoting lucreto:
Looks like the system will not survive Hispanola.


It's doing pretty good so far.... lol
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Quoting RukusBoondocks:
IF the gfdl model doesnt start shifting to the right soon there could be problems with the west coast of FL
The GFDL model has been the outlier during this storm.

Generally, forecasters tend to disregard the outlier when nearly all of the rest of the models are showing an entirely different solution, as is the case with this storm.

Sometimes there can be errors in the computer modeling which put too much emphasis on one factor or another, or the model may not be picking up on key data which would change its orientation.

Every year, there always seems to be one model among the major forecasting models which does a poor job at forecasting tropical systems. This year it appears that the GFDL may take that prize, though it has been consistently reliable in past years.
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Quoting RedrumATL:


Is that another jog?

Irene likes to keep fit by jogging frequently.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
Interesting how the radar and recon obs don't match. I guess in a few hours we'll know for sure where the center is, but I'll be in bed by then.
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Quoting JLPR2:
While I was on my room, my family saw lightning and you know what lightning in a TS means.


What does it mean...intensification?
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5110. Dennis8
Quoting presslord:
OK...blast away...but...I'm just not convinced this is gonna become a big deal system...it has some hurdles to scale...not the least of which might be simply runmning out of steam as it works it's way up through the middle of the Fla penn....somebody feel free to enlighten me to the contrary

I agree..could weaken alot tonight over PR and dissipate over Haiti and Cuba if it slows or stalls between troughs. The sad thing is the islands will suffer.
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5109. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
401

URNT12 KNHC 220213

VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092011

A. 22/01:59:00Z

B. 17 deg 53 min N

065 deg 19 min W

C. 850 mb 1376 m

D. 66 kt

E. 024 deg 13 nm

F. 105 deg 67 kt

G. 024 deg 17 nm

H. 993 mb

I. 14 C / 1533 m

J. 22 C / 1522 m

K. 17 C / NA

L. NA

M. NA

N. 12345 / 8

O. 0.02 / 2 nm

P. AF302 0309A IRENE OB 07

MAX FL WIND 67 KT NE QUAD 01:53:40Z

;


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Been lurking for years! Took the K storm on the chin along with a lot of other people. I still could see this storm going up the west coast of Florida and maybe the eastern part of the panhandle.
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Irene has really not jogged very little.......she is becoming a very heavy girl that will be slowing down before she turns too much.
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Irene done well today lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
Quoting pcolaflaboi:


I am in Gulf Breeze as well.

IN Crestview lol
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5104. ackee
any radio link to what is going on in PR
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Quoting Thrawst:


Yeah .. no panicking at the moment. We have 2-3 days to prepare. Shutters and battening down the hatches for my house takes .. about 2-3 hours.
Takes a bit longer here, since we've got almost 2 dozen double windows... lol
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
66 knots on the VDM. Looks like we might have a hurricane.

000
URNT12 KNHC 220213
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092011
A. 22/01:59:00Z
B. 17 deg 53 min N
065 deg 19 min W
C. 850 mb 1376 m
D. 66 kt
E. 024 deg 13 nm
F. 105 deg 67 kt
G. 024 deg 17 nm
H. 993 mb
I. 14 C / 1533 m
J. 22 C / 1522 m
K. 17 C / NA
L. NA
M. NA
N. 12345 / 8
O. 0.02 / 2 nm
P. AF302 0309A IRENE OB 07
MAX FL WIND 67 KT NE QUAD 01:53:40Z
;

Yipee.
Too bad it had to hit me.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
Quoting MrstormX:
If I recall the (*) flag is always used during heavy rainfall, but shouldn't it be raining in a storms eyewall. Seems strange to me...


There isn't an eye structure...there is a burst of central dense overcast right now...so they could still have rain even at the very center...
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Quoting kmanislander:
Dropsonde for 993 mbs and a track between 270 and 275, due West motion.



Due west movement is what I like to hear!
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That center fix lines up exactly with current radar imagery. Center is located south of Vieques by about 15 miles or so, moving about 275 degrees.
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Quoting weatherman410:
Looks like GFDL has it's sites set on the Florida panhandle.


that is a very reliable model..I wont feel comfortable until it shifts farther to the east with the rest of them........I think FL will get a direct hit from Irene...
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Quoting gulfbreeze:
IN proper or inside City Limits


I am in Gulf Breeze as well.
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Quoting presslord:
OK...blast away...but...I'm just not convinced this is gonna become a big deal system...it has some hurdles to scale...not the least of which might be simply runmning out of steam as it works it's way up through the middle of the Fla penn....somebody feel free to enlighten me to the contrary


all timing...if it ramps up could be on the eastern side of those spaghetti models...and not go up the center of the penn...
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5095. msphar
Esperanza 14 Kts. E gusting to 29 Kts.
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Quoting JLPR2:
While I was on my room, my family saw lightning and you know what lightning in a TS means.


Uh-Oh....
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32877
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I doubt it will be a continuous motion, will rather just a wobble. General motion of still be WNW.


We'll see. The steering would suggest a move back to the WNW, especially with the pressure fall and more deepening likely on the way. Uncontaminated hurricane force winds found.

Recon probably homing in on the center with radar.
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Quoting JLPR2:
I see 76mph on the recon report.
possibly Hurricane Irene at 11pm


I am not surprised personally...once that CDO fired up just before I went to get groceries (8 PM EDT)...it is imminent that Irene will become a hurricane....
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Plwood the State TREE of FLORIDA!!!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
66 knots on the VDM. Looks like we might have a hurricane.

000
URNT12 KNHC 220213
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092011
A. 22/01:59:00Z
B. 17 deg 53 min N
065 deg 19 min W
C. 850 mb 1376 m
D. 66 kt
E. 024 deg 13 nm
F. 105 deg 67 kt
G. 024 deg 17 nm
H. 993 mb
I. 14 C / 1533 m
J. 22 C / 1522 m
K. 17 C / NA
L. NA
M. NA
N. 12345 / 8
O. 0.02 / 2 nm
P. AF302 0309A IRENE OB 07
MAX FL WIND 67 KT NE QUAD 01:53:40Z
;


Yup apparently it was not suspect or rain-contaminated enough to discount...they will upgrade at 11PM.
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5089. yoboi
11 pm we got hurricane......
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It's good to finally see those orange flags picked up by the HH. 60+ knots
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5087. JLPR2
While I was on my room, my family saw lightning and you know what lightning in a TS means.
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5086. 900MB
Quoting Patrap:


Patrap-
Suddenly cold tops!
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The show is just starting...located 8 miles south of San Juan and wind startin to blow with associated rain...still have power, not for too long...pressure 1006, droping... previous gusts of passing bands up to 36 mph in my area.
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Quoting MrstormX:
If I recall the (*) flag is always used during heavy rainfall, but shouldn't it be raining in a storms eyewall. Seems strange to me...


LOL.

Why shouldn't it be raining in a storms eyewall? That is its strongest part.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32877
Looks like GFDL has it's sites set on the Florida panhandle.
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5081. MahFL
Station ESPP4 pressure is dropping fast.
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5080. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
09L/H/I/C1
MARK
17.79N/65.19W

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
OK...blast away...but...I'm just not convinced this is gonna become a big deal system...it has some hurdles to scale...not the least of which might be simply runmning out of steam as it works it's way up through the middle of the Fla penn....somebody feel free to enlighten me to the contrary
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
If they use the VDM winds, then we have Hurricane Irene.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
No doubt south Florida will feel some , if not all of Irene. Hope the destruction is at a minimum.

The silver lining...Finally we'll get some surf (max. 15ft) later in the week(thurs). and the winds will be offshore for us east coasters in south FL once the storm heads farther to the north (central fl).

ahh hurricane season
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
is this confirmed?
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 66kts (~ 76.0mph)
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If I recall the (*) flag is always used during heavy rainfall, but shouldn't it be raining in a storms eyewall. Seems strange to me...
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5074. ackee
someone said it earlt but IRENE SEEM TO BE MOVING NW to me
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good lord a goshins
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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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