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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Quoting HCW:
Thoughts on the latest model runs ?

The main difference is what happens towards the end of the runs...some recurve to the N and some straighten out or curve slightly back to the NW. Depends on how fast the trough pulls out and how fast the high builds in.
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Quoting HurricaneIrene:


Hi Baha, an observation to your remarks here, sir, you said a possible warning for Florida as early as tomorrow? But wouldn't they first start off with a watch, then followed by a warning. That would appear logical to you, if they jump straight to a warning, that will scare and panic a lot of Floridians down here, just a though, pal, =).


JFV, please go home
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Quoting ncstorm:


I know we'd be getting it relatively easy up here in NJ if the consensus track played out, but that would be a near parallel of Floyd for the Northeast which caused catastrophic flooding.
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4170. ncstorm
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
4169. JRRP
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Got gusty again. Seems Irene got angry at me lol

Dude buckle up for this storm!
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Quoting FISHHEAD4UFl:
If most models are shifted to bahamas then why does nhc have it shoooting through florida?


because a hurricane or storm isn't a skinny line or dot on the map and any slight deviation of the track could put the worst weather back over Florida.
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Quoting P451:
Surface Center visible on radar, embedded within the larger open dry slot (which is filling in now), moving WNW.



NHC coordinates point to the hot tower, not the random open dry slot, as the surface center. But close for tracking purposes



Yes, you can see that hot tower as the "pivot" point, on radar.

Edit, But when you refresh radar, that hot tower in really a swirl, around the dry spot.
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Quoting P451:


If this thing comes are they not prepared to use what they learned from HUGO?

I remember hearing shortly after Hugo they were going to survey where the damage ended and then use that as a mandatory evacuation line if another storm of that size came through.

I remember the boats on the highways, trees strewn all over, buildings destroyed - etc.

There was a specific point where a transition occurred from complete devastation to well I guess "damage".

I was fairly certain that line was the new evac line they were going to use in a future event.

We're talking a long time ago though....


They'd have to evacuate everything east of Charlotte.
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4164. divdog
Quoting USAFwxguy:
The GFDL now has shifted toward the consensus earlier, and now backed away again.... The GFDL is not some fly-by-night operation. Some amount of weight should be given to its solution. Not to pinpoint positioning, but rather what it sees to influence steering in the GoM direction.

I would not bet on the GFDL being correct, but certainly am wise enough to not through it out simply for not playing well with others.
Wonder what it sees that is making its run the outlier.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Does everyone know how most of Irene's TS winds were to the North of her? well think again, recon finding TS winds to the south of the Center now, and you know all the large amount of Convection expanded to the North and East? its dissipating into Outflow and New Convection firing near the core, Irene is getting her self together... my Last question is WHO THE HELL TICKED HER OFF?!?


probly levi with that rant of anemic ACE
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4161. Levi32
Quoting bigeasystormcaster:


It does appear as though it is slowing some and taking a more westerly course. do you observe this and what do you think of this? Is this accurate my observation?


Overall motion still looks WNW to me.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting scooster67:
Aqua,

I think Irene might be smelling your Blueberry Muffins.

I'd be throwing them muffins out the window! :)
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Got gusty again. Seems Irene got angry at me lol


You're in for a rough night, I'm afraid. You should at least see gusts to hurricane force...hopefully not sustained hurricane force. Irene is going to be strengthening all the way up until it makes landfall on PR. If it doesn't make landfall and goes just south, that's probably the worst situation as it will continue to strengthen.
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4158. Levi32
Quoting jonelu:
so do we have a hurricane now?


55kts found by recon would round to 65mph, which is still a tropical storm.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
appears to be moving just north of due west
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4156. GoWVU
Quoting presslord:


some of it depends on the storm...but as a rule...mandatory evac won't extend beyond US 17


Good call, just remembering Hugo and yes I know this is not Hugo yet...
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Quoting P451:


If this thing comes are they not prepared to use what they learned from HUGO?

I remember hearing shortly after Hugo they were going to survey where the damage ended and then use that as a mandatory evacuation line if another storm of that size came through.

I remember the boats on the highways, trees strewn all over, buildings destroyed - etc.

There was a specific point where a transition occurred from complete devastation to well I guess "damage".

I was fairly certain that line was the new evac line they were going to use in a future event.

We're talking a long time ago though....


that line doesn't extend much beyond 17...remember, though..
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting Levi32:
Recon last went through the center 98 minutes ago, and Irene traveled about 19 miles in that time. That is a forward speed of about 12mph.


It does appear as though it is slowing some and taking a more westerly course. do you observe this and what do you think of this? Is this accurate my observation?
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00z coordinates


FULL

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4152. Dunkman
Quoting FISHHEAD4UFl:
If most models are shifted to bahamas then why does nhc have it shoooting through florida?


They wanted to see a couple cycles of models before moving the track substantially since until the 12z runs today most models had it going into the gulf.
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@JimCantore
Jim Cantore
Wedge in late August. Impressive RT @reedtimmerTVN: Photo of Goderich, Ontario #tornado yfrog.com/hszcnxvnj fb.me/12JARjgZJ

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Quoting P451:


If this thing comes are they not prepared to use what they learned from HUGO?

I remember hearing shortly after Hugo they were going to survey where the damage ended and then use that as a mandatory evacuation line if another storm of that size came through.

I remember the boats on the highways, trees strewn all over, buildings destroyed - etc.

There was a specific point where a transition occurred from complete devastation to well I guess "damage".

I was fairly certain that line was the new evac line they were going to use in a future event.

We're talking a long time ago though....


hey we're not that old
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Weather is going to start going downhill quickly in PR.
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Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Doc needs to change the title of this post to Dangerous Irene headed towards Puerto Rico. I guess we will be getting an update soon.
h



Thats right! Irene are going to hit us badly. Still have power because i am in the northwest corner of the island.IMO
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Folks...this is it...Irene will end the tropical storm streak...Irene has a 100% chance of becoming a hurricane now!

This hot tower burst over the center is what I was looking for for signs of intensification...and here we have it!
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Does everyone know how most of Irene's TS winds were to the North of her? well think again, recon finding TS winds to the south of the Center now, and you know all the large amount of Convection expanded to the North and East? its dissipating into Outflow and New Convection firing near the core, Irene is getting her self together... my Last question is WHO THE HELL TICKED HER OFF?!?
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Quoting zparkie:
Charleston? that would mean the NHC would be about 800 miles off, I dont think they make that big of mistakes.


That is why everyone has to watch this. There once was a K storm headed right for the Florida panhandle, 12 hours later it was headed for NOLA catching a lot off guard. The only thing that is written in stone about a hurricane is that it can be unpredictable, no matter how much man thinks they know about them.
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just like the caller who called in the eye formed right over the island because of the deep water around the island and 12 mile length of it now its moving on a much stronger storm good luck to all boriquens
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 5001
.1 degree is hardly a strong wnw motion unless you want it to be


Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Center fix located WNW of Past, and pressure dropped to 994 Now, PR will be the caribbean island to be hit, Hispanoila and Cuba will be spared, though with those two being spared the US will not
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 703
4140. jonelu
Quoting Levi32:
so do we have a hurricane now?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Recon supports a 65 mph Irene.


i'll know tonight lol
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4138. aquak9
Hush up, scooster. Gonna be a sorry sad shame if I lose power and lose 13 lbs of frozen blueberries.

Irene will go east of me. WAY east. I hope.
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Quoting JRRP:

lol

Those that laugh last, laugh the loudest!
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Quoting GoWVU:


you really think that press? There is lots of low lands if that thing comes our way


some of it depends on the storm...but as a rule...mandatory evac won't extend beyond US 17
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting Tazmanian:



looks like the winds will be going up


just noticed that too
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If most models are shifted to bahamas then why does nhc have it shoooting through florida?
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4133. HCW
Thoughts on the latest model runs ?

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Quoting ncstorm:
interesting how the HWRF straightens the track out like Hugo...and the others recurve.

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4131. zparkie
you all are funny, so far it could go in the gulf, it could hit florida, it could hit georgia, it could hit south carolina, I am going to the psychic down the street and see what she says.
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Recon supports a 65 mph Irene.
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Got gusty again. Seems Irene got angry at me lol
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It seems Irene will pass PR to its south or , as stated earlier today, just hit the SW corner.
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Irene will do GFDL track the other models will shift back as well...
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Didn't we visit this problem earlier this season with another storm in tghe same area? As we know, we kept waiting for the trough to drAw the system north but it did not happen until much farther west. Sometimes these storms do not feel those troughs when they are south of the big islands,,it's just that way


Quoting WxLogic:


That's the dilemma... how far S will it be able to reach to allow Irene to start feeling it.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 703
Quoting Levi32:
000
URNT12 KNHC 220021
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092011
A. 22/00:05:00Z
B. 17 deg 51 min N
065 deg 01 min W
C. 850 mb 1383 m
D. 55 kt
E. 314 deg 46 nm
F. 040 deg 58 kt
G. 294 deg 37 nm
H. 994 mb
I. 16 C / 1524 m
J. 20 C / 1520 m
K. 18 C / NA
L. NA
M. NA
N. 12345 / 8
O. 0.02 / 3 nm
P. AF302 0309A IRENE OB 03
MAX FL WIND 58 KT NW QUAD 23:52:40Z
MAX FL TEMP 21 C 273 / 10 NM FROM FL CNTR



looks like the winds will be going up
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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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