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 Bluestorm5:
it's mostly cleared for exception of Sanford, NC. It was low end EF-4 damage to me when I visited ground zero in Sanford.



oh ok
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Quoting Levi32:


The kind of observation I just made is one of those meso-analysis comments that occurs in a very short time interval. It only becomes significantly relevant to longer-term behavior if it persists for a long while.


here in the South we call that 'mouthing off'
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458
Quoting Seflhurricane:
everyone with all due seriousness this is not the time to talk about the carolinas there is ALOT of time before it even heads there if that , lets worry about the carribean and the bahamas first


agreed puerto rico is getting hard possibly soon by a hurricane not good
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
Quoting Bluestorm5:
If it's hit Myrtle Beach as Category 4/5, Raleigh will get crushed by Category 3 winds.


Don't forget about Wilmington man.
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anybody seen the 18z GFDL? Is it still the western model?
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Quoting violet312s:


Lots of areas still have significant damage from the April tornadoes :( Missed me by only a few miles.



and now there going too get hit by a cat 4 or 5 hurricane in few days if mode runs plan out
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Have to go off for a while but will return later.
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3765. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Hello everyone from Central Louisiana...I have been watching Irene everyday, What is keeping Irene from going into the central GOM??
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It's been 1 day and Irene is still a 50 mph storm, but I don't think it's a 50 mph... look at the eye
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3761. Levi32
Quoting weatherman12345:
does that change anything in terms of track if it slows down abit


The kind of observation I just made is one of those meso-analysis comments about something that occurs in a very short time interval. It only becomes significantly relevant to longer-term behavior if it persists for a long while.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting Seflhurricane:
everyone with all due seriousness this is not the time to talk about the carolinas there is ALOT of time before it even heads there if that , lets worry about the carribean and the bahamas first

agreed they should be watching but it has a lot of other places it may be going through.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




and i think some place still have some tronado damges lift overe


Lots of areas still have significant damage from the April tornadoes :( Missed me by only a few miles.
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Hot towers! (Represented by the coldest cloud tops, ironically.)



Zoom:
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3757. Thrawst
The site I use to look at wind forecast now shows the eye of Irene moving directly over the island of New Providence... as does the GFS model as well. 976 mb and 80+ kts.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




and i think some place still have some tronado damges lift overe
it's mostly cleared for exception of Sanford, NC. It was low end EF-4 damage to me when I visited ground zero in Sanford.
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3755. WxLogic
Quoting barotropic:


Doesn't want to go out to sea.....wants to go to SC....as a major. Did shift further east again, missin the NE Bahamas and Abacos entirely.


lol... that's funny "...wants to go to SC...".
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It looks to me that she is trying to close/shrink in the eye wall on the eastern tip of st-croix.

Anyone seeing that?
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Meanwhile, back over Africa, two impressive candidates wading into the Atlantic over the next few days (Closeup animation here):

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.


Remember: it's only August 21...
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What one has to remember is this. What the storm does when it comes off of the Dominican Republic/Haiti is what will determine everything. We need to remember that that area is what destroyed Emily. However if she is able to maintain her structure, then all bets are out the window and anything can happen. If she does maintain a track towards Florida or the Carolinas then we have to take into consideration the temperatures of the Gulf stream.

The area we need to look out for now is to keep those like Weathernerd and such in our prayers, they are getting hit hard by Irene, and will tell stories about what we could expect in the long run.
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3751. GoWVU
I dont like Charlestons ods, by looking it looks like a Georgia strike and we are in the North East.... Just my thoughts
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3749. Drakoen
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Damn auto-correct, LOL. I meant slight shift, and it proceeds to type quite.


I had the problem too. I usually just hit delete when the auto correct comes up then put the ending letter again.
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everyone with all due seriousness this is not the time to talk about the carolinas there is ALOT of time before it even heads there if that , lets worry about the carribean and the bahamas first
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3746. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125628
Quoting Bluestorm5:
If it's hit Myrtle Beach as Category 4/5, Raleigh will get crushed by Category 3 winds.


Oh hush..you're making me nervous!
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
If it's hit Myrtle Beach as Category 4/5, Raleigh will get crushed by Category 3 winds.




and i think some place still have some tronado damges lift overe
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3742. 7544
sorry peeps i still think its going to be fla strom more models runs to come and as of now so doew the nhc we will know alot more at 11pm but im sticking with this
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6618
Quoting Levi32:
It almost looks like Irene may be slowing down a bit as new convection fires up a strong band just to the east of the center, which is trying to form into a partial eyewall. The center looks like it may be hanging back towards that intense band a bit and slowing down.


Could a slow down could give more time for the weakness to begin to develop, hence allowing a slightly further north track, so still possibly missing the bulk of Hispaniola?
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3738. K8eCane
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Yep, Myrtle Beach is possible target now. 126 and final image.



Well, the imagined PLANFLAF model called for this very thing not too long ago........just sayin
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If it's hit Myrtle Beach as Category 4/5, Raleigh will get crushed by Category 3 winds.
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I have the center at 17.4N/64.8W, will be interesting to see what the NHC says.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


The HWRF is almost exactly the same as the last run, if not slightly farther east.
Damn auto-correct, LOL. I meant slight shift, and it proceeds to type quite.
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Quoting WxLogic:


Yeap... is sure has. In past days it hasn't been doing to bad but for some reason is acting up again.


HWRF Doesn't want to go out to sea.....wants to go to SC....as a major. Did shift further east again, missin the NE Bahamas and Abacos entirely.
Member Since: August 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 652
Quoting dfwstormwatch:

the nws in fort worth has been paying a lot of attention to t.s irene in the past 20 discussions... i wonder why?
nothing else to talk about except its bone dry in texas
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we will have to wait another 4-6 hours and see if it is really the storm movin SW ward or if it the eye wall closing off
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I think shes gonna ride up the whole east coast!
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Quoting Speeky:
Who thinks that Irene may hit one of the Carolinas as a major hurricane?
not a good time to speculate , the carolinas have a long way to go you still have hispaniola and the bahamas and Florida
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Quoting Speeky:
Who thinks that Irene may hit one of the Carolinas as a major hurricane?


Way too many people lol
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Quoting MississippiWx:


The HWRF is almost exactly the same as the last run, if not slightly farther east.
it's slightly more northeast, but it's not showing recurve.
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3726. wpb
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Yep, Myrtle Beach is possible target now. 126 and final image.
please post the gfdl spots when u get them..thanks the model has been west of the others will see if its has change its mind.
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the nws in fort worth has been paying a lot of attention to t.s irene in the past 20 discussions... i wonder why?
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


apparently that's a big eye


the better to see you with my dear..
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Quoting kmanislander:
St Croix has round two of nasty weather on the way as they get the SE quad. Hope they don't think its over.


I'm listening to a St Croix radio station...they know it's comin'
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.