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 Levi32:


Yes, because it puts it on a line to Puerto Rico for its first real landfall.


Would you say it has been moving WNW or west over last hours...I keep getting mixed messages about current motion when studying radar and sat loops...I really can't tell right now....
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teleconnecting for the carolinas
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3319. xcool


eye
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Quoting Levi32:


Yes, because it puts it on a line to Puerto Rico for its first real landfall.
Maybe a little bit south of PR?
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So with Irene north of St Croix that would bring Irene probably even further into PR, and that in part would also bring Irene further north, and cuase her skim the coast more than come into the coast...
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Quoting Vincent4989:

Winds of?

Just by looking, and hearing it, 30 - 40mph gust. The two closest stations are ~5 miles north or south of me.
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Quoting zerveftexas:
So JFV = HurricaneIrene?




more likey
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
There was (briefly) a TWISTER in CAYEY!!

Obviously gone now.


Obviously.
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3310. HCW
.....
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3309. Levi32
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Is this still on the track you projected for Irene this morning Levi?


Yes, because it puts it on a line to Puerto Rico for its first real landfall.
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3308. xcool
P451:
lol
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3307. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664
Quoting ncstorm:


I second that about the blog being kaput if Levi left!







I 3 rd. that
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3304. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting HurricaneIrene:


West-casting it towards the Cayman islands, I see, if only, SIGH.
Actually I am hoping it heads straight to FIU where your dorm is. Back off.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
SC it is...

Stop it!
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There was (briefly) a TVS in Cayey:

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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
wow 996 MB


Is that recon measured? How are the winds doing?
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Quoting P451:


I think it's going due South to Venezuela. Has been all day in fact. I hope they have warnings up.

NHC fails again.




Lol...Of course.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

A VERY strong gust just blasted while I read your comment. Very dark, cloudy, and (obviously) windy.

Winds of?
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Quoting P451:


Well, it will be nice if they can sort out the surface feature this time, and maybe aide in a definitive track forecast as a result.






yup
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Quoting transitzone:


0%, considering its already leaning on PR, which is a commonwealth territory of the US

St Croix is also the US, which Irene Made landfall on.
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Quoting BobinTampa:


We found his flaw!!!!!

wrong sport Levi. I'm deeply troubled by this.


Well, the Bravos are making a big push late in the season. Hopefully Philly will choke!
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Quoting Patrap:
Levi, Seer sucker suit or Monday Casual for me ?

I've a interview in the Morn.

TIA


Hahahahahaha
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Levi...nevermind about 3255...I googled it...it's not physically possible
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Quoting Levi32:
St. Croix has basically given us the center position of Irene:



Is this still on the track you projected for Irene this morning Levi?
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Quoting presslord:
Levi...quick question...What does post3255 say? Thanks!


Hey...Carolinas.

Stop wasting blog space. :-)
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Hey just a question.. Where do people in PR go to evacuate? Or even worse.. An even smaller island such as St Croix. Good thing this is only a TS/minimal Cat 1 so far.
People close to rivers or the ocean go to higher land, that's is starting to occur as we speak, we can't go anywhere obviously ...
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Quoting HurricaneIrene:


West-casting it towards the Cayman islands, I see, if only, SIGH.
Looks like more west,perhaps south of PR?
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Quoting Vincent4989:
WeatherNerdPR, is the weather fine in your place?

A VERY strong gust just blasted while I read your comment. Very dark, cloudy, and (obviously) windy.
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Quoting Levi32:


NFC East? I probably am a fan of the Eagles more than the darned Cowboys. Let's put it that way.


We found his flaw!!!!!

wrong sport Levi. I'm deeply troubled by this.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Recon couldn't have been in a better place to start this mission.


They should have opened the plane door and dropped a dropsode (sp?) onto the tarmac. Then gone home and had a beer or two.
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SC it is...

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Quoting stormwatcherCI:


If these are the current steering layers for the strength that Irene is can someone please tell me how she can go WNW when it looks clearly West or even a little WSW. Also, is the line with the arrows on it a ridge or if not what is it ?




in the oast few frames she has been moving w with a sw jog
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Quoting duajones78413:
Just curious, what are the chances that this misses the US altogether?


0%, considering its already leaning on PR, which is a commonwealth territory of the US
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3276. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting HurricaneIrene:
Pressy, I hear that Irene may affect Portlight's home base up there, now, wouldn't that be unfortunate? =(.
sounds like ya want to kiss him hope he's wearing the dress at least
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
wow 996 MB
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Quoting FLdewey:


I need the powerball numbers.


Check the PHFC...
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Quoting Levi32:
St. Croix has basically given us the center position of Irene:



Hopefully this clears it up for the folks who thinks its heading WSW...
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About

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