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 NICycloneChaser:


This run of the GFS will parallel the Florida Coast a couple of hundred miles offshore and make a bee line for the Carolinas, or slightly west of there. The run might be wrong, but that's what it will show.


Good evaluation...
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Quoting PRweathercenter:

I think we are getting very close to Hurricane Status


BTW; your personal safety is more important than reporting to us and it may ramp up for you......Forget us if you need to take shelter.
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3171. WxLogic
102HR:

TROF not as strong... could get caught underneath a building high temporarily

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Quoting PRweathercenter:

I think we are getting very close to Hurricane Status



if not there right now
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115078
Approaching SC

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

We all stay in during a storm. People in lower elevations go to shelters, if they want to, unless the risk is so high they are forced to leave their homes and go to the shelter.


But what if you guys have a Cat 5 crossing directly over you? Where the heck do you guys go? Cellars?

Quoting benirica:
Hurricane Swirl... not many people are able to evacuate.
At least in Puerto Rico, people in most dangerous areas (flooding and storm surge) can go to schools which are used as shelters.
But evacuations per say, not feasible. Cant really airlift people out of the island or to safety when the whole island is to be affected.
Either way, keep in mind most our homes are concrete and can actually withstand these storms... so if you aren't in a flood prone area you can usually ride them out.


Oh, concrete buildings. Gotcha!
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Quoting BiloxiGirl:
So are the odds pretty good Irene will NOT enter the GOM???? Hope so.

I live in the Fl panhandle watching this system but IMO it has a slim chance of coming into the gulf but hey you never know...
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I think there is no doubt now that Irene is actually moving a tad south of due west, if this trend continues, I think the track will probably shift left at 11pm.jmo
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7862
3165. Levi32
Quoting Littleninjagrl:
I posted earlier but the blog moves so fast I think it got missed. Can someone please tell me what if anything Irene might throw at Tampa? The reason I ask is we have had a lot of rain lately and our street has been flooding a little every time it rains. The ground really hasn't had a chance to dry up so we were thinking of tying back a few trees in our front yard just in case. Any help would be appreciated.


I think that's a great idea Littleninja. Irene could still easily come into east Florida, and given that she's a large system, Tampa could potentially see tropical storm conditions on the outer edge of a system making landfall on the peninsula. I would definitely think about taking some precautions in case the track is into Florida.
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3164. HarryMc
Quoting duajones78413:
Just curious, what are the chances that this misses the US altogether?


Right now, about 50/50. Check back about Tuesday.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Down to 996


I think we are getting very close to Hurricane Status
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3161. ncstorm
All I can say is they are predicting rain for us all week long and then with a possible storm affecting us into the weekend is only going to loosen the ground for falling trees and power lines

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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


Then the central pressure should be 995-996 mb.

Here is the map showing locations of the 3 NDBC buoys that happen to be right near the center in St. Croix. Passage of Irene so close to these stations will enable us to pinpoint strength and position, as others have obviously noticed. The station reporting lowest pressure is the dot furthest to the right in this map:

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96 hours

18z GFS

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting duajones78413:
Just curious, what are the chances that this misses the US altogether?



0%
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115078
3157. WxLogic
@96HR Bridge making things a bit more challenging for Irene:

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3156. LargoFl
Quoting MississippiWx:
looking at this pic, seems the eye or center is trying to pass Under PR
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Just curious, what are the chances that this misses the US altogether?
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Down to 996

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting Levi32:
Radar suggests that an eyewall is beginning to form along the south and east sides of Irene's center.
I see that, we are expecting this to have 70 mph by that time it reaches us here
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Quoting AWeatherLover:


Sorry to disappoint but according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is a word...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregar dless


Sort of. If you read it, it says:

"Use regardless instead."

It's an AE thing.
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Quoting weatherguy74:
Seeing as I usually storm chase and we occasionally have to raise the radar to see further away I will lend this advice. Some of you are asking Levi about the center and I encourage you to pull up the radar and raise the elevation to 1.45 and you will see what he's talking about. You can see in the last frames as it gets closer the LLC that he is referring to.

Hope that helps


Thank you
It did help
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
It's gusting to about 30 mph in my location in SE Puerto Rico


Keep us posted as much you can; that "proto" eyewall wants to form right over PR......
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3149. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
Quoting HurricaneIrene:


It is NOT moving towards the Carolinas in this run, quiet yet. please do not presuppose what the future movement of the system will, until it actually begins to do so.


This run of the GFS will parallel the Florida Coast a couple of hundred miles offshore and make a bee line for the Carolinas, or slightly west of there. The run might be wrong, but that's what it will show.
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So are the odds pretty good Irene will NOT enter the GOM???? Hope so.
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Here we go again :( I'm sick with a wicked cold. Dropped off the Boy in Orlando Friday and got back here to E Ft Laud last night. Hubby is currently rummaging around the in freezer for dinner, figuring a quick freezer inventory may be in order :) Realized today that we gave the Boy everything he could possibly need within the next month EXCEPT a 'real' flashlight. Oops.
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3144. WxLogic
@81HR Tight spot:

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Quoting FLdewey:
If you stop hyper focusing on the center, or the wobbles and step back to look at her... she's not the best looking storm.

I guess we'll take what we can get.


Otay,then.....:/

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3142. bwat
Just got in from a day of golf. See Irene's cone has moved eastward.......time to check out levis synopsis.
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Quoting violet312s:


Was just about to post that. Use of that word is like fingernails on a chalkboard


Actually, as irritating as it is, it IS in the M-W.

NONSTANDARD: Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however.

Somebody busted my chops completely when I called them on it. But even M-W says "use 'regardless'"
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I posted earlier but the blog moves so fast I think it got missed. Can someone please tell me what if anything Irene might throw at Tampa? The reason I ask is we have had a lot of rain lately and our street has been flooding a little every time it rains. The ground really hasn't had a chance to dry up so we were thinking of tying back a few trees in our front yard just in case. Any help would be appreciated.
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3139. Gorty
Is she moving NW now or still WNW?
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Quoting lucreto:


Because in this case I firmly believe I am correct.


Good for you. Stick to your guns. I like moxy...
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It's gusting to about 30 mph in my location in SE Puerto Rico
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Just sittin here 20 miles to the north of the eye in virgin gorda, were getting gust close to 55knts when the winds were from the NE, they are shifting now and are from teh SE and the wind has lessened but the rain has increased, looking at PR radar eye just passed St. Croix almost dead centre maybe a little north of centre, but seeeing how this storm has been traking extreem to the north of the guidance since last night the should go straight through PR or little North. the mountains of the DR may not slow this down much if it continues a northenly tilt,have fun, we just broke out the REMY
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3135. rv1pop
Quoting Relix:
Just become a Hurricane and give me everything Irene. EVERYTHING!

Btw is Lucreto for real or is he just that sad and bored? XD!
Is satan for real? What's in a name?
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Quoting presslord:


yuppers
beautiful country down there
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Oh boy recon isn't scheduled until 1 am my time. Gonna be a late one.
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Quoting violet312s:


Was just about to post that. Use of that word is like fingernails on a chalkboard


Sorry to disappoint but according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is a word...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregar dless
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Quoting weatherxtreme:
Levi,

I want to personally Thank You for all of your analysis and tidbits on this blog! I really respect a lot of what you do and say! Keep up the great work here.


I agree, Levi is one of the reasons I come here along with others that seem to know what they are talking about.
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Quoting wahooskipper:
Someone please tell the NWS in Tampa that "irregardless" isn't a word.

FAIL for you.
: ir·re·gard·less Pronunciation: \ˌ ir-i-ˈ gärd-ləs\Function: adverb Etymology: probably blend of irrespective and regardless Date: circa 1912
Link
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Reaches hurricane strength by 84 hours

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Likely a hurricane.

81 hours

18z GFS

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
3125. Levi32
Radar suggests that an eyewall is beginning to form along the south and east sides of Irene's center.
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3124. ncstorm
Quoting DVG:


Don't let anyone pull a Storm Watch on you.

His loss is still felt. If you leave, this blog is pretty kaput.


I second that about the blog being kaput if Levi left!
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3123. MahFL
997 now.
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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.