Hurricane Irene pounds Puerto Rico, heads for Hispaniola

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:40 PM GMT on August 22, 2011

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Hurricane Irene strengthened into the season's first Atlantic hurricane at 5am EDT this morning as the eye moved over San Juan, Puerto Rico, and crossed into the ocean just north of the island. Overnight, Irene held its own as the eye passed over the most mountainous portion of Puerto Rico, the El Yunque region. Winds in the higher mountains likely reached Category 2 strength, 96 - 110 mph, according to measurements from the San Juan Terminal Doppler Radar, and the hurricane pounded the island with damaging winds and flooding rains, resulting in widespread tree damage and power failures that hit 800,000 people. The San Juan Airport recorded top winds of 41 mph, gusting to 55 mph, and 2.87" of rain, as of 9am AST. Tropical storm conditions affected the Virgin Islands, with St. Thomas recording sustained winds of 40 mph, gusting to 67 mph, and 4.03" of rain as of 6am AST today. At 7am EDT, the ship Horizon Trader measured sustained northeast winds of 69 mph and wave heights of 11.5 feet at 19°N, in the northern eyewall of Irene. Latest observations from an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that Irene is slowly intensifying, with a central pressure of 989 mb observed at 9:42am EDT. The eyewall is not fully formed yet, with a gap on the south side. This gap will need to close off before the hurricane can undergo rapid intensification.


Figure 1. A direct hit: the center of Hurricane Irene passed directly over the Terminal Doppler Radar at San Juan, Puerto Rico between 4am and 5am AST this morning.

Track forecast for Irene
The computer models show good agreement that Irene will pass along the north coast of Hispaniola today, but just a slight wobble in Irene's track to take it farther offshore--or push it onshore, over the mountains--will have major impacts on the ultimate path and strength of the hurricane. A trough of low pressure is expected to move across the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday, turning Irene more to the northwest by Wednesday. 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 popular solution among the models is to take Irene to the northwest through the Bahamas on Wednesday and Thursday, then into the Southeast U.S. coast in South Carolina or North Carolina on Saturday. Irene would then travel up the mid-Atlantic coast, arriving near Long Island, New York on Monday morning as a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane. One of the models proposing this solution is our best model, the ECMWF. However, we have two other of our very good models suggesting a landfall near Miami on Thursday night is likely (the GFDL and UKMET models.) NHC forecaster Stacy Stewart gave some good reasons in this morning's discussion to favor a track close to the east coast of Florida, but just offshore. Last years' worst performing major the model, the NOGAPS, predicts that Irene will pass out to sea, missing the Southeast U.S. coast. Keep in mind that the average error of a 4-day forecast from NHC is 200 miles, and just a small deviation in the path of a storm moving roughly parallel to the coast will make a huge difference in where it ultimately makes landfall. The NOAA jet will be flying its first dropsonde mission into Irene today, which should result in a more reliable set of model runs first thing Tuesday morning.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Irene is embedded in a large envelope of moisture now, and wind shear is expected to remain low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. With water temperatures very warm, 29 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification except when land is interfering. Satellite loops show that Irene is steadily growing in size, which will protect the storm against major disruption by its passage along the north shore of Hispaniola today. The storm is lacking much development on its southwest side, where dry air is interfering with development. This dry air may help keep southern portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti from receiving more than 3 - 6 inches of rain. There is at least a 30% chance that passage of the eye over Hispaniola will reduce Irene to a tropical storm tonight and into Tuesday. Due to Hispaniola blocking inflow of moist air from the south, Irene will likely compensate by building an even larger region of heavy thunderstorms to the north, offshore. Thus, when Irene's center finally moves well away from the coast on Tuesday, it will be a bigger storm, with the potential to spread hurricane conditions over a wider area later in the week when it intensifies. One limiting factor for intensification may be in the upper-level outflow pattern. The hurricane is lifting a huge amount of air from the surface to the upper atmosphere, and all that mass has to be efficiently transported away in order for the hurricane to intensify. Right now, upper level outflow is only well-established to the north and east, and the forecast outflow pattern for the coming five days is only moderately favorable. Overall, I think the official NHC forecast of a Category 3 hurricane by Thursday is the right one, though Irene could easily be a Category 2 or Category 4 storm.

Irene's impact on the Dominican Republic
Heavy rains from Irene have already reached the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, where Punta Cana has seen wind gusts up to 29 mph this morning. The northeast coast of the country near Samana will receive the worst of Irene's wrath, with sustained winds of 50 - 70 mph and gusts above hurricane force likely to cause widespread tree damage and power outages today. Passage along the coast of the island may weaken Irene to a tropical storm by Tuesday morning, and wind damage in Puerto Plata may be less severe than at Samana. The capital of Santo Domingo will see lesser winds, perhaps 30 - 50 mph, with gusts to 60 mph. The main danger to the Dominican Republic will be Irene's torrential rains, which are likely to reach 20 inches in some mountainous regions, causing dangerous flash floods and mudslides.

Irene's impact on Haiti
No nation in the Caribbean is more vulnerable to hurricanes than Haiti, whose northern reaches are expected to receive torrential rains of 5 - 10 inches from Irene. During the 2008 hurricane season, four storms--Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike--dumped heavy rains on Haiti, leaving over 1,000 people dead or missing. The path and intensity of Hurricane Irene are very similar to that of Hurricane Jeanne of 2004, which dumped 13 inches of rains on the nation's northern mountains. The rugged hillsides, stripped bare of 98% of their forest cover thanks to deforestation, let flood waters rampage into large areas of the country, killing over 3000 people, mostly in the town of Gonaives, the nation's 4th largest city. Jeanne ranks as the 12th deadliest hurricane of all time on the list of the 30 most deadly Atlantic hurricanes, and Irene's rains are capable of causing a similar disaster. During 2004 and again this year, ocean temperatures off the coast of Haiti were 1 - 1.5°C above average, one of the top five values seen in the past 100 years. Since more water vapor evaporates into the air from record warm waters, the potential for devastating floods from hurricanes is much higher in these situations. However, satellite images of Jeanne show the storm had much more moisture on its south side when it hit Hispaniola than Irene currently has, so I am hopeful that Irene's rains will not be as intense as Jeanne's were.


Figure 2. Track of Hurricane Jeanne of 2004, which followed a path very similar to what is expected from Hurricane Irene along the north coast of Hispaniola. Irene is not going to do a big loop like Jeanne did, though.

As bad as the hurricanes of 2004 and 2008 were, the January 2010 earthquake was far worse. Up to 316,000 may have been killed, and the capital city of Port-Au-Prince was devastated, leaving over 1.5 million people living under tarps during the 2010 hurricane season. Fortunately, Hurricane Tomas missed making a direct hit on Haiti, and Haiti escaped major loss of life during the 2010 hurricane season. This year, approximately 595,000 Haitians still live underneath tarps outdoors thanks to the earthquake, and these unfortunate people will be at risk of being swept away by flash flooding from Irene's torrential rains. However, Port-Au-Prince lies to the south of where Irene's main rains will fall, and I doubt the earthquake refugee camps will suffer from a major flooding disaster.


Figure 3. Hospital admissions (black bars) and death rate in percent (red line) for Haiti's cholera epidemic of 2010 - 2011. The cholera epidemic surged out of control after Hurricane Tomas dumped heavy rains on Haiti on November 4, 2010, with hospitalizations increasing by a factor of three for over a month. Over 3% of all people who contracted cholera died after Tomas' rains. However, sanitation and medical care improved in the following months, and the death rate fell by a factor of five to 0.7% by the summer of 2011. Another surge in cholera cases occurred in June 2011, doubling after heavy rainy season rains occurred. Cholera deaths doubled during the surge, but the death rate remained constant at 0.7%. Image credit: Pan American Health Organization.

Another danger is that Irene's rains will worsen the cholera epidemic that surfaced after the earthquake. Cholera is a water-borne disease, and spreads readily after heavy rains. As of August 12, 2011, the 2010 - 2011 cholera epidemic had infected 419,000 Haitians, killing 5,968. After Hurricane Tomas passed on November 5, 2010, cholera cases exploded, with hospital admissions more than tripling for over a month. Similarly, heavy rains in June 2011 during the country's usual rainy season caused doubled cholera cases and deaths for several weeks. We can expect that Irene's rains will cause at least a doubling of cholera cases for a month or more. This will lead to several hundred additional cholera deaths, given the disease's 0.7% mortality rate this summer in Haiti (during June and July 2011, 95,212 cases were reported, with 626 deaths.) An increase in cholera deaths due to Irene's rains is also a concern in the Dominican Republic, where cholera has sickened 14,000 people and killed 92 as of the end of July.

Organizations Active in Haitian Relief Efforts:
Portlight disaster relief
Lambi Fund of Haiti
Haiti Hope Fund
Catholic Relief Services of Haiti

Links
For those of you wanting to know your odds of receiving hurricane force or tropical storm force winds, I recommend the NHC wind probability product.

Wunderground has detailed storm surge maps for the U.S. coast.

See my 2010 post, Haiti's tragic hurricane history.

An exceptionally active of hurricane season
Hurricane season is only one-third over, and we've already had almost a full years' activity already. Tropical Storm Irene is the 9th named storm this year, and an average season has just 10 - 11 named storms. Irene's formation date of August 20 ties 2011 with 1936 as the 2nd earliest date for formation of the season's 9th storm. Only 2005 was more active this early. However, the first eight storms of the year have done far less damage than is typical. All eight storms stayed below hurricane strength, making 2011 the first hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851 to have more than six consecutive tropical storms that did not reach hurricane strength. As I discussed in Friday's post, a major reason for this is the lack of vertical instability over the tropical Atlantic so far this year. We've had a large amount of dry, sinking air over the tropical Atlantic, and the usual amount of dry, dusty air from the Sahara, both helping to keep the atmosphere stable and stop this year's storms from intensifying into hurricanes. Hurricane activity typically ramps up big-time by August 20, with more than 80% of all the hurricanes and 65% of all the tropical storms occurring after that date. At our current pace, 2011 will become the second busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 24 - 27 named storms. There are only 21 names in the list of names for a hurricane season, so we may have to break out the Greek alphabet again in late October this year, as occurred in 2005. Ironically, this was the last time the current set of names was used in the Atlantic, so 16 of this year's 21 names are repeats of 2005. I'm not too happy about seeing another hurricane season challenge the Hurricane Season of 2005 in any way, and let's hope we don't retire another five names this year, like occurred in 2005! With vertical instability much lower this year than in 2005, and that year having already seen one storm (Dennis) retired by this point in the season, I doubt that will happen, though.


Figure 4. The annual cycle of average hurricane frequency in the Atlantic. Historically, about 35% of all the tropical storms and 15% of all the hurricanes will have occurred by August 20.

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? Well, the best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). This model out-performed the official NHC forecast in 2010 for 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 4-day forecasts, and in 2009 for 4-day and 5-day forecasts. You can view ECMWF forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 5, over the past two years, the GFS and GFDL model have been the next best models, with the UKMET model not far behind. Last year, the NOGAPS model did very poorly, forcing NHC to come up with some new consensus models this year, the TCOA and TVCA, that do not include the NOGAPS model. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)


Figure 5. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2010. OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCN=one of the consensus models that lends together all (or most) of the above models. Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2010 verification report.

Next post
There will be 2 - 3 posts per day in my blog this week during Irene, with Angela Fritz and Rob Carver doing some of the afternoon and evening posts.

Jeff Masters

Tropical Storm Irene hits Puerto Rico (lobdellJ)
Tropical Storm Irene hits the north coast of Puerto Rico
Tropical Storm Irene hits Puerto Rico
Tropical Storm Irene from Maunabo, PR (ronmil)
The first bands or Irene approaching Maunabo, Puerto Rico (SE corner)...
Tropical Storm Irene from Maunabo, PR
Irene (reefchild)
Irene @OPkB OceanParkBeach Puerto Rico 7pm
Irene

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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127367
how do models initiate with incorrect strength or position? Don't humans input the current data to start the run?
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
Quoting Dem86Mets:


Even the convective bands are loosening around her, may be due to proximity to land.
And dry air coming down the mountains.
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does anyone know if levi32 has released a video for today?
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Been there before, as well as Oak Island. Beautiful beaches and a beautiful place. Only problem is its on an island separated by a narrow canal. That water can easily get backed up into inlets and canal flooding can cause some flooding on the mainland. Not to mention the island itself will get hammered. maybe underwater.




This is soooo crazy. Holden Beach is where I was raised and whdere my family lives.
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3073
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Almost looks like it's consolidating and/or creating a second eye wall, which could indicate a strengthening period in the next 12 hours. Although, the antennuation of that radar beam is pretty low, so what we are seeing is not necessarily what is happening.

I had a feeling that's what was happening. I've been seeing a constant SW movement on radar that no one else seems to see. It's just so far away from the radar that it can't be trusted?
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Irene is not weakening, radar is not showing a fair representation of Irene.
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I agree that the models have given this system too much intensity and the models are thus too far East. This year we have not seen strong systems due to atmospheric conditions etc and a weaker system will go further West until it can get into optimal conditions for strengthning. If Irene continues to track due West like this much longer into tomorrow, the models will definately start trending back West as she will not feel the weakness into the upper layers IMO.
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Pressure still dropping

17:01:30Z 19.200N 67.917W 696.4 mb
(~ 20.56 inHg) 3,043 meters
(~ 9,984 feet) 985.0 mb
(~ 29.09 inHg) - From 121° at 5 knots
(From the ESE at ~ 5.8 mph) 15.0°C
(~ 59.0°F) 10.4°C
(~ 50.7°F) 7 knots
(~ 8.0 mph) 22 knots*
(~ 25.3 mph*) 3 mm/hr*
(~ 0.12 in/hr*)
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Quoting reedzone:


I looped the image.. I think this will make a brief landfall in Hispaniola, which may slow it down some. Just my opinion.. Florida to South Carolina should be preparing for Irene, North Carolina to Maine should be watching the storm closely.


Finally im totally agreed with you!!!
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Quoting Drakoen:


Indeed.



How can you go by radar anymore when it comes to questions like these...the coc has gotten too far away from the radar site to adequately see it anymore. And from this point on as she moves west/wnw...radar is less usefully...were to the point where we are back to sat only...
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HH data suggests a jog west?
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674. wpb
http://www.flysouth.org/intrad.htm
Member Since: May 28, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 572
Time: 17:01:30Z
Coordinates: 19.2N 67.9167W
Acft. Static Air Press: 696.4 mb (~ 20.56 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 3,043 meters (~ 9,984 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 985.0 mb (~ 29.09 inHg)
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 121° at 5 knots (From the ESE at ~ 5.8 mph)


Not much movement, other than slightly due west on the latest pass.
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Quoting CCkid00:

the problem with New Orleans wasn't Katrina....it was the levees. Katrina wasn't very bad, it was the aftermath. So, if no levees, shouldn't be a Katrina

oops....sorry....quoted the wrong person!
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Quoting NCSCguy:
Hey Press and Tiger, if we needed to evacuate inland what route would you guys take? Just wondering.

I am not Press or Tigger but here is my two cents worth. Stay off the interstate (even if it is your evacuation route). Everyone else will be on the Interstate - regardless of their assigned evacuation route.
Stayed off the Interstate for both Hugo and Floyd. We were settled in at our intended destination - while folks who taking the Interstate were still in Charleston County.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127367
Quoting robj144:


Is it tightening or collapsing? It looks like it's collapsing.

Well keep in mind too that this is getting pretty far from the radar site and the beam is fairly high up in the atmosphere, so we're not getting a 100% realistic representation of the true structure of it.
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17:01:30Z 19.200N 67.917W 696.4 mb
(~ 20.56 inHg) 3,043 meters
(~ 9,984 feet) 985.0 mb
(~ 29.09 inHg)
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Quoting Drakoen:


Indeed.



Even the convective bands are loosening around her, may be due to proximity to land.
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Quoting overwash12:
How did you fare?
Actually NW Puerto Rico getting hit since 11:00am by tropical storm winds ranging from 25mph t0 35mph, gusting to 45mph, and torrential rains...
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Quoting CCkid00:

the problem with New Orleans wasn't Katrina....it was the levees. Katrina wasn't very bad, it was the aftermath. So, if no levees, shouldn't be a Katrina


yea...those levees blew the roof off the Dome...
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Quoting Patrap:


I looped the image.. I think this will make a brief landfall in Hispaniola, which may slow it down some. Just my opinion.. Florida to South Carolina should be preparing for Irene, North Carolina to Maine should be watching the storm closely.
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Is recurving out to sea becoming possible?
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According to Bloomberg the storm is going to SC.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-22/irene-se ts-sights-on-coast-of-south-carolina-may-become-ma jor-hurricane.html



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659. wpb
dr had a radar site on the ne coast but i think is been down
Member Since: May 28, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 572
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127367
Quoting IceCoast:
A long ways away but looks like I might have moved from Massachusetts at the right time. GFS has been pretty consistent showing this very close to southern New England. We should worry about the Southeast US first, but Irene may not be finished after them.

12z GFS 162Hrs

you are righy ,this is gonna a big event for the whole US East Coast from Florida to New England!!
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Quoting CCkid00:

the problem with New Orleans wasn't Katrina....it was the levees. Katrina wasn't very bad, it was the aftermath. So, if no levees, shouldn't be a Katrina


If I remember correctly Katrina was a major problem. It was not just the levees, because if it was just the levees than Gustav could have been brought the same devastation correct? So it had a lot to do with What Katrina was. Hurricane Katrina was a category five hurricane over the central GOM, was she not? Hurricane Katrina weakened to a category three hurricane as she passed over or just east of NOLA, correct? Therefore she brought onshore a category five hurricane strength storm surge, correct? Therefore the category five strength surge and the levees had a lot to do together with the devastaton in NOLA. DO not ever say a situation like that was not do to the hurricane. On a normal day then the levees would have caved in correct then? Wrong, Katrina was the catalyst to bring the levees to their knees and showed us how inadequate the levees truly were. Technically NOLA dodged a bullet with Katrina, should have been a lot worse.
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Quoting odinslightning:



what model do you see that shows that? what trough will be strong enough to yank it that hard of a fishhook. i don't see potential in what you are saying.


also, if this thing gets huge 100 miles off the coast will be worst case scenario....if it does that up and down the coast it will strengthen as it lays into town after town with hurricane force winds. katrina's diameter was huge and this could be bigger considering the goldielocks environment and the heat of the gulf stream it is traveling through.


I've been following the various model tracks over the past several days. Granted, there wasn't much to model until sometime Friday, but the GFS was always aggressive to the south and west prior to Irene forming. Several other models wanted to take Irene on a more southerly track. The NOGAPS model was actually the outlier to the north and east prior to development. It seemed NOGAPS pegged the initial track for what would become Irene. It now seems the other models are "catching up" to the NOGAPS in terms of being a more east coast storm than a possible GOM storm. Having said that, NOGAPS is showing a curvature out to sea that misses a direct impact on the US. If NOGAPS has been the best so far, it shouldn't be discounted. That model most have found something regarding the Atlantic High and/or the low pressure trough in order to come up with the curve out to sea. But like all other models, things can change. As of now, NOGAPS has Irene as an offshore storm.
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Quoting AllStar17:


A 5 or 10 mph difference won't change the future much.


Indeed, but couple that with land interaction then you'll have a new possibility brewing.
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agreed. wonder if Irene will turn further west than the models are indicating? is the trough coming down pretty deep?

I guess so because the models keep trending eastward unless they are overdoing the trough and underdoing the High
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650. srada
Quoting tropicfreak:


Been there before, as well as Oak Island. Beautiful beaches and a beautiful place. Only problem is its on an island separated by a narrow canal. That water can easily get backed up into inlets and canal flooding can cause some flooding on the mainland. Not to mention the island itself will get hammered. maybe underwater.


Maybe he will run into Janelle from Teen Mom.
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Quoting robj144:


Is it tightening or collapsing? It looks like it's collapsing.


Indeed.

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Quoting WxLogic:


Indeed and already is weaker. HH no longer finding those 80MPH like before.


A 5 or 10 mph difference won't change the future much.
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5300
Yeah that 17 ft Surge into Lake Ponchartrain was just a High Tide me tinks.

Video taken by Guerra Family during and after Hurricane Katrina. Chalmette, LA.


8 miles east of Downtown NOLA






Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127367
Quoting zoomiami:


Do you know how many miles it between Naples & Miami? Not 150. Its also not 150 miles to the bahamas either.



Miami to Naples is around 124 miles. About 155 miles Miami to Fort Myers
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Quoting USAFwxguy:
Sooner it ramps up, the better chance it has for recurve away from CONUS. Maybe graze the OBX.

Or, if it were to weaken from interaction with Hispaniola, it may well still get to South Florida:



Watch me get blasted for this but I'm still not convinced it can't find a way to slip into the Eastern GOM if it stays weak. The first Low currently North of Maine doesn't seem to be having much of an affect on Irene, she's going more West now than she has the past 24 hours. I think she'll continue West until the next trough comes through and if that one is weaker than this one she might just slip into the GOM. Way to early to make any calls, storms of the past more than prove these things have minds of their own sometimes. Should be fun to watch!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3010
Don't get too hopeful on Irene taking in "dry air" to slow her intensification...it's kind of a "fantasy" you're living in. There really isn't much for her to be taking in for her path ahead...



Regardless, any dry air isn't going to reach her core too fast, as it is protected by the huge buffer-zone she has due to to her increasingly large size...there's the eye starting to come out in the corner of 68 and 19 degrees...

Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
Quoting robj144:


Is it tightening or collapsing? It looks like it's collapsing.


I think so too but we'll see in the next couple frames.
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Quoting Patrap:

Eye becoming visible.
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Quoting Chicklit:


The weaker it is, the less northerly track.


Indeed and already is weaker. HH no longer finding those 80MPH like before.
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Quoting masonsnana:
Don't blast me, but is she stationary?


That's what I was wondering earlier, but never really got any confirmation.
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Looks like the Northern Coast of the DR will get the brunt of this. South Florida is far from being out of the woods and here's why: Once that first Low moves out of the way that will force a Due West movement for a while until the other low digs in. Dont mean to scare people but I see the majority of those models shifting back west by this time tomorrow.
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Quoting quakeman55:
Irene's eye looks to be tightening up and getting smaller, indicating possible intensification going on. Also seems to be continuing on its westward heading (though it appears slower)...might come just onshore on the DR if it keeps this up for much longer.



Is it tightening or collapsing? It looks like it's collapsing.
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
North Carolina Department of Transportation evacuation routes
"A look at [latest computer model] track forecasts suggest a higher chance of Irene tracking along or just off the coast of eastern Florida and making landfall along the Carolina coast," stated AccuWeather.com Hurricane and Tropical Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
Such a scenario would give Irene time to strengthen into a major hurricane and become an even greater danger to lives and property at landfall.

If Hurricane Irene heads for North Carolina, the state could reverse traffic on I-40. The reversal will be considered only when the southeastern coast of North Carolina is threatened by a major hurricane and mandatory evacuations are issued. A decision to reverse I-40 would be made jointly by the secretaries of Transportation and Crime Control & Public Safety, in consultation with the Governor of North Carolina.
In addition to the strength of the storm, other factors to be considered in the decision include projected land fall and the population remaining at the time the mandatory evacuation is ordered.
If this plan is activated, I-40 east will carry 2 lanes of westbound traffic. Most entrances and exits to the regular eastbound and reversal lanes will be open.
The reversal would begin in Wilmington, just before the Gordon Road exit (Exit 420). The left lane of traffic on N.C. 132 west will be directed onto the reversal lanes and traffic in the right lane will continue on I-40 west.
Commercial vehicles will be restricted to the regular westbound lanes of I-40. The reversal would end at the N.C. 96 (Exit 334) interchange east of Benson. No traffic will be permitted on the eastbound lanes of I-40 between I-95 and N.C. 96.
Please Note: All eastbound traffic on I-40 must exit at 1-95 (Exit 328). Motorists can still reach the Wilmington area via alternate routes such as U.S. 421 and U.S. 117.
Should the reversal be activated, citizens will be advised through local radio and television stations.


Great info!
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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.