Hurricane Irene continues to become better organized, takes aim at Bahamas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:12 PM GMT on August 22, 2011

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Hurricane Irene remains a category 1 on the Saffir Simpson hurricane wind scale, and continues to be a U.S. landfall threat for anywhere from southern Florida to North Carolina. In the 5pm EDT update from the National Hurricane Center, Irene had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Irene is moving west-northwest at 13 mph along the northern Hispaniola coastline. Estimates from radar suggest Puerto Rico has seen anywhere from 1 to 5 inches of rain from Irene so far, with the heaviest rain probably being enhanced by topography. Satellite imagery shows a new burst of intense thunderstorm activity began near the center of the hurricane this afternoon, and despite land interaction, Irene continues to become larger and better organized, with tropical storm-force (39 mph) winds extending 160 miles away from the center on the northeast side of the hurricane. The latest Hurricane Hunter mission found maximum sustained winds just above 80 mph, with a minimum central pressure of 988 millibars. The strongest winds continue to be found on the north side of the storm. Another Hurricane Hunter mission is scheduled for this evening, and a NOAA Gulfstream is on its way to Irene as I type.


Figure 1. True-color image of Hurricane Irene taken at 11:20am EDT Monday August 22, 2011, shortly after Irene moved off the coast of Puerto Rico. At the time, Irene was a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Track forecast for Irene
The models agree that the center of Irene will stay north of Hispaniola, which will allow the storm to continue to organize. The question that remains is how the trough of low pressure, which is expected to move across the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday, will affect Hurricane Irene. The timing and strength of this trough, as well as the intensity of the hurricane, will determine just how quick Irene will turn away from the U.S. coast, if at all. This afternoon, the GFDL has finally started to inch its forecast track to the east, with a landfall in southern Florida. Both the HWRF and the UKMET models are suggesting a landfall in South Carolina, and the ECMWF and the GFS are forecasting a brush with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is a track north of Hispaniola over the next 24 hours, and through the Bahamas Wednesday and Thursday. While the center of the Hurricane Center's cone of uncertainty has Irene making landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border, it's important to note that the error in 4 and 5 day track forecasts remains high—around 200 miles in either direction. The official track has nudged a bit east since this morning, which reduces the threat to southern Florida, but increases the threat to the Carolinas.

Intensity forecast for Irene
The environment around Hurricane Irene remains moist, and wind shear is expected to remain relatively low (5 to 15 knots) along its forecast path over the next 5 days. Sea surface temperatures are certainly warm enough (29-30°C) to support intensification to a major hurricane (category 3+). Irene is still disorganized on its south side due to land interaction and dry air, but recent satellite imagery suggests increasing outflow at high levels to the south of the center, which is necessary for the hurricane to intensify. Both the GFS and the ECMWF are forecasting Irene to develop into a very large and intense hurricane. The National Hurricane Center expects Irene to intensify to a category 2 hurricane tomorrow evening as it moves away from Hispaniola. Beyond that, Irene will most likely intensify into a category 3 major hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 110 mph. Like Jeff said this morning, however, Irene could just as easily remain a category 2, or even reach category 4 wind speeds. In any case, Irene will be a powerful hurricane and a serious threat to the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States.

Angela

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Quoting seflagamma:
they are not taking Eastern Florida out of the cone yet.
but expect South and North Carolina for the hit????



You are correct.
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Quoting Levi32:


It is very possible. The girl is about to have 5 days over the warmest water that is available outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. A maximum intensity of Category 3 or 4 only seems logical given the conditions ahead.


Ouch...So I should get my mom to start preparing? I live in Southeastern North Carolina, near Wilmington. Or do you think I should watch it for another day or two before preparing?
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Quoting IceCoast:


Looks like its going to hug the coast all the way up to Southern New England.


Not liking what's coming next. That trough is lifting and the flow is becoming very flat, ridges will bridge and I can't see potential Jose going anywhere but west for a while after that point.
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oh my goodness, they are taking this up the coast to the North East Boston Area????
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
now I can ask this: will this storm be just another overhyped NC scrapper like Earl?


Earl is a potential analogue track, but when Earl was in a similar position to Irene we had virtually no idea how he would pan out either. You just can't be sure. People say that time and time again because, well, it couldn't be truer.
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Quoting leftrightleftright:
the weather channel just said they expect the new modle runs will shift the track or irene maybe as much as 100 to 125 miles more to the east might not hit anyone

Been listening to the WC since I got home. Did not here that. They keep saying the Florida needs to watch and be prepared just in case. Sorry, I just don't buy that statement. They keep discussing the fact that this is going to be a BIG storm and a hard hit on the Bahamas. After that, they are still trying to get a fix on where this is going. Still mentioning the one model that takes it through Florida and is is a very reliable model, can't discount it yet, yadayada. Have not heard a single weather person indicate that it might recurve out to sea.
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I find it funny that my neighbor is the only one who put up shutters in my neighborhood.
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NYC, Boston, Hartford all get raked on this run.
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Takeing a look at the Infrared Channel 2 Loop Shortwave, it looks like she's moving WNW very, very slowly.
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There is good news to be had, though. I cannot find a major hurricane that was intensifying at landfall in North Carolina. It doesn't really happen. They are usually weakening. That doesn't prevent storms like Floyd and Hazel from causing lots of damage though.
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Quoting leftrightleftright:
i just watched the weather channelat 6:20pm and they just said they expect the new modle runs will shift the track or irene maybe as much as 100 to 125 miles more to the east all the newest nmodel runs are way further east then the current track... if lucky irene might not make landfall anywhere lets hope they keep shifting the track more east should see more of a east shift at 8pm they said
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No wonder Grothar sits it out in Fort Lauderdale. Of the entire east coast from the Cape to the Keys, Broward county has the lowest storm surge potential at cat 3.
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they are not taking Eastern Florida out of the cone yet.
but expect South and North Carolina for the hit????

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Quoting presslord:


Now do you people see why I'm so provincial?!?!?!?!?!


pro·vin·cial (pr-vnshl)
adj.
1. Of or relating to a province.
2. Of or characteristic of people from the provinces; not fashionable or sophisticated: "Well-educated professional women ... made me feel uncomfortably provincial" (J.R. Salamanca).
3. Limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered.
n.
1. A native or inhabitant of the provinces.
2. A person who has provincial ideas or habits.

which one is it press, adj. or noun? sorry needed some humor....
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1626
Quoting Levi32:


My track is just up the coast from Charleston, but only a 45 mile shift east would put it into North Carolina, so due to the coastline angle it's very difficult to make a narrowed-down landfall forecast right now. I do think it is a Carolinas hit though.


Georgetown, SC winyah bay, ughh thats bad for Myrtle Beach
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Quoting Dakster:


Looking like you may not have to deal with Irene... Good news so far. What does your MET buddy say?


I gotta deal with her either way....but it's way too soon for me to assume she ain't gonna come knockin' here
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Lol, local mets are hyping this system as if the NHC was forcasting for category 5 winds to occur over the south Florida mainland.
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Irene loking better on satellite loops, banding starting up heavy on southwest side

Link
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Quoting Levi32:
A track like this would cause significant damages farther north than North Carolina.



Looks like its going to hug the coast all the way up to Southern New England.
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Link yes Northwest of the Island ,West were spare last night of the worst of the storm since Irene's south side eye wall; was weak and open...but in the last few hours west PR it has been receiving numerous bands of rain from Irene' s tail ...
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is it me or is hse slowing down
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Guys...

This satellite image IS NOT GOOD!!!!!!!!



I usually don't post images...but it looks like Irene is about to undergo some very serious intensification...this is NOT GOOD.....
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Quoting Levi32:
A track like this would cause significant damages farther north than North Carolina.


That would be a complete disaster for NYC......
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Quoting leftrightleftright:
the weather channel just said they expect the new modle runs will shift the track or irene maybe as much as 100 to 125 miles more to the east might not hit anyone


What weather channel are you watching? I must have missed that.....
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This storm is now moving more NNW now???

I am watching TWC which may not be the best place for news...

but well off coast of DR...

looks like a Bahama storm now and heading toward SE Atlantic coast(Not us in SE Fla)

SE Fla is looking better and better each model run...
should we believe it??

I am prepared..


they are really talking rapid intensification with this storm.. like back in 2005.. not good.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
may be are hurricane will take care of a few thing in DC heh heh
Heeeeeeeeeeeey!!!!!.Stop that!
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IF the hurricane hunters do, in fact, have any "poof juice", they might want to think about using it...good golly miss Molly!
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Quoting palmasdelrio:

Does the red circle around 50w mean another disturbance?


Yes that is another developing system. Haven't really checked this but probably the wave that just recently came off the African coast.
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Quoting kylejourdan2006:


In the post you quoted it said it'll take off at 17:15EDT...


It's taken off already.
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This is nice.... a strong hurricane near New England.

18z GFS 156 hours

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I am now waiting for the pumping the ridge comments to "force" Irene on a westward course and defy all of the computer models and NHC forecasters...
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Very Floyd-like track on this one...also, we should start paying more attention to the Eastern Atlantic as, in any event, the ridge will build back west after Irene's eventual departure, when we may very well be dealing with more system coming into the picture.

Cape May and the Jersey coast would be whacked by a hurricane of this size if a track like this were to play out. 4/5 of the people out there aren't even aware that Irene poses a threat, apart from what they've heard in between coverage of Libya.

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http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display.cgi?a=natla _height
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Quoting leftrightleftright:
looks like the new track moves irene out alot further to the east accoding to the weather channel all the models thay just showed at 6:20pm are way out in the atlantic now



POOF
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115248
HH in the air from St. Croix

Product: Air Force Tropical RECCO Message (URNT11 KNHC)
Transmitted: 22nd day of the month at 22:20Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 303)
Storm Number: 09
Storm Name: Irene (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 7
Observation Number: 01

Mandatory Data...

Observation Time: Monday, 22:17Z
Radar Capability: Yes
Aircraft Altitude: Below 10,000 meters
Coordinates: 18.0N 65.2W
Location: 63 miles (102 km) to the ESE (117°) from San Juan, Puerto Rico (USA).
Turbulence: None
Conditions Along Flight Route: In the clear
Pressure Altitude: 3,080 meters
Flight Level Wind: From 160° at 30 knots (From the SSE at ~ 34.5 mph)
- The above is a spot wind.
- Winds were obtained using doppler radar or inertial systems.
Flight Level Temperature: 9°C
Flight Level Dew Point: 5°C
Weather (within 30 nautical miles): Thunderstorm(s)
700 mb Surface Altitude: 3,149 geopotential meters

Optional Data...

Estimated Surface Wind: From 150° at 15 knots (From the SSE at ~ 17.2 mph)

Remarks Section...

Surface Wind Speed (likely by SFMR): 16 knots (~ 18.4mph)
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A track like this would cause significant damages farther north than North Carolina.

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now I can ask this: will this storm be just another overhyped NC scrapper like Earl?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8027
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It's trying to get its inner core strengthened back again for sure. Levi, what do you think about the prospects of rapid intensification once Irene pulls away from Hispaniola. Think it is possible Irene reaches Category 4?


It is very possible. The girl is about to have 5 days over the warmest water that is available outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. A maximum intensity of Category 3 or 4 only seems logical given the conditions ahead.
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may be are hurricane will take care of a few thing in DC heh heh
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115248
Quoting leftrightleftright:
looks like the new track moves irene out alot further to the east accoding to the weather channel all the models thay just showed at 6:20pm are way out in the atlantic now


And so your little fantasy world continues to go on...
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Quoting WxLogic:
@75HR TROF Persists



So the steering that will keep it off the coast is the small indent in the azore high? And if it decides to move over, say about 75 miles, then it ends up on top of us?

Not liking that uncertainty. Too close to what happened with Charley.
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I dont know how many times it has to be said on this blog that this is NOT A FISH STORM!!! It has already hit the Lesser Antilles, it has already hit Puerto Rico. It is by NO MEANS A FISH STORM!!! Just because there is a wee bit of a tiny chance that it could recurve before striking the US mainland, that does not make it a FISH STORM!
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Quoting will40:



cant be a fish she has already hit territory in the US



Not to mention the Bahamas...
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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.