Hurricane Irene Approaches the Bahamas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:42 AM GMT on August 24, 2011

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As of 2AM EDT, Hurricane Irene was located at 21.3N, 72.6W, 400 miles southeast of Nassau. It was moving west-northwest at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, making it a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Irene has a minimum central pressure of 966 mb. Hurricane warnings have been issued for all of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Haiti from Le Mole St. Nicholas to the Dominican Republic border.

Satellite Views
Figure 1 shows that Irene has a large eye visible in infrared imagery, (26 miles across accoring to a report from the Hurricane Hunters at 130AM) with well-defined outflow cirrus bands. Tuesday evening, TRMM, NASA's tropical research satellite, flew directly overhead Irene, getting a radar scan of the storm using it's downward pointing radar, shown in Figure 2. It is immediately apparent that Irene has well-developed bands of rain showers, with strong storms present in the eyewall.


Figure 1 IR satellite view of Irene taken at 113AM EDT, August 23, 2011


Figure 2 TRMM radar overpass of Irene at 713PM EDT, August 22, 2011. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Track Forecast

Irene is forecast to move to the northwest, passing over all of the Bahamas by Thursday evening, then curving to the north. Irene then makes landfall in the US near or at the Outer Banks Saturday afternoon, then traveling along the mid-Atlantic coastline of the US. After Saturday, Irene may pose a threat to Long Island and the New England coastline. However, NHC is quick to remind us that the average forecast error for day 4 is 200 miles, so don't stop your hurricane preparations if you aren't in the immediate area of landfall. It is also important to note that the windfield of Irene is expected to be large, affecting areas distant from the immediate track of Irene's center. Tropical storm forces winds are expected to be found out to at least 150 miles away from Irene's center on Friday afternoon.

NHC is forecasting for Irene to become a major hurricane (winds faster than 110 mph), within 24 hours.


Figure 3 Official track forecast of Irene at 2AM EDT.

Forecast models and adaptive observations
The different forecast models are in fairly good agreement about Irene's track through the Bahamas and along the east coast of the US. The GFDL, a dynamical hurricane forecasting model, which had been a western outlier from the other models is now agreeing with them. When a set of weather models using slighly different initial views of the atmosphere and slightly different ways of simulating how the atmosphere works all agree on a forecast, then meteorlogists tend to believe that the forecast is more likely to occur. The 00Z GFS and ECMWF (wind swath shown in Figure 4) forecasts are nearly identical, which furthur boosts forecaster confidence.

In the 11PM forecast discussion, the NHC forecaster praises the NOAA Gulfstream IV (aka Gonzo) for providing infomation about the atmosphere around Irene that will influence it's track. Looking at the plan of the day valid for today, it will be a busy day for airborne reconnaissance. Three flights for the Air Force hurricane hunters, two flights for the Gulfstream IV, and two flights for NOAA 42, a WP-3D (aka Kermit).


Figure 4 Plot of the maximum sustained winds in mph over the next week from the 00Z ECMWF forecast.

Impacts

In the immediate future, Irene will have a significant impact on the Bahamas and surrounding islands. Hurricane force winds are ongoing over the Turks and Caicos islands and southeastern Bahamas. These locations can expect storm surges that are 5-8 feet above tide levels. The northwestern Bahamas can expect hurricane force winds Thursday, and storm surges that are 7-11 feet above tide levels. The Turks and Caicos islands and all of the Bahamas can expect 6-12 inches of rain over the next two days.

I still think people living along the east coast of the US should closely monitor Irene and review their hurricane preparations. Irene will be a large storm, impacting areas far from the storm center track.

Dr. Masters will have a new blog entry this morning, and Angela Fritz will be covering the afternoon. I'll be back on third shift tonight.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Rob Carver

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1428. majidhadassah
6:46 AM GMT on April 17, 2014

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1427. msphar
8:48 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
I hope those folks up North of the NC Cape can grasp what is coming for them. A hurricane in the center of Maine! Boston the next NOLA ? Maybe it will move further East.
Member Since: August 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
1426. popmomma
7:27 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Virginia Beach here....any suggestions as to what to do?
Member Since: August 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
1425. kshipre1
6:51 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Invest 90L up to 60% on NHC website
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1424. angiest
6:24 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Did y'all know there was a new blog?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1423. NWHoustonMom
6:10 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting msgambler:
2005 is not "OLD SCHOOL urban legend".



Actually they said this many times in 2008. They also emphasized that NO ONE would be coming to save you so don't bother calling 911.
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 71
1422. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:56 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
RSMC Miami National Hurricane Center
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
2:00 PM EDT August 24 2011
=================================

Showers and thunderstorms have become more concentrated near an area of low pressure located a couple hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. Environmental conditions appear generally favorable for the development of a tropical depression during the next day or two

Tropical Cyclone Formation Potential
====================================
There is a HIGH chance of this disturbance to form into a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45645
1421. cwf1069
5:44 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Can I have the link for the steering? Thank you in advance.
Member Since: April 15, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 117
1420. stormpetrol
5:35 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 24th day of the month at 17:28Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 303)
Storm Number & Year: 09L in 2011
Storm Name: Irene (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 14
Observation Number: 21
A. Time of Center Fix: 24th day of the month at 17:03:20Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 22°33'N 74°09'W (22.55N 74.15W)
B. Center Fix Location: 205 miles (330 km) to the NNE (32°) from Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 2,697m (8,848ft) at 700mb
D & E. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: Not Available
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 34° at 80kts (From between the NNE and NE at ~ 92.1mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 13 nautical miles (15 statute miles) to the NW (315°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 954mb (28.17 inHg)
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 10°C (50°F) at a pressure alt. of 3,050m (10,007ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 18°C (64°F) at a pressure alt. of 3,037m (9,964ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 11°C (52°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Open in the southwest
M. Eye Shape & Diameter: Circular with a diameter of 16 nautical miles (18 statute miles)
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Radar, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Levels (sfc and flt lvl centers are within 5nm of each other): Surface and 700mb
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 1 nautical mile
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 116kts (~ 133.5mph) in the northeast quadrant at 14:52:30Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind Outbound: 106kts (~ 122.0mph) in the southeast quadrant at 17:12:00Z
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 20°C (68°F) which was observed 9 nautical miles to the

looking at 120-125mph at the 2 pm advisory imo.
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7932
1419. popmomma
5:35 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
TWC is reporting it may now be going to a cat 4 and that it has a 1 in 3 chance of becoming a cat 5.
Member Since: August 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
1418. stormpetrol
5:24 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Irene has taken a wobble from NW back to WNW in the last few loops, these wobbles can make a significant difference in who gets the brunt of this hurricane, just saying....
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7932
1417. mossyhead
5:19 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting snotly:
wasn't there a hurricane that went in the gulf back in the 70-80's and just went all over the place? They said it made its own weather.
Hurricane Elena was moving north toward Destin then turned ene and got close to to the peninsula of Florida then each turned to a wnw direction and hit the Mississippi Gulf coast. It was infuenced by a high filling in a weakness, it did not make its own weather.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 473
1416. Chicklit
5:18 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11356
1415. kshipre1
5:16 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
the blog has slowed down
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1414. Jtownboy
5:14 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
I'm in Jupiter so I agree with that
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1413. ProgressivePulse
5:10 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
In no way shape or form am I wishing this to FL. Just scoping out the potential wind impacts. I realize she will remain well offshore.

With that said.

Delays to the graduated turn NNW @ 2512Z would bring her closer to the coast and running towards 78W.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
1412. Jtownboy
5:09 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting ProgressivePulse:
Based on the current forecast track and TS winds @ 150 miles NW, Irene would need to hit 78W for Palm Beach County to experience sustained TS winds. That would be a 70 mile jog west. I say only PBC because they are the closest point of approach ATM.
img src="http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT09/r efre

wind speeds away from eye

sh/AL0911_PROB34_F120_sm2+gif/143914.gif">
Member Since: August 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 30
1411. CJ5
5:07 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
According to the latest steering, the gap seems to be closing up. It has certainly been reduced in the last 3 hour presentation. Interesting.
Member Since: July 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1755
1410. ProgressivePulse
4:57 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Based on the current forecast track and TS winds @ 150 miles NW, Irene would need to hit 78W for Palm Beach County to experience sustained TS winds. That would be a 70 mile jog west. I say only PBC because they are the closest point of approach ATM.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
1409. CaneHunter031472
4:53 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting Joe Bastardi

"Keep in mind the worst ne US storms stay offshore till New england"

Member Since: August 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 193
1408. kimSCbeaches
4:53 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Hello Everyone! I am trying to get a read on the weather here in Myrtle Beach for Friday afternoon. Any opinions would be appreciated. Hoping to breath easy here as the storm stays out far enough from our coast :)
Member Since: September 4, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 32
1407. CaneGurl
4:48 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting Ninj4:

Bingo. I'm not going to delude myself or anyone else by saying we're going to get a direct hit, because that would just be stupid. But you're point is spot on, and it exactly why I'll be watching our girl until she's well out of our way. 50+mph winds are nothing to be willy nilly about, especially when I have a giant oak tree in my back yard waiting for a reason to come down.


That I understand... mine all came down with Charlie and I never replaced them.I hear lots of tree cutting going on in my neighborhood today and we're in the middle of the state!!!! Guess they're still a little worried.
Member Since: September 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 31
1406. notabubba
4:45 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting cloudburst2011:



reed hurricane gloris was in 1985 not 1991..

Thought that looked wrong... Bob was '91
Member Since: August 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 27
1405. trHUrrIXC5MMX
4:45 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
So now Irene could devastate coastal New England.

There is just one thing I see in the NHC tracking map that just the Bahamas are under a warning but why not for east FL since the storm is so large or S/NC or a TS watch at least?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
1404. Waltanater
4:44 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting hurricanejunky:
12Z NOGAPS and GFS both have Irene getting pretty close to FL coast...

do you have a link to these runs?
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1403. MahFL
4:43 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Relax everyone....it jogged back to the NW.
Member Since: June 9, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 3547
1402. MahFL
4:41 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
New convection on the NE quadrant too.
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1401. MahFL
4:39 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
The eye just got that inner blue ring of warm clouds, which is bad news......


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1400. zoomiami
4:38 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Chances are about 85% that the storm stays inside this cone. What will make a difference for the east coast of florida is whether its on the left or the right. That difference could be between breezy & tropical storm force winds as it moves up the coast. Look at the size of the storm -- its almost bigger than the state north to south.



Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
1399. Waltanater
4:37 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting SCwannabe:


How can you say they were dead on...they completely missed the forecast when she went north of hispanola. They had it going over Hispanola and some earlier forecasts we're for it to go south...JMO
True, they did miss the forecast. I believe it is harder to find the COC earlier in its existence and therefore errors in forecast are larger, earlier on.
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1398. snotly
4:36 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
wasn't there a hurricane that went in the gulf back in the 70-80's and just went all over the place? They said it made its own weather.
Member Since: August 27, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 686
1397. zoomiami
4:34 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting heavyweatherwatcher:


Bermuda? I think you musta skipped out on geography...


lol thinking the same thing
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
1396. OracleDeAtlantis
4:34 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting wxobsvps:
Here is 00Z analyzed 500mb heights. Notice the Four Corners high stretches out across the GoM to the west coast of FL



Here is the 12Z analyzed 500mb heights. Notice the Four Corners high has its easten most periphery now extending to the FL panhandle.



What we don't want is the CONUS high to give way in the east, allowing for the weakness to be more pronounced over the eastern CONUS, rather than offshore.

You'll need to click the image below to enlarge in another window to see, but look at the 12Z analyzed 500mb heights along the Eastern Seaboard... 588 and higher up to about the DC area at 587



It is critical that the heights lower off shore for the weakness to develop for Irene to track towards. But Bermuda still at 592, and the western flank of the Atl high nosing toward CONUS is still a concern.

I understand modeling suggest the passage of Irene off shore, but the exact timing and location of the weakness is crucial. I just post this to shed light on what I see as a possible wrinkle.
I think this is to be expected some, as the trough in the northwest breaks down the "four corner" high. Correct? They should have factored this in, but I imagine it's very difficult to get all the wheels locked in. If even one wheel changes, for example, they all will change.

Quoting MahFL:
Seems the weakness is now more south of South Carolina, not North Carolina.....


Excact same point here.
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1395. Waltanater
4:32 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:

Precisely. To show this, I've combined the NHC's 3- and 5-day cone from Sunday afternoon with the storm's track as of last evening. It's true that Irene has stayed against the hard right side of that cone--but she's stayed within that cone nonetheless. Bottom line: the NHC's 3-day cone is pretty much rock solid. Folks who ignore it do so at their own peril...

Irene
I was just going to post this as well. I've been tracking it the last few days and the actual points fall right on the NHC projected track (good to at least 27 hours)...VERY accurate! Since it is taking that turn now, FL is in the clear.
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1472
1394. kilgores97
4:32 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting Relix:


Lol. This is a joke right? Weak storms don't necessarily have to always go west. Also the little islands are nothing to a Hurricane. She will just plow through them especially with no mountains.
Quoting Relix:


Lol. This is a joke right? Weak storms don't necessarily have to always go west. Also the little islands are nothing to a Hurricane. She will just plow through them especially with no mountains.


Weak storms are influenced moreso by lower level winds as opposed to stronger storms being influenced by higher level winds, so weaker storms due tend to go more westerly. Not saying they ALL do or will, but overall speaking........
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1393. MahFL
4:31 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Seems the weakness is now more south of South Carolina, not North Carolina.....


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1392. OracleDeAtlantis
4:30 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting wxobsvps:
They say timing is everything:

As I recall also, if Irene becomes large enough, she can begin making her own weather. This might be seen in plumping up the ridge to her east, for example. It doesn't make much to make the East Coast her sandwich to eat.
Member Since: August 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 525
1391. Relix
4:23 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting MahFL:
Seems to be still going west, and weakening, due to land interaction, a weaker storm will go.... dare I say it................................................ ...............WEST !


Lol. This is a joke right? Weak storms don't necessarily have to always go west. Also the little islands are nothing to a Hurricane. She will just plow through them especially with no mountains.
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1390. HCW
4:22 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Wooo hooo Levi is online
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1389. Relix
4:22 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
On a different note, plenty of moisture ahead of this wave.



Its gonna head NW per models.
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2725
1388. OracleDeAtlantis
4:19 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting AussieStorm:
Anticyclone is moving back over Irene. Which will mean shear will lessen and intensification will continue and will even ramp up more. Cat 4 Irene in the making.

Excellent job ... I had almost forgotten to check this. All shear will diminish.
Member Since: August 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 525
1387. MahFL
4:15 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Seems to be still going west, and weakening, due to land interaction, a weaker storm will go.... dare I say it................................................ ...............WEST !
Member Since: June 9, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 3547
1386. CaneHunter031472
4:13 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
To all of those "Andrea Gale" wanna be captains up in the North Atlantic. Keep and eye on this, and do not set sail. This one is going that way and it wont be pretty.
Member Since: August 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 193
1385. kshipre1
4:13 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
I think you are safe. the chances of her making a direct westward or wnw movement with the weakness in the high as well as another trough coming down are pretty low

she has alredy begun her NW turn

if the upper level pattern had it where now the ridge was stronger above Irene with weak troughs not dipping down too far south, I could see your concern.

anyhow, with that said, still stay on guard but low chances of hitting e coast of florida directly

effects will be felt but not ones like the bahamas are feeling now, the carolinas will feel as well as the northeast
Member Since: July 12, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1130
1384. LightningCharmer
4:10 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting RitaEvac:
Regardless of what happens, this storm is going to have a GIGANTIC wind field by the time it's in the NE, and that alone is gonna shock people up there. Put it this way, after the quake, and what is awaiting the NE, these folks will think the world is coming to an end literally.


If I'm not mistaken wind-field is most important factor contributing to storm surge. Irene's going to be pushing quite a bit of water.
Member Since: September 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
1383. CaneHunter031472
4:10 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
On a different note, plenty of moisture ahead of this wave.

Member Since: August 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 193
1382. kilgores97
4:09 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
Quoting kshipre1:
weather channel showing Irene is now moving NW at 12mph


That was the 11am update....
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 72
1381. SPLbeater
4:08 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
WOW

Morphin into a monsta! I can see 125 in 2 PM, Irene pullin this out after all
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4486
1380. KrazyKaneLove
4:07 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
My biggest concern would be a dramatic shift of the cone that encompasses the E. coast of fla. again. If that did happen we would see mass chaos at the gas pumps and stores with such a large population at the last minute. I have seen it happen too many times. She needs to start turning
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 429
1379. keisa90
4:06 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
As if things couldn't get any hotter. From the NWS Houston...

THE UPPER RIDGE NUDGES CLOSER AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT... EVEN HOTTER TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED. A CONVERGENCE OF DRY AND SUBSIDENT AIR WILL LEAD TO INTENSE AFTERNOON HIGH TEMPERATURES ON FRIDAY AND AGAIN SATURDAY. THE NAM 12 2 METER TEMPS ARE PROGGED TO REACH 111 DEGREES ON FRIDAY AT CLL AND 109 AT HOUSTON.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 194
1378. charlottefl
4:06 PM GMT on August 24, 2011
I will say this much for everyone living in FL, GA, SC, NC. Even if the storm does not make a direct landfall on your location, it is important to remember that outer rain bands in tropical systems already contain some level of rotation due to the spin of the storm. Small short lived tornadoes are not out of the question as the storm makes it's closest approach to your respective areas. Just something to keep in mind..
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2686

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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.

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