Powerful Category 3 Irene enters the Bahamas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:49 PM GMT on August 24, 2011

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Powerful Category 3 Hurricane Irene stormed through the Turks and Caicos Islands overnight, bringing hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, and storm surge flooding. On Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where half of the population of these islands live, winds reached a sustained 65 mph at a personal weather station at Pine Cay, and the pressure bottomed out at 989 mb. The eyewall of Irene missed the island, with the center of the storm passing about 60 miles to the southwest. The center of Irene passed about 60 miles to the northwest of Grand Inagua Island, and Category 1 hurricane conditions were probably experienced on that island. Damage in the Turks and Caicos is likely to be much less than the $50 - $200 million wrought by Category 4 Hurricane Ike of 2008, since Irene's eyewall missed populated islands.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Irene.

Monday, Irene hit Puerto Rico as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, but reached hurricane strength as it emerged into the Atlantic northwest of the capital of San Juan. One drowning death is being reported from the island, and the storm dumped up to 20 inches of rain in some areas. About 11% of the island was still without power this morning, and numerous roads were closed due to flooding and landslides. Irene did an estimated $17 million in damage to agriculture and $2 million to ports in Puerto Rico. Satellite estimates suggest that Irene has brought only 1 - 2 inches of rain to Haiti. With Irene now pulling away from Hispaniola, Haiti can expect only another 1 - 2 inches from the hurricane, and appears to have dodged a major bullet. Heavy rains of 3 - 6 inches were common across the Dominican Republic, where moderate flooding but no deaths occurred.


Track forecast for Irene
Continuing dropsonde missions by the NOAA jet have helped to significantly narrow the uncertainty in the 1 - 3 day forecasts from the computer models. Irene will track through the central Bahamas today, the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday, and approach the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Friday. However, the models still diverge considerably on their 4 - 5 days forecasts, and we don't know if Irene will plow up the mid-Atlantic coast into New Jersey, as the GFDL model is predicting, hit New England between Long Island, NY and Massachusetts, as the ECMWF, GFS, and HWRF models are predicting, or miss the U.S. and hit Canada, as the NOGAPS model is predicting.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Latest data from the Hurricane Hunters shows that Irene has paused in its intensification cycle. A gap has opened in the eyewall, and the central pressure has remained constant at 956 - 957 mb over the past few hours. However, the hurricane is embedded in a large envelope of moisture, and wind shear is expected to remain low to moderate, 5 - 20 knots, for the next three days. With water temperatures very warm, 28 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification to a Category 4 storm sometime in the next two days. Satellite loops show that Irene is well-organized, with excellent upper-level outflow, and impressive spiral banding.

Irene's impact on the Bahama Islands
Irene is making a direct hit on Crooked Island (population 350) in the Bahamas, and will continue west-northwest and hit Rum Cay (population 80) and Cat Island (population 1700) late tonight. These unfortunate islands will bear the full brunt of Irene's 115+ mph winds and 8 - 13 foot storm surge, and suffer major damage that will take months to recover from. Major damage is also likely on Long Island (population 3000) and San Salvador Island (population 1000.) Shortly after midnight tonight, winds at the capital of Nassau, home to 70% of the population of the Bahamas, will rise above tropical storm force, and increase through the night. By late morning on Thursday, sustained winds will peak on Nassau at just below hurricane force, 60 - 70 mph. Nassau will miss the brunt of the storm, and I expect the airport should be able to re-open on Friday. Winds on Grand Bahama Island in Freeport will rise above tropical storm force late Thursday morning, and increase to a peak of 45 - 60 mph late Thursday afternoon. Grand Bahama will also miss the brunt of the storm, but Abaco Island to its east will likely experience Category 2 hurricane conditions Thursday afternoon. However, Abaco will probably miss the right front eyewall of Irene with the strongest winds and highest storm surge.


Figure 2. Wind distibution around Irene as of 1330 UTC (9:30am EDT) August 24, 2011. Irene was a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds at the time. Hurricane force winds (yellow colors) extended over Crooked Island to the storm's northwest, and over Mayaguana Island to the east. Image credit: NOAA/AOML. Irene is a large storm, and its potential storm surge damage rated 3.9 on a scale of 0 to 6, with its wind damage potential rated at 2.5 on a scale of 0 to 6.

Irene's impact on the Southeast U.S.
Long-period ocean swells from Irene will reach the coast from Florida to North Carolina tonight, and continue to build as the storm approaches. The outermost rainbands of the hurricane will reach South Florida by Thursday morning, and spread over much of the eastern coastal portion of Florida during the day Thursday. If Irene follows the official NHC forecast through the Bahama Islands, the storm's expected radius of tropical storm-force winds of 130 - 170 miles will keep tropical storm conditions just off the east coast of Florida. Sustained winds of 20 - 30 mph can be expected along the coast of Florida during Irene's point of closest approach, and rainfall amounts of 1 - 2" will be common along the coast. Georgia, which could use the rain, will get very little. It is unlikely any airport in Florida or Georgia will need to close for Irene.

Late Friday night or early Saturday morning, Irene's outer spiral bands will move over the southern coast of North Carolina and the northeastern portion of South Carolina, and tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph will arrive. Winds will steadily increase to hurricane force on the Outer Banks by Saturday night. The main damage from Irene in North Carolina will come from the storm's flooding rains of 4 - 12" that will fall in coastal areas. Fortunately, this region is under moderate to severe drought, so the damage will not be as severe as that experienced during Hurricane Floyd of 1999. Significant wind damage can be expected in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and considerable storm surge damage may occur along the shores of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. If Irene's eye misses making landfall in North Carolina, total damage from the storm should be less than $200 million, and could be considerably less than that.


Figure 3. Sea surface temperatures for August 24, 2011. Temperatures of 26°C (79°F) are typically needed for a hurricane to maintain its strength (black line). This boundary lies just off the southern coast of New Jersey this year, which is much farther north than usual.


Figure 4. Predicted 5-day rainfall for the period ending Monday morning, August 29, at 8am EDT. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Irene's impact on the mid-Atlantic and New England
The impact of Irene on the mid-Atlantic and New England is highly uncertain at this point, because we don't know if the core of the storm will miss the coast or not. In general, the heaviest rains will fall along a 100-mile swath just to the west of where the center tracks, and the worst wind and storm surge damage will occur to the east. If the core of Irene stays offshore, the mid-Atlantic and New England may escape with a few hundred million dollars in damage from flooding due to heavy rains and storm surge. If Irene hits Long Island or Southeast Massachusetts, the storm has the potential to be a $10 billion disaster. Irene is one of those rare storms that has the potential to make landfall in New England as a Category 2 or stronger hurricane. It is difficult for a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane crossing north of North Carolina to maintain that intensity, because wind shear rapidly increases and ocean temperatures plunge below the 26°C (79°F) level that can support a hurricane. We do expect wind shear to rapidly increase to a high 30 - 50 knots once Irene pushes north of Delaware, which should knock the storm down by at least 15 - 30 mph before it reaches New England. However, this year sea surface temperatures 1 - 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to Southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can. During the month of July, ocean temperature off the mid-Atlantic coast (35°N - 40°N, 75°W - 70°W) averaged 2.6°F (1.45°C) above average, the second highest July ocean temperatures since record keeping began over a century ago (the record was 3.8°F above average, set in 2010.) These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces. The latest precipitation forecast from NOAA's Hydrological prediction center shows that Irene could dump over 8 inches of rain over coastal New England.


Figure 5. Soil moisture profiles from yesterday show that a region of very moist soils ranking in the top 1% in recorded history (dark green colors) lie over northern New Jersey, Southeast New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/CPC.

Tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains will move into Eastern Virginia Saturday afternoon, and push northwards to Delaware and coastal Maryland by late Saturday night. Tropical moisture through a deep layer of the atmosphere will also stream well ahead of Irene into New England on Saturday afternoon and evening, bringing what is called a "Predecessor Rain Event" (PRE). The Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia airports will be right at the edge of the heavy rain and high wind area, and it currently appears they will not have to close for an extended period. The Philadelphia and New York City airports may not be as lucky, and it is possible they will suffer extended closures Sunday morning and afternoon. By late Sunday night, Irene's rains will move north of New York City, allowing the airports to re-open. The highest potential for damaging fresh-water flooding is in northern New Jersey, Southeast New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania, where soil moisture is near record high levels, and there is nowhere for the rain to go (Figure 5.) Heavy rains of 4 - 12" are likely across all of coastal New England if Irene passes within 100 miles of shore.

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.

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave far out in the eastern Atlantic about 200 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, Invest 90L, is showing signs of organization. NHC is giving this disturbance a 50% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Friday. Several of our models do develop 90L into a tropical storm by early next week, but long-range models are showing that this system will not be a threat to any land areas over the next seven days, and will probably move too far north to ever be a threat to land.

Internet radio show on Irene at 4:30pm EDT today
I'll be discussing Hurricane Irene on a special edition of our Internet radio show, the Daily Downpour, today (Wednesday) at 4:30pm EDT. Fellow wunderground meteorologists Shaun Tanner, Tim Roche, and Angela Fritz will also be there. Listeners can email in or call in questions. The email address to ask questions is broadcast@wunderground.com.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting superweatherman:
Does anyone have a clue when this High pressure in Texas may move or come to an end... 105F this weekend in Houston...We need a Hurricane over hear.. at this point i don't care if we have another Ike.


I live in Houston as well and the NWS is now saying the high Friday is 107! If we had another Ike, not only would it cause mass flooding, but just imagine the amount of trees down from Ike and multiply that by 2 or 3 and that is what you are looking at. The soil here is so dry and all the Trees are extremely dry. If you have sustained 100-110 mph winds for a few hours every tree will be destroyed. Instead of being without power for 2-3 weeks after Ike it would me months before they could get all the lines back up. With this Heat, I will gladly pass on that. We do need week TS to come in here though and drop about 10-15 inches of rain in 2 days. It would cause some flooding but it won't be near as bad as what we have seen in the past!
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Here's a short video of Irene from her formative stage until now:

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bet everyones ought of elbow key
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Member Since: August 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 535
Quoting Grandpato4:


Imagine me sitting here in Atlantic Beach with a house boarded up. I have already had neighbors laughing and telling me I boarded up for an afternoon sea breeze.
It is always better to be prepared, safe and able to relax, than scrambling around, fighting crowds, pushing yourself with not enough time and generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Especially in an area that is unfamiliar with what riding out a hurricane is really like.

People in Houston talked like that pre-Ike, they don't talk like that anymore.
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634. DVG
WxLogic...Appreciate you answering.

I waited to se if it was going to flatten out and dissipate, but it doesn't seem ready to do that. Guess we just wait.
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Irene looks good...i was waiting on her to finally get this nice looking but wasnt really thinking Wednesday for it, lol
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Good question.

Anyway, it's most likely just going to reinforce the weakness to Irene's north. It certainly wouldn't influence a track any farther to the west.


What terrifies me is that Irene will go just west enough to nick OBX and head straight into the NYC/Boston/DC metro area. Generally the southerners are more prepared for this, versus the New Englanders.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Good question.

Anyway, it's most likely just going to reinforce the weakness to Irene's north. It certainly wouldn't influence a track any farther to the west.


To expound upon this a little further...

If Irene were farther north right now, she would probably be in the same location as the upper low. If the steering currents didn't change, Irene would most likely end up where the upper low is currently. However, since the steering is going to keep changing as the trof approaches from the west and the high breaks down to the east, Irene's path will be farther east than the upper low as the steering currents are basically the same all the way up to 200mb. I think that gives us a good clue as to where Irene will eventually go.
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Afternoon all.

Once again, had another OPCON mtg here at work for the "just in case." Better to be prepared just in case Irene decides to not take a sharp turn to the N.
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Quoting odinslightning:



speaking of katrina, remember what NHC/NOAA/TWC said after the cat 1 landfall across florida?

aaahh dont worry anyone in the GOM.....Katrina will die over land as you sleep....



lmfao...


but yet the word of NHC is gospel,.....right?
Well, frankly, if I had to choose, right now, I'd love to take NHC over some other, much worse scenarios. And frankly, since Irene got about 1/2 way down the coast of Hispaniola, the NHC has been giving some pretty good word. Track sure has been 90% on through TCI and Bahamas so far...
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BLOG UPDATE:

Hurricane Irene Video Blog
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 57 Comments: 566
Quoting pottery:
It must be Scary as Crap on Crooked Island right now.....
Prayers for the people there.

Me thinks they are F_____.

Is Portlight going to help? If so does he take pay pal? I got a couple of 20s. Aint much but could help some.
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T.C.F.A.
XX/INV/90L
MARK
XX.XXN/XX.XXW
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52165
Quoting zingo:
The city of Charleston, SC does not believe in trimming or cutting down trees. They have people on the city payroll that does nothing but map a tree for the city. You cut one, you pay dearly. Thousands of dollars. You can go to the city and ask permission to trim or cut down a tree. Go thought months of waiting and then getting a ruling. Power lines in this town are the worst I have ever seen. Hwy 17 trees downtown were trimmed last year some. It wouldn't take much of a storm to lose power there for some time. I have never understand why this city is that way.


pretty much hit the nail on the head...esp if it is an oak or magnolia tree...some are sooooo bad that the power lines are now imbedded in the limbs and it is correct that you must have a permit to cut any branch over 6 inches...just went thru that last year with 2 oak trees in my yard...the trees down hwy 61 toward summerville are like driving thru tunnels on the road...lines embedded in them...we do NOT need a storm like Irene
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3599
ROFL ---

Hi Pottery!

Viking - You have Mail.
Quoting pottery:

I am surprised that people dont get Sued for Libel and Defamation of character around here....
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New micro-wave pass...

it's kind of low-def to say anything definite, but from this alone it kind of looks like the inner eyewall is collapsing and being replaced by the secondary wind maxima.

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Quoting WxLogic:


Hopefully I'm not wrong, but then again I could be given that Met offices do have higher resolution products than those disseminated to the Public, but I've noticed in some run that goes through a path from A to Z but yet when you look at a site such as the one you've presented or the SFMWD Model page... you see the same track but shifted.

Just an observation and like I mentioned it could pretty well be to the resolution we're allowed to see.


I have not noticed any significant differences, but I will look out for it. One thing I noticed about SFWMD is they sometimes show the CMCI track but have labled it as the CMC.
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Quoting NYX:

Yeah, we actually got the warning as it was coming onshore.  Pretty useless by then.  I drove on my way home from work through the developing core on the Florida Turnpike where a truck flipped over right in front of me.  Not a pleasant experience.


Yep -- pulled up in front of my house just as the rains started -- was not a happy camper.
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Quoting TBird78:


Carl Parker is a crackhead. (No joke.) We had him in Houston and he could barely predict when the sun would come up or go down.


I am surprised that people dont get Sued for Libel and Defamation of character around here....
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I disagree with it strengthening any more, Its coming into some dry air to the north, as well as some shearing to the north.




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Quoting reedzone:


Well storms like to go under or north of ULLs depending on their location. In this case, Irene is further south of the ULL, and if the ULL does not weaken, Irene would continue heading NW/WNW with west wobbles. The ULL has to move away and weaken in order for "the turn" to occur. It makes the forecast really difficult and challenging.


Hey Reed, Did any models forcast that ULL to be there? I'm guessing not... Also did you see the latest CMC run blows up another Low pressure out near Bermuda only to have it do a Fujiwara with Irene from NC up to Long Island. I know its the CMC but still
Member Since: February 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1403
Quoting Mucinex:


What I was talking about was this. ;)

Quoting CycloneBoy:Ummm, Katrina hit Florida...

369. Beachfoxx 5:24 PM GMT on August 24, 2011 +1
Not directly, but the impact from Katrina caused flooding & serious beach erosion along the FLORIDA PanHandle.






Katrina came directly across North Dade, took a left, mosied through Dade County and decided it didn't like the keys and left.

And, as it was twisting and turning, my house was on the turn point.

3 sets of doors blown in, about a foot of water in the upstair rooms, to say nothing of the rest of the outside stuff that didn't count enough to worry about it.
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614. jpsb
Quoting CloudGatherer:
I'm far more concerned in where this storm is predicted to go than where it's not.
Me too, and just a little west of predicted would be even worse.
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Quoting photomunkey:
The models I've seen today are treating the low off the coast of SC/NC with a bit of Fujiwara Effect action, assuming Irene will make a little rotation east then north in a counter-clockwise fashion. That's interesting.


Any possibility it would get slung into NC? cuz i really would NOT like that to happen!
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300 Tanner27 "Could someone post a map which shws the path as I am having a hard time on my Mac pulling up views. I am in Ft.Laud and concerned as I can tell she hasn't turned."

If you want a question answered, don't SHOUT (I retyped your message). Most folks assume you're trolling when ya use all caps, then ignore ya.
If you have vision problems, go into View and make your font size larger.

And Irene has turned... from Texas-bound...

...to Florida-bound

Are you feeling better?

* Mixed the latest NHC coordinate in with the older ATCF coordinates.
'll do an actual mapping when the 6pmGMT_ATCF comes out
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Two things at work here for the possibility of TS winds to the FL coast with 78W being the mark.

1 = Forward Speed

2 = Turn NNW @ 2512Z (Tomorrow 8am)

Both are interrelated.
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It must be Scary as Crap on Crooked Island right now.....
Prayers for the people there.
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Quoting Ryuujin:


What do you think of the ULL on top of Irene ATM, Mississippi? What kind of an impact will it have on steering, if any?


Good question.

Anyway, it's most likely just going to reinforce the weakness to Irene's north. It certainly wouldn't influence a track any farther to the west.
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Quoting Ryuujin:


What do you think of the ULL on top of Irene ATM, Mississippi? What kind of an impact will it have on steering, if any?


Yes, I would like one of the seasoned veterans on here to give some synopis on this.
Member Since: August 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 535
FYI
The History channel will have a show on 6pm EDT, about what could happen if a Cat3 hit New York City. I caught the last 15 min. this morning. It looked interesting.
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Quoting TropicalXprt:


actually it does mean that. Make sure you research your cool buzzwords before using them.

"On even smaller scales, factors such as topography and internal oscillations can play a role in storm motion."

See that part where it says "CAN PLAY A ROLE IN STORM MOTION".

Of course they "can" play a role in eventual storm track, I am referring to general motion my friend the general or average motion of Irene over the last few hours has been west-northwest to northwest. I am fully aware of what your little "buzzword" means and implies!!!
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 57 Comments: 566
Quoting Grandpato4:


No, this is based on a wind radius map that someone posted. My area is not even close to the 50 knot line.


You are at Atlantic Beach, a South facing barrier Island, right (if my memory serves me.)?

Assuming the wind field projection you saw this far out turns out to be correct, what about the potential for storm surge and over-wash? When Ike came in East of Galveston the storm surge came in from the BACK SIDE of the island sooner than people expected and caused many needless deaths.

It sounds like you have things as secure as you can and you have a safe place to visit. We aren't going to talk you out of doing the sensible and safe thing.
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Quoting 7544:
looks like irene is moving north at this hour


304 degress is not even close to north
Member Since: August 14, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 535
I think we need DestinJeff to provide some Homer-relief.
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601. NYX

Quoting MississippiWx:


Yeah, uh, the NHC never stated Katrina would die over Florida...
Yeah, we actually got the warning as it was coming onshore.  Pretty useless by then.  I drove on my way home from work through the developing core on the Florida Turnpike where a truck flipped over right in front of me.  Not a pleasant experience.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Not sure what you mean by smoothed out, there is a data point every six hours.


Hopefully I'm not wrong, but then again I could be given that Met offices do have higher resolution products than those disseminated to the Public, but I've noticed in some run that goes through a path from A to Z but yet when you look at a site such as the one you've presented or the SFMWD Model page... you see the same track but shifted.

Just an observation and like I mentioned it could pretty well be to the resolution we're allowed to see.
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Quoting SCwannabe:


Consider the source...he read it off of a cue card...like he really knows


Carl Parker is a crackhead. (No joke.) We had him in Houston and he could barely predict when the sun would come up or go down.

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Houses being boarded up in my neighborhood in Nags Head already. I think its a little too soon for this, especially if it keeps heading East...
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Quoting WeafhermanNimmy:



That means Charleston, SC is possible.


this is IF it remains on that heading with ABSOLUTELY no bend to the north...it would bring it closer to the shore...but it would have to remain on that heading and storms wobble and feel troughs etc...
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3599
Hey Dog!
Good to see you!
Watching & Sweating here too... although not as hot as you guys.
Nothing like a big Cane to bring us all out of the wood work.
Really watching Irene closely, have lots of friends on the outer banks... hoping they are making preps, getting boats secured, etc...

Quoting oreodogsghost:
Hey there foxx! Watching and sweating (not the storm, the heat) in Houston.
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FWIW,

The GOM is mostly filled with 31C waters right now and the areas closer to land are mostly 32C (topping out the scale). The Caribbean has warmed significantly and is 29-30C, with the 30C water temps trying to take over.

Let's hope the pattern we've had most of the year continues through the heart of hurricane season.

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Quoting MississippiWx:
Future Jose could become a hurricane as well...Looks like he will go out to sea, though.

By the way, Irene's equatorial outflow channel is crazy.



What do you think of the ULL on top of Irene ATM, Mississippi? What kind of an impact will it have on steering, if any?
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593. zingo
The city of Charleston, SC does not believe in trimming or cutting down trees. They have people on the city payroll that does nothing but map a tree for the city. You cut one, you pay dearly. Thousands of dollars. You can go to the city and ask permission to trim or cut down a tree. Go thought months of waiting and then getting a ruling. Power lines in this town are the worst I have ever seen. Hwy 17 trees downtown were trimmed last year some. It wouldn't take much of a storm to lose power there for some time. I have never understand why this city is that way.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


SHIPS

Prob of RI for 25 kt RI threshold= 41% is 3.2 times the sample mean(12.8%)
Prob of RI for 30 kt RI threshold= 36% is 4.3 times the sample mean( 8.4%)
Prob of RI for 35 kt RI threshold= 30% is 6.0 times the sample mean( 5.0%)
Prob of RI for 40 kt RI threshold= 1% is 0.3 times the sample mean( 3.4%)



Thanks :)
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Storm structure is getting much better... outflow is improving on the west side, and the storm is getting more symmetrical.

According to The Weather Channel, the latest SHIPS model is now giving Irene a 1/3 chance of reaching category 5.

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590. 7544
looks like irene is moving north at this hour
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About JeffMasters

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