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Dangerous Tropical Storm Irene headed for the Dominican Republic

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on August 21, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene roared into life last night, transitioning from a tropical wave to a 50 mph tropical storm in just a few short hours. Irene is getting organized quickly, and has the potential to become a hurricane by Monday morning. All interests in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida should prepare for the arrival of this dangerous storm. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the strongest winds near 18°N latitude to the north of Irene's center at 8am this morning. After passing through the center, the plane returned to the area of strongest winds two hours later, and found that flight level winds at 5,000 feet had increased by about 5 - 8 mph. However, the pressure in the latest center fix taken at 10am EDT remained the same as two hours previously, 1007 mb, and the plane noted that Irene's center was not circular, signs that the storm still has some work to do before serious intensification can begin. Visible satellite loops and radar out of Martinique show the storm has rapidly organized this morning, with well-developed spiral bands forming and a large area of intense thunderstorms to the north of the center. Irene has shrugged off the dry air that was bothering it yesterday, and wind shear has fallen to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Torrential rains and strong gusty winds are affecting the northern Lesser Antilles this morning. A wind gust of 41 mph was recorded at St. Eustatius at 8am local time.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Irene.

Track forecast for Irene
The computer models are in agreement that Irene will pass just south of Puerto Rico tonight, then hit the south coast of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic or Haiti on Monday afternoon. Irene should then emerge into the channel between Haiti and Cuba on Tuesday afternoon, when the storm will have 12 or so hours over water before having to contend with Cuba. A trough of low pressure is expected to move across the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday and Thursday, turning Irene to the northwest and north by Thursday. The timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when Irene will turn to the north. Irene's strength will also matter--a stronger Irene is more likely to turn northward earlier. The most likely path for Irene is a track just east of the Florida Peninsula and into Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina by next weekend, but a landfall near Miami then directly up the Florida Peninsula is also a reasonable solution--like Tropical Storm Fay of 2008 did. Fay formed just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and was never quite able to get organized enough to become a hurricane, due to passage over Hispaniola and Cuba. Fay topped out as a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and did over $500 million in damage in the U.S., mostly due to flooding rains in Florida that accumulated to over 25 inches in a few areas. Fay also dumped heavy rains on Hispaniola, triggering flooding that claimed eight lives.


Figure 2. Track of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008.

Intensity forecast for Irene
Irene is embedded in a large envelope of moisture now, and wind shear will remain low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. With water temperatures very warm, 28 - 30°C, these conditions should allow for intensification except when land is interfering. Irene's current appearance on satellite loops gives me the impression of a storm that is not fooling around, and I expect Irene will be a hurricane before hitting Hispaniola on Monday. Passage over Hispaniola will not destroy Irene, since it is a fairly large storm. Once the storm finishes with Hispaniola, it will have to deal with Cuba, which will keep Irene from intensifying significantly. Once Irene pops off the coast of Cuba Wednesday or Thursday into the Florida Straits, Irene will likely be a tropical storm. If the storm then has at least a day over water before hitting land, it will likely become a hurricane again, and could become a major hurricane if it ends up missing South Florida and moving over the warm waters on either side of the Florida Peninsula.

Harvey hits Belize
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall at 2pm EDT on Saturday near Dangriga Town, Belize, as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. Harvey continues to dump very heavy rains on southern Mexico, but dissipation is expected tonight as the storm pushes inland. Harvey was a small storm, and the strongest winds were confined to a short stretch of coast near where the center came ashore. Winds at Belize City, Belize on Saturday topped out at 15 mph.


Figure 3. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Invest 98L northwest of the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave few hundred miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, has become disorganized and lost most of its heavy thunderstorms. The disturbance is moving over colder waters and encountering drier air, and NHC is giving 98L only a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday. The latest set of model runs keep 98L well out to sea away from any land areas over the next five days.

Links
Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Quoting Relix:
8:00 PM AST Sun Aug 21
Location: 17.8°N 64.9°W
Max sustained: 60 mph
Moving: WNW at 15 mph
Min pressure: 995 mb
Are you ready?
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Link

Tourists standing on the St. Croix pier. Typical.
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3971. zparkie
sorry about the bad spelling my keyboard was sliding, getting nervous about property damage here.
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GFDL 18z run . . .
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12z JMA

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3966. das8929
What on earth??

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Reed Timmer just f/b'd that a large tornado has reportedly destroyed an Ontario town...crazy!
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3964. wpb
gfdl 18z run stays on the same idea.
cross hispanola eastern cuba ex s fla.

this model has a long pass across hispanola
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Quoting alvarig1263:


I live in South Florida, in Naples. And at this point I still look at the computer models but the NHC track is the official track and I'm going with the NHC on this one. Too much uncertainty, guess we'll all just have to wait for Irene to play out through the week....


I live S. FL, in Deerfield Beach 1/2 from the Atlantic. Have my eye on Irene, but seems that the shifting models mean we are more likely to get just outer bands. Starting some pre prep tonight just in case.
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3962. zparkie
are these forcasters sure about the strength? this storm looks like a locomotive with no hit of decreasing strength, only gaining strength, who pissed irene off?
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Quoting das8929:
Whoa.. GFDL sends it deep into the Gulf???



it this started
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Some pretty decent winds being found even in the weaker side of the cyclone (western semicircle). Pressure down to 1001.9mb as they approach the circulation.

235830 1755N 06523W 8434 01502 0019 +178 +165 027043 044 049 006 00
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Tornado heading towards Greenfield, Massachusetts, look out.
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3956. das8929
Whoa.. GFDL sends it deep into the Gulf???
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3955. WxLogic
@66HR ...

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3954. Patrap
Enhanced Infrared (IR) Imagery (4 km Mercator)
AL092011 - Tropical Storm IRENE

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3952. das8929
18Z GFDL still hitting southwest Florida
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Quoting WCSCTVCharleston:
Again I cant even remember the amount of times a storm this far out has Charleston SC in its path and it always goes to nc or out to sea


Bill?!
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3950. jonelu
Quoting HurricaneIrene:
Alguien tiene la estacion de Ada Monzon de PR? Quisiera verla en vivo, si es posible.>
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

No school :D
There's some gusty winds (20mph?) but not much rain yet.


Okay keep us up to date ill bbl
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3947. Patrap
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Not saying it's going to happen, but whenever these cyclones get entangled with the barrier islands I think of this storm.
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warning: The following is graphic material and may not be suitable for young wishcasters. Parent wishcasters may want to consider not allowing their child wishcasters to view.
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Link
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Link
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3945. zparkie
it shows land fall in Boca Raton, FL, could be cat 2 or 3 by then with those warm waters out there, it has been extremley hot this year, I live in south florida and my pool is like warm bath water.
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Harvey looks like it has a good shot at getting back to TS status.
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Charlotte Amalie, VI reporting winds of 37mph and gusts of 55mph. Link

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Quoting weatherh98:


No school for you iwould guess haha... no wind or rain???


No school :D
There's some gusty winds (20mph?) but not much rain yet.
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3940. msphar
North side of Vieques reports 14 kts. NE with gusts to 22 kts.
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Quoting CharsletonAsrock:



I think i saw him say power was going out earlier, could be wrong though.



You're right. He said power was going out and he would be back on when he could be.
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Impossible...it can't


Quoting aquak9:


from looking at rgb, I totally agree. So then, how is it gonna skirt over the NORTHERN part of hispaniola, given it's present location?

TIA, hahaha
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3937. JLPR2
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

You asked? Pretty quite ATM.


You got quiet conditions? Its gotten breezy here with decent gusts every once in awhile. I'm hearing the palm trees swinging around outside. And just now started raining too.
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3936. WxLogic
@30HR

Land interaction with DR disrupts Irene:

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reports from st croix its no hugo just a cocktail party
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3933. Patrap
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve

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see you all later tomorrow morning will be intresting
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:

Stop scaring people, I know you have not been here long. It's one of several model runs, it WILL change.


I dont really think he is scaring people.
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Still

9-0-0
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Quoting Patrap:


Keep those images coming my friend. Very helpful!
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

You asked? Pretty quite ATM.


No school for you iwould guess haha... no wind or rain???

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55.0 knots (~ 63.2 mph)
Tropical Storm
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Quoting hahaguy:
Seems the models have Irene taking a pretty sharp turn north. I thought it was going to turn it north gradually?
not buying the sharp n turn yet
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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