Dangerous Tropical Storm Irene headed for the Dominican Republic

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

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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.

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Long-range radar out of Puerto Rico

Jeff Masters

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Quoting presslord:


ask Wednesday morning and you can get a far more meaningful answer...
ok, I was just worried if this is one of those "overhyped" storms (Hurricane Earl in 2010 for example.)
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7898
Quoting TerraNova:
Interesting eye-like feature there...

not really buying it with those outflow boundaries on the SE quadrant
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1520. Walshy
Quoting ncstorm:


I didnt get that out of his video..but okay


I did not either. Hugo track took it inland from Charlotte to Tennessee. Something the GFS does not show. More of a hard swipe and that coast and north it goes.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Let's all hope that the NHC forecast for this storm comes to pass.No one needs to be dealing with a major hurricane anywhere in this economy.

Exactly, I know I can't afford to even properly "board up" before a major storm. I'd have to just evacuate my family to the nearest shelter and hope I had a home to come home too. Insurance premiums and high hurricane deductibles are a big concern to me and I'm sure others. My understanding now, or it's in the works is that the insurance companies want to see proof that the homeowner has shelled out in repairs an amount equal to the deductible before they will covere any other repair.n. Catch 22, if this is true. Any FL agents care to clarify or know anything about this.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
PINHOLE EYE!


Hold on folks...that zoomed in image that you posted...man that is OMINOUS...this may be the rapid formation of an eye! (look at the way the clouds are around this new eye.....

Irene...what are you doing?!
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Great picture Weathernurd. That does indeed look like an eye trying to form. If it is, it would be further south than I expected though.
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I agree....the storm has many hurdles ahead and there is no way it can avoid land interaction which will weaken it and tend to be steered farther west. People need to stop with the knee jerk reactions to the models...;


Quoting tampahurricane:
My philosophy on what could happen with this storm, is that it stays at its current strength then hits PR. Hitting PR will disrupt the storm a little. Afterward it hist Dominican Republic/Haiti, don't think it will make a direct hit but enough to keep the storm from strengthening. Now that its a weaker storm than the models are showing, i think the trough will have less impact on the weaker storm, which I'm assuming that's whats the GFDL is doing with the storm. Any thoughts?
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1514. NASA101
120 hrs - 12Z EURO...952 mbs

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
hmmm... but does it have GOOD chance of hitting Carolinas unlike other hurricanes? I'm just very concerned about my aunt's family in Charleston, SC.


ask Wednesday morning and you can get a far more meaningful answer...
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Interesting eye-like feature there...

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Eye? When I see hot towers going up...I'll buy in...
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1510. MZT
Quoting tampahurricane:
My philosophy on what could happen with this storm, is that it stays at its current strength then hits PR.
It's really the million dollar question right now "What does it do at the Domincan Republic?"

Landfall or skirt north, or avoid altogether... start the speculation there and it has wide ranging implications for what part of the east coast is threatened.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
PINHOLE EYE!



sure dos look like a eye is in fac froming
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thats an eye forming right NOW
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Quoting scott39:
Please explain more.


As I understand it there are upper level patterns that steer these storms from the top.....although a really powerful storm can make its own way. StormW used these charts to figure out his forecasts, and I believe that they are a essentially a pressure map of a certain level of the atmosphere. Levi32 can talk about this I am sure....
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
979mb in 72 hours. Just like the GFS, it depicts little in the way of land interaction.


Less land to get in her way means more time over those pipen hot waters.
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1505. 7544
thats a real eye right
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6690
Quoting ncstorm:


I didnt get that out of his video..but okay


what i got from his video was a push back to the west should -happen this is exactly what he said yesterday -it looks like he has it spot on to me !
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nevere mine
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Quoting LongGlassTube:


One thing for certain the normal FISHCASTERS will get no audience with this one. There will be east coast WISHCASTERS though. Millions will be wishing for it to hit somewhere else.

Block ice is what you want by the way. Fill some plastic tubs, ice cream buckets, etc., with water and freeze them. Lasts days longer than cubes.


yeah, i have juice jugs for that...but the cubed ice does it on its own all night long lol...plus my hub is an electrician...i will be filling the gatorade coolers with it for the guys cuz they will be working non stop if one does hit

Hey ya SJ...sorry, blog is flying
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Hey, Levi32/MississippiWx? I have my mom's family living in Charleston, SC right now and we are very concerned about this. Do you think this will eventually curves out like many other hurricanes, or that high pressure in mid-Atlantic forcing a hurricane into Florida/Carolinas this time? I'm just worry if this is one of those "overhyped" East Coast storm (Earl for example last year...)
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 7898
While we're tracking Irene, here's a flashback to Doc M's analog storm TS Fay. While only a TS, it did manage to enact quite a bit of damage and also strengthened over land which is rare. Click the link below...

Remembering Tropical Storm Fay
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Dude...I lived in Raleigh during Fran...that is exactly how I got into hurricanes...and why Irene is giving me the creeps...if this storm does indeed only graze N side of Hispaniola like Levi said it could....this could be Raleigh's next Fran.....I can't believe I am seeing this...but if it happened before...it can happen again....

You and me both dude. I am still trying to get my family to take this seriously, they been blowin off most what i tell them.
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Loooonnnnggg story short, we have better baseball players. :0)

Quoting PCBBum:
Then why did the beat us in the olympics in baseball?
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1497. Patrap
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1496. scott39
It is unwise to follow only the center track on the NHC Cone. It is even more unwise to speculate who is going to get hit and who is not. A track over 3 days is subject to LARGE ERRORS, that is why the cone is sooo wide. The NHC is always your best resource for information of an approaching TC.
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so, where did all these people come from it wasnt quite so crowded a couple of days ago
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1494. Stats56
Quoting Bluestorm5:
but Charleston is right on sea level. Storm surge can crush the city off the map. I'm from Charleston and I know it will have major problems with Category 4.


Doesn't have to be a Cat 4. Ike was a Cat 2 wirh Cat 4 storm surge, IIRC.
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Quoting FLdewey:


The cone should shift East... but I'm sure FL will still be coned. (Official term)


Ok, Thanks... Being in NE FLA too I am wanting to start some prepping like rushing to the gas station and filling my gas cans for my 2 generators, buying a few more batteries things like that to hopefully beat the rush LOL!
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1492. JP2010
This is the flood map for Charleston!

href="http://https://arcims.redcross.org/website/ m aps/images/SouthCarolina/SC019S05.png"
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PINHOLE EYE!
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Looks like the center will graze the S coast of PR.

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Still not entirely convinced that's an eye.

We'll know better once we get radar on that area from PR.
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Clearly Irene continues more west than north. I do not see any committment to go more north at this time and I think it is way too early to given any kind of all clear that this storm will move east of Florida. Models will change and they will probably trend more west again.
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What the heck?

Small "eye" pops out at the very end of this frame...

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/flt/t2/flash-vis.htm l

What?! Well...to be honest...this is one sat. frame..and I am waiting to see this "eye" persist on the next frames before I personally call this an eye...
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good old johon hop

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My philosophy on what could happen with this storm, is that it stays at its current strength then hits PR. Hitting PR will disrupt the storm a little. Afterward it hist Dominican Republic/Haiti, don't think it will make a direct hit but enough to keep the storm from strengthening. Now that its a weaker storm than the models are showing, i think the trough will have less impact on the weaker storm, which I'm assuming that's whats the GFDL is doing with the storm. Any thoughts?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Holy eye!


ya i noticed the hurricane hunters are going back to the storm at 7 pm eastern time...
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Quoting weatherxtreme:
I am confused now with all the wishcasting..."it's going to NC,GA,SC etc... so will florida be out of the cone now at 5pm?

Enough already. You'll know who is/isn't in the cone at 5pm.
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Quoting WhereIsTheStorm:
>


Geez...What the heck is up with all that code WITS?
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1481. wpb
Quoting WxLogic:
Well GFDL is seeing another possibility if it remains weak... which track wise I agree given that Irene will face land interaction.

a path across hispanola and maybe gfdl has it correct
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Holy eye!

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Just looking at the latest Models runs the think that Irene will go just east of the coast of South Florida (it will not be a direct hit),the CMC model run is not even close to the South East of Florida it take it directly to GA,so let's hope and pray that it will miss Florida and if possible any land in the USA,I know this is wishful thinking but the Models are trending more and more to the East will see?.
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Quoting ncstorm:


was there a sucession? LOL..were we kicked out the south and no one told me?
I believe NC is technically classified a Mid-Atlantic State
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Quoting MZT:
What Levi32 commented on in his blog post is that the weakness that draws Irene north is expected to be short lived. That could make the track more like Hugo and less like Irene or Floyd.

With those latter two, yes the track continued to shift east with each run. There was speculation toward the end that NC might even avoid a hit.


I havent had much time to look stuff up...we litterally just got back from camping all weekend... i was here for Hugo...it was rough...only advantage i have now is my youngest is 7 years old, back then i had a 9month old and formula went bad before i could use it all...and now i have a generator...gonna go ahead and fill the gas cans tomorrow before lines get long if it does hit...then if it doesn't i will just put it in the vehicles...not liking this...need to read Levi's blog
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1476. nigel20

Irene is trying to wrap out the dry air.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


The pressure drop is more related to the HH investigating the wrong area.
Not an expert but just looking at the whole system , its simestry,drop of pressure, slowing his forward speed, all characteristics of an strenghthening system; should be reflex in the 5:00 pm bulletin, im sure. Lets see, is just a humble opinion from an old man.
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
Irene doin good. What's the reason that it ain't more than 50mph?


Because the winds aren't above 50mph...

Sorry if this was too obvious :P

Still some dry air getting entrained.
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1473. 7544
ecm sticking to its guns still so fla hit again does not agree with the gfs
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6690

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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.