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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guys all mode runs will this about have been forcast at lest a strong cat 3 4 or 5 storm some where from S FL up too NC and SC for the past few days now or sould i say when this was back too when it was 97L


so i find it hard too be leve the mode runs are worng on this sorry too say
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1321. ncstorm
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.


the levees had mountains of ocean water flooding into NO..storm surge is totally different from what happened in New Orleans..
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12z gdfl 72 hours out
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Quoting LurkerLizSC:
Can somebody predict how/when this will likely affect the Augusta, Georgia area? This is where the evacuation route takes people from the coast. The blog suggests we might need to anticipate severe weather. Thanks.


Augusta is inland on the border between SC/GA....right?

For a storm to be very siginficant there...it would have to make landfall in GA going northwestward (not going to happen here)...the most I could see for Augusta is getting sideswiped with the not nearly as severe west side (if it goes up the east coast).

Another scenario is you you get the center with it coming up from the west coast of FL and tracking NNE through Georgia...but it will have already tracked for several miles inland before Augusta though...so you would get at the very most tropical depression or minimal TS winds if it ever did that....so I don't see how Augusta can get hit hard with Irene in either scenario....
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1318. Patrap


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1317. zparkie
South Florida will be in a mess, thousands of forelosed houses with no shutters, the banks wont send anyone out to board them up, windows will go and roofs will fly off, banks will lose millions and tax payers will have to give the banks another 800 billion to stay in business. All those poor people who had to sell thier shutters for scrap metal to survive. I mean anything could happen, it could get into the warm waters of the bahamas and crank up like andrew did, could you imagine? South Florida has the worst unemployment and economy in the country, might create a bunch of work. Hope no one dies and god bless.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I highly doubt that.


You think it's going to become a hurricane before impacting PR? It has a lot of work to do.
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TVCN still over SE FL, so NHC will probably keep the cone near there for the time being.

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Quoting Walshy:
Still a little lost on why Dr. Masters is comparing Irene to Fay..


Maybe he thinks the ridge will build back in when the trough lefts out.
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Quoting Walshy:
Hugo was our Katrina folks.
Well, Irene can replace Hugo and Hazel... and I thought Hazel is bad enough.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
GFDL still on the western side of the cone


HOUR:126.0 LONG: -82.39 LAT: 26.53 MIN PRESS (hPa): 962.52 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 84.58


What does it see? What about the UKMET?
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12z Euro initialization:


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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Anyone want to head to tropics talk, will be there if it anyone else wants to come...

Yeah.
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Quoting 7544:
so south fla might be out of the cone at 5pm according to the models


Not a chance. S. Florida will definitly be in the cone at 5pm.
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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.

who says there having a cat 4 so far the nhc hasnt even said anything about it becomeing that strong...
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12z hwrf 126 hours out
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appears to my eys that shes movin west or slightly north of west
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1303. 7544
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
12Z GFDL




is this a new run ?
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6871
Curtains: UP
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
It's official. I'm not going to school tomorrow.


Center visible on radar and visible

FULL IMAGE (HUGE!)

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Quoting MississippiWx:
The core is still pretty weak. Should keep it below hurricane status before impacting PR/DR.



I highly doubt that.
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Anyone want to head to tropics talk, will be there if it anyone else wants to come...
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


No doubt...Irene headed STRAIGHT AT PUERTO RICO....right now...



i said that last night irene was going roll right over puerto rico and it didnt look good for the,,,.i also sai irene could pass about 50 miles south of puerto rico to...either way puerto rico is going to get the full fury of IRENE....
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1297. robj144
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Last MAJOR storm for Savannah was the storm of 1893, but Hurricane David did hit Savannah in 1979. If this is the case, this can be the "Katrina of East Coast".


Why? Is Savannah under sea level too?
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12z gdfl 48 hours out
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Quoting ncstorm:


there are no levees in SC..this wont be a Katrina


There are no levees in South Mississippi neither and those destruction pictures you see are from here South Mississippi not New Orleans. Trust me it could very likely be a Katrina.
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GFDL now has it going over S. FL so it will still be in the cone at 5PM.
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1293. Walshy
Hugo was our Katrina folks.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
A storm not even Cantore could weather.



For some reason, I think the intensity on the 12Z HWRF is out to lunch... I just dont see the reality of a Cat 5 heading toward S. Carolina... 142kt= 163mph
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Quoting ncstorm:


there are no levees in SC..this wont be a Katrina
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.
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hello all I am between Miami and ft lauderdale about a mile from the coast. As i read Dr jeffs summary i get the idea that this will not be a florida storm but yet a georgia/south carolina storm any ideas for me. I am not studying meterology just a person who finds storms absolutely incredible and so i lurk and listen!!!
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The core is still pretty weak. Should keep it below hurricane status before impacting PR/DR.

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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
First bands entering the Fajardo Ceiba areas, San Juan soon to follow.

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1287. das8929
Quoting 7544:
so south fla might be out of the cone at 5pm according to the models


I guess the cone is less than 100 miles wide now?
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Quoting Levi32:
The pressure drop is further evidence that Irene is now stacked and has begun the strengthening process. Next step is to get deeper convection in the core. Puerto Rico may disrupt that processes, along with some mid-level dry air, but Irene looks like she wants to strengthen.
Maby not..George become cat 3 offshore PR...Fay reach tropical status...and Jeanne gain hurricane strenght also...just offshore
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Quoting zparkie:
come on islands, do your job, smash this thing to peices!


Yeah except all those people on the islands have to deal with them first...kinda greedy if you ask me...
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Quoting Bretts9112:

dumb comment of corse it is a likely target


come now lets all get along here people please grow up
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
Quoting Levi, "the East GOM has been taken completely out of the picture." Tampa shields have worked again!


I would not totally discount a storm moving up the west coast of Florida.
Based on the current models, the East coast of Florida looks to be at a higer risk of landfall. But a slight jog to the west, could change that.
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Great Tidbits Levi. Only change I wish you would of made, is the "East Coast of Florida is out of the equation". I agree that it will shift East, but they are not out of the woods by any means yet and have no reason to put there gaurd down. Any shift to the west before a more northern track will be bad news for the Tampons...
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
Quoting Levi, "the East GOM has been taken completely out of the picture." Tampa shields have worked again!


Still too early to say that...IMHO
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12Z GFDL


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Last MAJOR storm for Savannah was the storm of 1893, but Hurricane David did hit Savannah in 1979. If this is the case, this can be the "Katrina of East Coast".
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Quoting Walshy:
Still a little lost on why Dr. Masters is comparing Irene to Fay..


Looks to me like the most both have in common is environment and, to a larger extent, potential for land interaction. Fay suffered from dry air and some shear, though one of the main reasons Fay never got to hurricane strength was its formation almost right on top of Puerto Rico.
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First bands entering the Fajardo Ceiba areas, San Juan soon to follow.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
Quoting Levi, "the East GOM has been taken completely out of the picture." Tampa shields have worked again!
Yup. JFV's shower curtains are also doing pretty well.
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Orca, if they want to head to st croix, they kinda missed their turn... maybe repositioning to another air force base, so they can fly into Irene without any major dangers.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
A few individuals here seem to think the GOM is off the table. That's not true. While it certainly seems the threat to the GOM has diminished, until this thing starts moving more north than west, it is not a done deal. Don't let your guard down and rememeber how IVAN was forecast to go north much sooner than it did.


There is a difference between it is being forecast and it actually happening. Ivan was FORECAST to move more northerly sooner than it did, but Irene IS moving more northerly than expected.
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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.