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 Bluestorm5:
Hit the very tip of Hispaniola.


The run is out to 78 hours lol. You're a little behind.
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Uh-oh... 942 mb storm just south of Bahamas.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
guys guys just comin back from a swim looking at thr PR radar you can see the eye clearly moving over St. Croix and is movin SSW look

Link


Please refer to post 3567.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:



It is an illusion being shown since Irene is closing off her eyewall right over St. Croix...It is not moving towards the SW.


thanks for the clarification.
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3569. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
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....


NHC knows what they're doing, if they need to adjust the track they will, but as long as your in the cone it's best to keep an eye on it. After all a storm is not a point on a map, and 200 miles is a lot of room for error.
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2685
Quoting southfloridajunkie:
Link

Is it me or its going SW over the last 4 hours?



It is an illusion being shown since Irene is closing off her eyewall right over St. Croix...It is not moving towards the SW.
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Quoting xcool:
i cannot wait for NOAA G-IV jet
when are they scheduled to head out ???
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Pressure in St croix slowly rising, showing that Irene is beginning to move away and the worst their is almost over... 8 Pm advisory soon, probably 60 to 65 MPH, ill be back later
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guys guys just comin back from a swim looking at thr PR radar you can see the eye clearly moving over St. Croix and is movin SSW look

Link
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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....


Finally, some words of wisdom. TY!
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Hit the very tip of Hispaniola.
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Quoting Levi32:
A short-term due west jog does look to be ensuing on radar. It will be interesting to see if it stays that way and doesn't actually make landfall in PR. Regardless, Puerto Rico will get the worst of Irene, either way.
Looks like it may be just south of PR.
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Moving practically NW in this frame. Slightly slower and stronger than 12Z.
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Quoting Levi32:
A short-term due west jog does look to be ensuing on radar. It will be interesting to see if it stays that way and doesn't actually make landfall in PR. Regardless, Puerto Rico will get the worst of Irene, either way.
st croix is taking a beating
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3558. xcool
i cannot wait for NOAA G-IV jet
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Quoting Thrawst:
Hey guys, just got back. update me on Irene. TIA :)


Recon found a minimum central pressure so far of 995.4 mb. This means that the winds are likely around 60 mph, from what they have found so far. However, that is still a little low given the pressure, and further strengthening should occur tonight. Given its current heading, a direct landfall on Puerto Rico my mid-morning tomorrow is likely. After that, it seems that Irene will only scrape the northern coast of Hispaniola rather than cross the entire length. This means that we could be dealing with a stronger system in the long run.

Another thing to note is that, since Irene is farther north than originally predicted, the models have shifted more towards South Carolina and North Carolina.
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Link

Is it me or its going SW over the last 4 hours?
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those folks are going to get it in a few minutes
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3554. wpb
Quoting WxLogic:
At least HWRF corrected itself later (12hours) to be now S of PR:

thanks for the hmrf spots. ?does the gfdl start there runs later?
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Radar dosent lie
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 22
sigh, why no one posting images? I'll do it until someone stops me.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Do Not!

There is still a very high chance that Irene makes landfall in South Florida, and you need to prepare for Irene now!


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....
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 744
Quoting hunkerdown:
model fell off the wagon...


the FD in GFDL stands for 'freaking drunk'
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Quoting Thrawst:
Hey guys, just got back. update me on Irene. TIA :)

Scroll back...
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I don't recommend F5'ing radar of Irene (or any storm for that matter) to simply get direction of storm movement. It's going to wobble up, down, right, left, etc. You'll go mad.
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Quoting StormHype:
This is starting to remind me of Jeanne of 2004. It's looking like it could whack the same area of FL she did, but just a bit north. I wonder if they ever rebuilt this marina dry storage building near Sebastian inlet:
Dry boat storage pinata





Yeah, they built a new one along there to replace it in the last few years.
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Well, 978 mb storm now 36 hr from now.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Thanks for that. Yes, looking very impressive. The ridge to the N has strengthened this afternoon which should take this just south of PR IMO.

That's what I think as well. What effect if any do you see from the wind flow down the mountains into the cyclone?
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3541. Levi32
A short-term due west jog does look to be ensuing on radar. It will be interesting to see if it stays that way and doesn't actually make landfall in PR. Regardless, Puerto Rico will get the worst of Irene, either way.
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:
Why does the GFDL model still show a mid gulf track?
model fell off the wagon...
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It's going to be a close call for PR. We'll see if it makes landfall.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10159
""

Still no eye wall though
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Whoa...the bold letters are killing me...
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982 mb 30 hr from now. Off coast of DR.
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3535. Thrawst
Hey guys, just got back. update me on Irene. TIA :)
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Quoting E46Pilot:
5 Days ago the GFS model had Irene much more south than it is right now, with a south Florida landfall on Friday. Looks like we may now be out of the woods with this in south Florida, being Irene is more north now. The high is not as strong as originally thought. It will probably begin the curve north, east of south Florida, most likely over the Bahamas. I was planning to get gas for the generators today, but being Irene's present position, I am going to wait.


If you don't need gas in the generators for Irene, just wait a couple of weeks. It won't go to waste the way this year is shaping up.
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band rapping around the back side of eye west of st . croix is impressive
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 22
Quoting stormpetrol:


Thank you!
There was a poster, who thinks what looks like to many to be a COC, over St. Crx is a really a "dry spot", being pulled out of the ts. I can't find the post now, and I can't seem to figure out why there would be a distinct appearance of coc at a random "dry spot". Radar does not lie, and it looks like a coc, moving west. At least to me. But we will find out soon enough via hh data or by just watching over the next couple of hours.
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3531. xcool
kmanislander i agree
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Quoting E46Pilot:
5 Days ago the GFS model had Irene much more south than it is right now, with a south Florida landfall on Friday. Looks like we may now be out of the woods with this in south Florida, being Irene is more north now. The high is not as strong as originally thought. It will probably begin the curve north, east of south Florida, most likely over the Bahamas. I was planning to get gas for the generators today, but being Irene's present position, I am going to wait.


Do Not!

There is still a very high chance that Irene makes landfall in South Florida, and you need to prepare for Irene now!
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Why does the GFDL model still show a mid gulf track?
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987 mb storm impacting NE Hispaniola.
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Quoting Jax82:
Its a wibble, its a wobble, Irene seems to be making an eyewall right over St Croix, at least thats what i think it looks like on the radar. She's a strengthening, and it would be not good if the north side scrapes the whole southern coast of PR.


I agree.
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3523. ronmil
Quoting serialteg:


thank you compatriota


You are welcome. That was at my in-laws this afternoon... Right now dark an quiet here in Caguas (center-east). We expect to be right on the north side of the center in a couple hours...
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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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