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Irene's potential landfall on the U.S. mainland remains several days away.  So, let me be clear, my headline is based on the best estimate from the current guidance.  There are a couple of decent weather models suggesting a track to Florida.  There is also even one model (the Navy's NOGAPS model) that keeps Irene offshore completely.  So, folks in Florida and even the extreme eastern Gulf need to stay on guard, and there is an outside chance that Irene may curve hard enough to stay out to sea - especially given her recent penchant for running a little north and east of the forecast tracks.

But at this point, the entire East Coast needs to be on alert.  This even includes NY/New England.  While the troughs (think: cold fronts... not 100% accurate, but close enough) are not what you'd expect to bring a New England hurricane (it usually requires a strong, sharp trough), the shape of the Atlantic ridge sufficiently does the trick.  In fact, three models this morning show Irene striking NY/New England as a hurricane.

More below...

I'm not emphasizing NY/New England because that's where I think she's headed.  It was more to make a point.  We haven't discussed the Northeast much because the focus had previously been on the Southeast (and, note, a Northeast landfall does not preclude a Southeast landfall... Irene could hit NC, or even northern SC then head NNE, re-emerge over water near the Virginia Capes, then head up to NY/New England).

At any rate, stepping back to current conditions... Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away, apparently.  Irene has again nudged north of the forecast.  This is great news for Hispaniola.  The south side of Irene is the weakest.  Don't get me wrong, the island will still be inundated with some pretty heavy rains - enough to cause some flooding and mudslides.  But the problems could've been collosal if Irene tracked down the spine of the island.  Now, they'll get spared the worst, as Irene stays offshore or, perhaps, just clips the NE coast of the Dominican Republic.

But what's good for Hispaniola is bad for those down the line (Bahamas and U.S.).  Why?  Well, most of you know that storms weaken over land.  That's because they get their energy from the heat flux from the ocean.  But further, unlike "regular" storms, hurricanes build themselves from the bottom up.  So, the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola can really disrupt the storm badly.  Now, however, it looks like Irene will just graze Hispaniola's northern coast.  That means she'll probably only get disrupted slightly passing by the island.

Here's what Irene looks like now:


She is officially classified as a Category 1 hurricane now, though, so far Air Force reconnaissance data suggests that Irene may still be a tropical storm, just below hurricane status.  No matter... it's very close to hurricane strength and has clearly intensified in the last 12-24 hours.  So, if Irene isn't truly a hurricane yet, she will be soon.  The latest recon fix center's Irene at 18.9N 67.0W.  Check that out on the image above (tough to see the latitude/longitude lines, I know... but if you look at the bright red blob northeast of Puerto Rico, the center of Irene is near the southeast edge of that).  Consider this:  Irene was near St. Croix last night (that's the Virgin Island southwest of Puerto Rico).  Point is, she's moved well north of west - more so than expected.  If she resumes the previously anticipated motion Irene still may not quite miss Hispaniola, cutting across its northeast coast.  But any continued northward nudging and she'll totally miss the island.

At that point, Irene will obviously miss Cuba and the question is, where does she go from there.  We'll here's what the various models show:


...though there remain a couple of stubbornly far west solutions - the GFDL and UKMET - but there is a clear focus on the Carolinas.  And notice the shift from yesterday.  If you didn't see yesterday's forecast the biggest cluster was still in the Carolinas then, but was centered clearly on South Carolina.  Today we've got an equal focus on North Carolina.  This is a bigger deal than it may seem.  A NC landfall opens the door for Irene to slip back off the coast near Norfolk, VA and continue NNE to a second landfall on Long Island and/or New England.  Such a scenario is seen on the European model:


...and the American (GFS) model:


Side note on that European map, it doesn't show the storm near Long Island at that time step and it's long oast by the next step.  What's not available to the general public, but I see from a different site (and, contractually, unfortunately, cannot share here) is an intermediate time step.

And if you think the crossing of land in NC and the cooler waters south of New England should kiil Irene sufficiently, think again.  There is some clear weakening evident on the Euro, but it still has Irene near 950mb approaching Montauk Point, Long Island, NY, while the GFS has her at 973mb off the northern NJ coast.  If those numbers are gibberish to you, that's fine.  Doing a simple translation off of the Dvorak chart, those two pressures should correspond to a high-end Category 3 or a borderline Category 1/2 hurricane.  So, a pretty sizable difference between the two, but clearly a hurricane at landfall.

Of course, NY/New England is secondary to the initial landfall, which could be anywhere from Florida to North Carolina.  And if Irene could possibly be a Cat 3 (according to the Euro) when it reaches New England, then we really need to be concerned about that first landfall.  Indeed, here's what the guidance shows on that:


...that's pretty impressive.  Everything is over hurricane strength, with the best of them all indicating a Category 3 or 4 peak (and two of those drop off at the end only because of their probably-too-far-west track, with landfall over Florida inducing the weakening).  So, Category 3 at landfall seems most likely based on this guidance.  I wouldn't totally write off a slightly weaker landfall intensity - say, Cat 2 - as even the over-water HWRF shows Irene pulling back at the end (and the HWRF is notoriously too high with intensities).

The bottom line with all of this is that Irene should graze northern Hispaniola later today/tonight.  Her intensity when she comes back offshore (if she moves over land at all) is hard to assess, as it depends how far inland into the Dominican Republic her center pushes and for how long.  But since she should only scrape along the coast, I'd assume her inner core circulation will not be disrupted.  As such, she should be able to rebound and then continue intensifying as she slows down and makes a slow curve through the Bahamas.  As she makes the turn Irene could get dangerously close to Florida (not clear how close yet).    Irene should then continue intensifying as she heads north towards the Carolinas.  Given the trending, I'm favoring more of a NC landfall now, rather than a SC landfall.  But it's way, way, WAY too early to try to narrow it down that much... just an early educated guess.  But if I'm correct, this may also open the door for NY/New England.  In short, this looks likely to be a significant event for the East Coast, even if we can't really nail down details.  So, please stay on top of the situation if you live in or have any interests (family, friends, etc) on the East Coast.  And check out my buddy "weatherdude" on here... he does a great job pulling together online preparedness resources.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Live blogging from the DR (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lisa Lockwood, ninkasi23

      Just an FYI. I'm in the north-western part of the Dominican Republic. The hurricane is just starting to hit.
         It's not so bad so far. It's my first hurricane so I'm not exactly sure what to expect. The power is still on, which is a good sign.

      "The people have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want & the courage to take." - Emma Goldman

      by gjohnsit on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 11:15:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keep us updated (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pgm 01, ninkasi23

      Since you've been away for a while, you may not be aware that there is no longer a 1 diary per day limit.  You may post as many diaries as you wish.  If it becomes cumbersome to update this one, you can post a new diary as developments occur.  

      Thanks for your great contribution here!

      Thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything - Henri Poincaré

      by milton333 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 12:23:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  we'll have a better sense (10+ / 0-)

    after the gulfstream data is ingested. it flies about 130pm today.

    "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth

    by terrypinder on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:22:29 AM PDT

  •  NOAA doesn't seem to agree with you . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, ninkasi23

    As of 9:00 they still have landfall right on the Florida/Georgia border early Saturday morning. Tough luck for the critters in Okefenokee . . .  

    •  Keep in mind... (6+ / 0-)

      I'm also using some newer data.  They'll update their forecast at 11AM.  I'd suspect they'll pull it a little more north - though still probably not as far north/east as I am.  Comparing apples to apples it'd be best to await their 11AM forecast.  I almost always include their forecast in my posts... that's why I didn't this time... because I think they'll be making an adjustment in less than a half-hour (maybe up towards SC).

      Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

      by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:33:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right you are . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BachFan, ninkasi23

        They now have it hitting around Charleston Saturday morning. I've noticed that when the forecast track starts to move, it usually continues to move in the same direction. You'd think they could take that into account and preemptively move it a little extra, since they know they'll probably do that anyway.

        Yeah, there's something weird about the logic of that.

        •  You're absolutely right (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          milton333, ninkasi23

          Many forecasters, especially those in the government are basically trained to avoid major shifts in forecast for fear that if it's wrong it'll look idiotic when you jump back the other way.  So, they're trained to shift it gradually.  That's why I figured they'd take it only to SC.  They even mention in their discussion that they're on the west side of the guidance "consensus", yet they give no reasoning why they think the consensus is too far east... probably because there is no reason, they're just trying to be gentle with their changes.

          I'm not saying this to get on their case.  I think they do a pretty excellent job overall... and this was a fairly large shift by their standards.  But you're correct, they have no good meteorological reason to stay on the west side of the guidance.  In fact, the guidance has been trending east itself.  And the way the computer models are built, they can have a "memory", which is why you get trending like this.  So, they'd probably be safer to be on the EAST side of guidance.  But this is how they operate.  :)

          Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

          by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:18:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  My mother lives in Wilmington (4+ / 0-)

    which seems to have a bullseye on it whenever a storm is in the vicinity.

  •  Thank you for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, pgm 01, ninkasi23

    this detailed diary.  Whatever the track ends up being, better to be forewarned of potentials.  Our last hurricane to hit Connecticut was Gloria which hit with 90 mph winds but thankfully at low tide to minimize some of the shoreline damage.

    Just read an old reminiscence by a local meteorologist who lamented the lack of coverage prior to the storm hitting -- and by lack of coverage, he means the day it hit.  Things have changed, obviously because technology has changed.

    In 1999 Hurricane Floyd hit CT as a Tropical Storm and still did considerable damage.  I look forward to your subsequent diaries.

    Vi er alle norske " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:40:09 AM PDT

  •  Any guess on what (0+ / 0-)

    Category it will be when it reaches south florida?

    "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

    by Pakalolo on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:00:53 AM PDT

  •  NHC 11AM Update (5+ / 0-)

    As mentioned up-thread, NHC was kind of expected to shift their track eastward a bit.  They have.  They now indicate landfall in South Carolina on Saturday.

    Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

    by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:01:35 AM PDT

  •  I remember being out on Long Island (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KnotIookin, BachFan

    with my parents for Bob in the early 90s. It wasn't much fun!

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:03:31 AM PDT

  •  Holy @($)(@!+_(#$R (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    After just having had my Bday totally washed out by one of the most severe rainfalls in my area in August to ever happen and then 9/10th of everything we planned to do on our vacation ruined by rain rain rain THIS was not what I wanted to read about on our return :(

    soooooooo  HOW SERIOUS is a secondary landfall of Hurricane strength on or near montauck??????  and HOW will this effect the shoreline of NYC?

    I ask this because I live within walking distance of the atlantic ocean and members of my immediate family live between NYC and Montauck.

    "Orwell was an optimist"

    by KnotIookin on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:05:37 AM PDT

    •  Specifics will mean a lot to you... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KnotIookin, BachFan, ninkasi23

      ...especially since the west side tends to be weaker with winds, but heavier with rains with these Northeastern landfalls.  Unfortunately, it's wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too early to guess on these specifics.  It's highly possible Irene never makes a second landfall in NY/New England.  Even though it's my favored idea, if I were to break down the probabilities, that idea might gain a plurality, but not a majority share of the various options.

      A GFS-like track would be the worst... many areas on the higher-wind east side (most of Long Island and New England).  With the city, Westchester and SW CT close enough for strong winds.  And torrential rain from NJ up through SE NY, CT, MA and north-central New England.  But again, that's worst case.  Other solutions (that have NY/N.E. landfall) are further east, sparing NYC and western L.I. severe winds (though heavy rain still likely).

      Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

      by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:12:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Look like Limbaugh will witness (0+ / 0-)

    The force of nature ,even if he is vacationing in Hawaii , the EIB studio will finally  be confronted by  Mother nature

  •  Am I out of the woods yet? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm in Southeast Florida and the Computer Models look like it is going to South Carolina.

    •  Pretty much (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pakalolo, milton333

      Richard, I wouldn't say you're absolutely out of the woods until Irene actually makes her anticipated turn.  But for the most part you're looking pretty good.  Don't be surprised if you get brushed with her western fringe though.

      Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

      by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:26:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tuesday will paint an more accurate forecast (0+ / 0-)

      Hurricane  have being heading westward and then turn northward,this storm will only brush Haiti and Cuba ,and will be at full strength , water in the Gulf have average 85 degrees even during the night, it might  just hop over Florida into the Gulf of Mexico,  

      •  I doubt it will hop over Florida (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        milton333, Mogolori

        Texas Ridge of Death is too strong this year, and I doubt a recurve out to sea for the same reason (Bermuda High is strong this year). A trough will dip down and pick it up. Watch for a turn to the northwest by Wednesday (it's already north of west-northwest, now.)

        The overall upper-air pattern this summer hasn't changed much, thus my hunch when Irene was named, that it would probably be an East Coast hurricane. I'm still 70% confident that this storm will skirt Florida and strike the Carolinas, and then move north-northeastward from there. Not sure on intensity, but we've never been good at that. Pattern may change after Irene though.

        "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth

        by terrypinder on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:55:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Recon just went through center again.. (0+ / 0-)

    5 mb drop since last pass! That sounds to me like rapid deepening.

    "Even though you can't expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That's morality, that's religion. That's art. That's life." - Phil Ochs

    by tbio25 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:42:57 AM PDT

    •  nevermind.. (0+ / 0-)

      they got a 984 mb reading, but then a dropsonde said 989 mb. In the vortex they went with 989 mb. Interesting.

      "Even though you can't expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That's morality, that's religion. That's art. That's life." - Phil Ochs

      by tbio25 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:55:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gimme a possible DATE (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ninkasi23, KnotIookin

    I might have missed it in skimming the diary (poor eyesight here and time crunch).

    I'm in NY and would like to arrange my schedule accordingly since I have the freedom to do so.

  •  Latest GFS models run (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, ninkasi23

    ...almost incredibly hooks Irene well enough to have no NC landfall (though barely... plenty close enough to warrant watches and warnings there... if that forecast were to verify).  But it does manage a landfall in SE New England.

    Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

    by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:31:31 AM PDT

    •  I think the GFS is underestimating the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, ninkasi23

      ridge in the Atlantic, but we'll have to wait until we get some good Gulfstream data this afternoon and this evening.

      I think the trough (well the second one) is strong enough to catch Irene, but not enough to push it entirely out to sea.

      "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth

      by terrypinder on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:34:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're right... we'll see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Personally, I'm not impressed with the Atlantic ridge thus far.  There's a reason Irene has been constantly northeast of the track forecast... and that's why.  The ridge is weaker than forecast.  Now, in order to get no Carolina landfall at all, you'd need a pretty weak ridge solution.  So, yes, the new GFS may have overstepped.  Hopefully, tonight's model runs will give us a better idea on that.

        Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

        by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:45:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Jacksonville Fl (0+ / 0-)

    My 34 year old daughter and my grandson moved to Jacksonville Dec 2010.  Our other daughter is down there right now visiting.  As a Mom, I am a bit worried at this point!  

    I read about the possibility of landfall at the Florida/Georgia border.  If it does this, how will Jacksonville be affected?  This is my daughter's first Hurricane so I'm trying to supply her with knowledge enough to make plans ie. evacuation if necessary.  Also, her apartment building is located right on the St. John river.  Will this makes things worse?

    If it hits further north in Charleston, SC, will they still be affected?

    Thank you so much for the info you are providing and anything more you can tell me!  

    •  Effects (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lisa Lockwood, ninkasi23


      First, know that the expected track is now further north.  So, you shouldn't need to worry much.  But just as a "for instance"...

      If the storm hit right at the GA/FL border, Jacksonville would see some nasty wind and rain... pretty bad.  BUT, they would miss the worst of it (worst conditions are usually to the right of the motion - in that case, up the Georgia coast).  Moreover, for coastal residents (both ocean and riverfront) the winds in Jacksonville in such a case would be offshore.  So, other than locations that can suffer overwash from behind (like the NC Outer Banks) flooding should not be severe in Jacksonville.

      That said, Irene is now expected to head up into the Carolinas.  Jacksonville could see some western fring effects as she goes by - but impact should be minimal.

      She should stay tuned as that's far enough out in the forecast that things could change - but right now, Jacksonville looks reasonably safe.

      Be that self which one truly is. -Soren Kierkegaard

      by millwx on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 10:50:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank You so Much! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I feel a ton of stress lifted off at this point and will pass your comments on to her.  

        You and Weatherdude (and others) provide a really valuable service and I know I'm not the only one that appreciates it!

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