Hurricane Irene slides toward Bahamas; Strong earthquake rattles eastern U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 21:57 GMT le 23 août 2011

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Hurricane Irene is a category 1 on the Saffir Simpson scale as of 5pm EDT, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and a minimum central pressure of 976 mb. Irene is moving to the west-northwest at 9 mph, and continues to impact Hispaniola. Satellite imagery shows a strong rain band continuing to linger over the eastern Dominican Republic on the southeast side of Irene, but wind speeds appear to have decreased substantially in the country since this morning. Winds are gusting to around 50 mph in the Turks and Caicos Islands this afternoon. Wind shear is currently around 10-20 knots in the vicinity, which could delay intensification over the next 48 hours. The strongest winds and thunderstorm activity remain on the northwest side, and the eye that was visible on satellite earlier today has become obscured by new thunderstorm activity near the center of the hurricane. The most recent Hurricane Hunter mission found a minimum central pressure of 978 mb and a large wind field. In their 2pm EDT fix, the National Hurricane Center estimated that tropical storm-force winds extended 180 nautical miles from the center in the northeast quadrant of the hurricane. A NOAA Gulfstream plane (Gonzo) is currently flying Irene and providing dropsonde data, something that was critical in gaining model consensus yesterday. A NOAA P-3 (Kermit) is also on its way to the hurricane to provide dropsonde data, as well.


Figure 1. Satellite imagery of Hurricane Irene at 4:45pm EDT. Image credit: NOAA.

Track forecast for Hurricane Irene
Models are in better agreement on the track forecast for Irene today, although the GFDL and HWRF continue to be the western outliers. Both of these models are forecasting Irene to make landfall near the Outer Banks of North Carolina on an almost due north track. The rest of the global models continue to slide every so slightly east in their forecast track, with some not making landfall until the hurricane is as far north as Long Island. This afternoon, the ECMWF, which has been performing well this season, forecasts Irene to brush the Outer Banks before sliding up the east coast toward New York. The official track forecast from the National Hurricane Center is similar this afternoon. They're expecting Irene to take a more central track through the Bahamas over the next 48 hours and make contact with the Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon, with a second landfall in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. Again, it's critical to note that the errors in the track forecast 4 and 5 days out are quite large, and also that the consensus in the models over the past couple of days has been to nudge the track eastward, which can be seen in this track graphic archive.

Intensity forecast for Hurricane Irene
Despite the slight weakening that happened today, Irene is still expected to reach major hurricane status (category 3+) in the next 36 hours as it moves away from the Greater Antilles and into warm "open" water. The models tend to agree on a maximum intensity of category 3, however, the GFDL is the upper outlier, and is suggesting a category 4 on Friday. The intensity forecast from the National Hurricane Center is a wind speed increase to 125 mph (category 3) by Thursday. Irene will surely be a very intense hurricane by the time it nears the Mid-Atlantic.

Magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattles eastern U.S.

A relatively large and shallow earthquake struck the Mid-Atlantic just before 2pm EDT this afternoon, and shaking was felt up and down the east coast and as far west as Ohio. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the epicenter was located 5 miles southwest of Mineral, Virginia, and was 3.7 miles deep—a very shallow earthquake. Buildings were evacuated all over the Mid-Atlantic, including the Pentagon, the White House, and NCEP, but have since been reopened. The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. was apparently significantly damaged in the earthquake. National Mall monuments and memorials have closed for the afternoon. Light aftershocks have been reported by people in the region, and the USGS has reported at least one aftershock (a 2.8 in magnitude).


Figure 2. "Did you feel it?" map from the USGS. Shaking reports from today's earthquake can be submitted to the USGS here.

This earthquake appears to be the strongest to occur in Virginia since May 31, 1897, when a magnitude 6 (approximately) struck Giles County. Reportedly, shaking was felt from Georgia to Pennsylvania and west to Indiana and Kentucky, which is an area that covers approximately 725,000 square miles. It's likely that this quake will have a similar extent when all the reports come in.

Angela

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Inbound and Outbound

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Quoting photomunkey:
I don't think Hispanola is out of danger yet. The SE quadrant rain band has been following the isobars which run from the east side of Irene down and to the south east. As Irene moves northwes, this structure will slide over Hispanola next, and if anything, will drop even more rain there than on PR. The deeper pressure gradiant to Irene's core will ensure that, even as the storm moves away. maybe the winds won't be as bad but the rain will be just as heavy as it was on PR for the last 24 hours.

@MississippiWX-The weakness is there but is Irene strong enough to break through to the north yet? She has to start to turn tonight as she intensifies... at her current slow speed can she go far enough north to get through the gap?


She's not going to go due north tonight. It's going to be gradual as the ridge will slowly build back in from the east as well. Steering currents will be weaker and that is depicted in the NHC track. She's only supposed to be in the Northern Bahamas by 2pm Thursday. Once she gets that far north, she will be more easily influenced by the troughs passing to the north and will therefore pick up speed.

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Quoting NJcat3cane:
RI is on? oh no its going big time
Could be especially looking at the IR image.
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548. redux
Quoting Unfriendly:


where ya at? Im owings mills here, balmer born, balmer bred. I was at the end of Bond St. Wharf during Isabel, watching the harbor flood. Hurricanes usually dont make it this far inland... we might be in for a shock if it does come up the bay though. Personally, I think we'll see trop storm force winds, and at least 300000000 Domino Sugar barges full of water pushed up the bay.


i live downtown.

Isabel fizzled significantly, this one could have a lot more going for it.
Member Since: 28 juin 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Yall. The RI flag was on last night. It didnt do anything. Correct me if I'm wrong.
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546. 900MB
Thanks Caicos! Stay safe! Hope to make it back there this winter (Ocean Club West). I would move there if I could figure out how to make a good living there!
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HWRF 18z took a bit longer to finish and download, b/c of the fish storm invests. GFDL coming in now as well for 18z.

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Quoting StormJunkie:


Not discounting another shift to the east; but it should also be noted that the Bermuda high should be shifting W some. Will be interested to see the 00z surface analysis.


So COULD the track still shift back west? Its hard to believe given the consistency of the models, and the consistent movement eastward by ALL of them... but is it possible?
Member Since: 4 août 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 631
Quoting MississippiWx:


Has to be said, she looks beautiful. It's a shame such destructive things just make you watch in awe.
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Quoting Levi32:


People can't forget that this kind of a storm is the kind that New England has been dreading for ages. A miss east of NC does not mean it's over. In fact, it could be worse than a direct hit on Cape Hatteras.


Exactly. This could be way worse. What's the likelihood (if) Irene manages to hit Cat 4/5 Levi, that she'll hang onto at least Major status up into the NE states, especially if she just paintbrushes NC.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

She will come closer to Florida than NHC thinks. She is going to come very close.

my uninformed eyes tell me that -i know this is 2011
and we have all kinds of data to observe
but condtions change quickly and reading and learning from some of the smart people on this blog i am keeping a watchful eye as i live in jax fla

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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Still have power and internet
my highest gust at house here still 52 mph

waiting to see 8pm pos

looks like it may have wobbled East


Great news. Tonight could be on the rough side though as Irene is about to ramp up the winds.
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Quoting Unfriendly:
looks to forming a large eye... if thats the case, we'll probably see a EWRC (haven't said that in a few years)


You want a small eye for an EWRC.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Whoa..vintage Jim Cantore on TWC


I saw that, I think it was his first storm.
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
2 recon planes ???


Actually, to be accurate, we have 3!

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If you take a look at the Infrared Short Wave Loop, it almost looks like Irene wants to stall, imo. Could someone else take a look at this, and voice there opinion.
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Local PR flooding...

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looks to forming a large eye... if thats the case, we'll probably see a EWRC (haven't said that in a few years)
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I better warns my uncle's family in New Hampshire and my aunt's family in Maine (my dad's brother and sister). They have survived many nor'easters, but hurricane will freak them out.
Member Since: 1 août 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Quoting Ryuujin:


And isn't that steering flow just on the edge of what would be Irene's guidance atm? I mean she's just clipped under that, so she'd be inbetween that steering layer and the one below it, correct?


Possibly, but the weakness is even larger in the weaker solution.

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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Still have power and internet
my highest gust at house here still 52 mph

waiting to see 8pm pos

looks like it may have wobbled East


Glad to hear you're doing all right.
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Not discounting another shift to the east; but it should also be noted that the Bermuda high should be shifting W some. Will be interested to see the 00z surface analysis.


It takes a really robust high to hold a system that could be approaching 960 mbs later tonight on a WNW track. I don't see that happening.NW will likely come sooner than forecasted IMO
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Quoting DerOrkanWachter:
I think we might be in for a few surprised with this storm. It evidently is strengthening as of now but still it is weaker than expected. It will have to be making its northward turn relatively soon or else it will track further west than expected. I am expecting that the models will only shift west if the storm itself starts doing so. I still don't trust the models and think they have been shifting so radically that it is hard for me to say there has been enough consistency to feel safe about their predictions. I mean it seems like there is some general consensus in the models I just think they are a bit too far to the east and recurve it too sharply.
whats the average longtitude for the turn withe current run of models. I know they pretty tightly grouped that far south.
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Quoting WeafhermanNimmy:
Greensboro, NC impacts. Could we see heavy rain/damaging winds?


I live just to your west.

Irene keeps trending east so we are in the clear.
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526. 900MB
Setup for Long Island Express of 1938 (grifted from Wiki):

The storm was first spotted south of the Cape Verde Islands on September 10. Over the next ten days, it steadily gathered strength and slowly tracked to the west-northwest. By September 20, while centered east of the Bahamas, the hurricane is estimated to have reached Category 5 intensity. In response to a deep trough over Appalachia, the hurricane veered northward, sparing the Bahamas, Florida, the Carolinas, and the Mid-Atlantic. At the same time, a high pressure system was centered north of Bermuda, preventing the hurricane from making an eastward turn out to sea.[5] The hurricane was effectively squeezed to the north between the two weather systems, and late on September 20, this set-up caused the storm's forward speed to increase substantially. During the early hours of September 21, the storm, centered several hundred miles to the southeast of Cape Hatteras, weakened slightly. By 8:30 A.M. EST, the hurricane was centered approximately 100 miles (160 km) due east of Cape Hatteras, and its forward speed had increased to well over 50 m.p.h. This rapid movement did not give the hurricane a sufficient amount of time to weaken over the cooler waters before it reached Long Island.[6] During the 9:00 A.M. EST hour, the hurricane sped through the Virginia tidewater. Between 12:00 P.M. and 2:00 P.M. EST, the New Jersey coastline and New York City caught the western edge of the hurricane.[7] At the same time, weather conditions suddenly began to deteriorate along the southern New England coast as well as on Long Island. The full force of the hurricane started to reach Long Island after 2:30 P.M. EST, and the eye made landfall at Bayport in Suffolk County shortly after 3:00 P.M. EST. By 4:00 P.M. EST, the eye had crossed Long Island Sound and was making a second landfall just east of New Haven, Connecticut. Modern analyses reveal that the hurricane was at Category 3 intensity at both landfalls and place the maximum sustained winds in the 120–125 m.p.h. range. After crossing Long Island Sound, the hurricane sped inland. By 5:00 P.M. EST, the eye moved into western Massachusetts, and by 6:00 P.M. EST, the hurricane reached Vermont. Both Westfield, Massachusetts and Dorset, Vermont reported calm conditions and partial clearing during passage of the eye, which is a rather unusual occurrence for a New England hurricane.[8] As the hurricane continued into northern Vermont, it began to lose tropical characteristics. Still carrying hurricane-force winds, the storm crossed into Quebec at approximately 10:00 P.M. EST while transitioning into a post-tropical low. The post-tropical remnants dissipated over northern Ontario a few days later.

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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


If Irene follows the current NHC track, you'll remember her name.
Her name will be retired from hurricane listing.
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Quoting redux:
asa a life long resident of baltimore, I can't recall in either stories or otherwise a hurricane tracking very close to the city.

the city is entirely not designed to deal with a hurricane tracking very close to it.

I still don't think a hurricane has ever tracked up the bay.

in such a situation, would the deterioration of the cane be significantly reduced as it interacts with land?


where ya at? Im owings mills here, balmer born, balmer bred. I was at the end of Bond St. Wharf during Isabel, watching the harbor flood. Hurricanes usually dont make it this far inland... we might be in for a shock if it does come up the bay though. Personally, I think we'll see trop storm force winds, and at least 300000000 Domino Sugar barges full of water pushed up the bay.
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RI is on? oh no its going big time
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I don't think Hispanola is out of danger yet. The SE quadrant rain band has been following the isobars which run from the east side of Irene down and to the south east. As Irene moves northwes, this structure will slide over Hispanola next, and if anything, will drop even more rain there than on PR. The deeper pressure gradiant to Irene's core will ensure that, even as the storm moves away. maybe the winds won't be as bad but the rain will be just as heavy as it was on PR for the last 24 hours.

@MississippiWX-The weakness is there but is Irene strong enough to break through to the north yet? She has to start to turn tonight as she intensifies... at her current slow speed can she go far enough north to get through the gap?
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Quoting zparkie:
Brian Norcross just came on with Cantore and said a front coming out of the gulf of alaska is going to pull it up the coast as a major hurricane and dont look good for New York


People can't forget that this kind of a storm is the kind that New England has been dreading for ages. A miss east of NC does not mean it's over. In fact, it could be worse than a direct hit on Cape Hatteras.
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Still have power and internet
my highest gust at house here still 52 mph

waiting to see 8pm pos

looks like it may have wobbled East
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
how do you get BOTH planes to show up on Google Earth. It's only letting me choose one.


Choose the other one from Temporary Places
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Quoting MississippiWx:


The weakness will shrink as the ridge builds back tomorrow, but it won't stay very long.


And isn't that steering flow just on the edge of what would be Irene's guidance atm? I mean she's just clipped under that, so she'd be inbetween that steering layer and the one below it, correct?
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Quoting MississippiWx:
how do you get BOTH planes to show up on Google Earth. It's only letting me choose one.
Member Since: 1 août 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8030
Quoting ncstorm:
Whoa..vintage Jim Cantore on TWC
I'm only tuning in TWC because of Jim and Brian.The others don't really matter.
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Quoting kmanislander:


We have to see NW first. Irene is working its way around what is left of the western periphery of the AB high. As deep as the system is now I cannot imagine anything preventing it heading poleward.

In fact this rapid fall in the pressure could see the track shift to the east again later tonight.


Not discounting another shift to the east; but it should also be noted that the Bermuda high should be shifting W some. Will be interested to see the 00z surface analysis.
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Quoting weatherman566:
I was curious to what everyone on this board thought about Jim Cantore's tweets this evening:

He wrote:

"Latest track creates potential 4 our 10th billion dollar disaster of 2011. Everybody take this serious"

and
"Anyone w/ plans from the #OBX 2 New England needs 2 review evacuation plans & prepare 4a storm like we haven't seen in at least a generation"

Personally, I'm not buying it right now.


If Irene follows the current NHC track, you'll remember her name.
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Referring to the "fish storm mob,"
A friend of mine skippers a yacht in these waters and he once wrote me a letters whilst floating under one of these hurricanes. To say the least it was like something from hell to read, the most memorable line was," I just keep thinking, there's less than a quarter of an inch of metal hull between us and the bottom of the ocean,"
He suvived the fish storm, retired a bit crazy and became a stone carver!
Hell has many faces, not all on land.
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Quoting aquak9:
It's those cursed blueberry muffins. :)

I probably still got ten pounds of'm in the freezer...one can only make so many pies.

"The weakness is bigger than Texas"- MissWX- THANK YOU

I REALLY needed to see that graphic. Better than Valium.


The weakness will shrink as the ridge builds back tomorrow, but it won't stay very long.
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09L/H/I/C2
RI FLAG (flag)
MARK
21.25n/72.75w


Member Since: 15 juillet 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54379
507. redux
asa a life long resident of baltimore, I can't recall in either stories or otherwise a hurricane tracking very close to the city.

the city is entirely not designed to deal with a hurricane tracking very close to it.

I still don't think a hurricane has ever tracked up the bay.

in such a situation, would the deterioration of the cane be significantly reduced as it interacts with land?
Member Since: 28 juin 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
Whoa..vintage Jim Cantore on TWC
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Brian Norcross just came on with Cantore and said a front coming out of the gulf of alaska is going to pull it up the coast as a major hurricane and dont look good for New York
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Greensboro, NC impacts. Could we see heavy rain/damaging winds?
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Quoting bayoubrotha:
HWRF 18z at 102 hours.




WOW, a Cat 5 just off the coast of Florida, scary stuff.
Member Since: 16 octobre 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 544
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yup. Dem shower curtains staying strong.
But not for LONG!.(Hey that Rhymes.)
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The Northeast US megaplexes certainly are not immune from hurricanes, as the historical record shows. I'm afraid the events may be rare enough, however, that people are either unprepared or won't take the threat seriously. Even here on the Tx Gulf Coast, we weren't really prepared for the 2005/Rita evacuation. Fortunately for Houston, it ended up being a decent dress rehearsal for 2008/Ike.
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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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