Irene Energizes As It Moves Over Puerto Rico
Good morning everyone. Finally, after nine tries, we have our first hurricane in the Atlantic this year. Irene, which had become the strongest storm to date last night with 70 mile per hour winds, got even stronger and became a hurricane earlier on Monday morning. The storm is now pulling away from Puerto Rico.
Located some 50 miles to the West-Northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, or about 105 miles East of Punta Cana on the coast of the Dominican Republic, Irene is moving to the West-Northwest at 14 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds are at 75 miles per hour while the minimum central pressure is 987 millibars, or 29.15 inches of Hg making it a minimal hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Wind gusts are at 90 miles per hour.
Looking at the latest satellite and radar imagery, the storm is becoming more and more healthier. Stronger rain bands are developing around the center, and Irene still has good outflow. The western side of the system still looks ragged though. Hurricane force winds extend only 15 miles from the center, but tropical storm force winds reach out another 150 miles from the eye.
The latest forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida indicates that Irene will be moving inland within the next 24 hours, but re-emerge over water again by 36 hours. The storm is not expected to lose much punch. The northern shift to the forecast has put Irene in a much more favorable position than this time yesterday because it is better developed, and more importantly, the system will not be interacting with the rugged terrain of Hispaniola as much as originally thought.
As a result, the intensity forecast is calling for Irene to strengthen into a strong Category Two Hurricane on the verge of being a major hurricane within five days. Right now, the latest upper air data indicates that the subtropical ridge remains strong over Irene, and that will keep the hurricane moving to the West-Northwest for at least the next 24 to 36 hours. However, after that, the models disagree on the strength of the ridge. Some models indicate that Irene will be in the vicinity of the West Coast of Florida while others have it missing Florida entirely. The GFS indicates that the storm will be along the Florida East Coast later this week.
All residents from the Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic should be closely monitoring the progress of this developing system.