Colleagues, IRENE has become a Category one hurricane. It is headed toward Florida's east coastline as a anticipated Category 2 hurricane. FORECAST: HURRICANE IRENE is passing over Puerto Rico and gaining strength. Winds are now 75 mph (the minimum required to be a hurricane) and movement is to the WNW at 11 mph. As the ridge break down it will recurve to the north and move up the Florida east coast, most likely just off the coast as a Category and likely eventually a Category 2 (and possible a Major) Hurricane. It may come on shore, but that would be more or less a technical difference. The Florida east coast will suffer a Category 2 storm with strong winds and certainly gusts of over 100 mph, high surf and storm tide in mid to late week through the weekend as the storm moves up the east coast. Effects in South Florida ought to be beginning to be felt by late Wednesday this week and progressively up the coast through the weekend. The storm MAY become a Category 3 (Major) Hurricane. The Bahamas will be hammered with 110 mph winds.
DISCUSSION: A succession of mid-level troughs are weakening the ridge is the western Atlantic. As the most pronounced of these lifts through by Wednesday, it will have eroded the western edge allowing HURRICANE IRENE to make a decide turn to the north. How soon that happens will determine if Irene makes landfall or just moves up the the coast off shore. And as Irene passes over Northern Hispaniola, it will weaken only a little. Haiti will get a lot of rain and strong winds, but be spared the worst of it. HURRICANE IRENE in fact seems to already begun a slightly more northerly track, which may either be just a "wobble" or a more pronounced weakening that I had anticipated this early. That would pull the Hurricane more off shore if that were true, but that will take several more hours of data to confirm. Regardless, Florida's East coast should anticipate strong hurricane force winds and rain mid to late this week and an increase in the likelihood that it will obtain Hurricane 2 and possibly 3 (a Major Hurricane) status. More and more, it is having things line up in favor of intensification.
NEXT FORECAST: Tuesday Morning, August 23
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