Hurricane Irene will pass just north of Hispaniola, which means more open water for Irene to intensify. It wouldn’t surprise me if Irene becomes a major hurricane ( at least Category 3) in the next 24-48 hours, though some weakening is expected with any landfall with the Bahamas. This, in turn, means that Florida is looking more and more in the clear (that is, not getting hit directly), but I’m not confident enough to say that it won’t make landfall there, just yet. Consensus forecast models, as well as statistical and dynamical models are agreeing that the mid-level ridge will weaken enough for Irene to move on a more easterly track than previous model runs, and will turn Irene in a northwesterly direction. This means that the GA/SC/NC/VA coastlines really need to be monitoring this storm very closely! At this point, exact location of landfall doesn’t really matter. What matters is if you live on or near these coasts that I listed above (even on the FL and entire east coastlines), start preparing now! This storm has the potential to be deadly, wherever it makes landfall.
Here is the latest from NHC as of 2:00pm AST (1800 UTC) on Hurricane Irene:
LOCATION...19.3N 68.1W ABOUT 150 MI...240 KM WNW OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ABOUT 50 MI...80 KM NNE OF PUNTA CANA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...80 MPH(Category 1)...130 KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 290 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/H MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...989 MB...29.20 INCHES
*****NOTE: Categories 3-5 are considered “major hurricanes”******