Irene Strengthens to a Hurricane

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Kenny Wilder
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Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:26 pm

Irene Strengthens to a Hurricane

As Irene skirted along the northern coast of Puerto Rico early Monday morning, it strengthened to a hurricane, becoming the first hurricane in the Atlantic Basin for the 2011 season. The center of Irene is now north of Puerto Rico over the open waters of the Atlantic, so the storm should continue to strengthen gradually over the next 6-12 hours.

Irene will likely move over or very near northern Hispaniola later today into tonight before passing just north of eastern Cuba later Tuesday and Tuesday night. The exact track of this system will be critical in determining the eventual strength of Irene as the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola could considerably weaken the system and prevent the storm from rapidly organizing thereafter. However, it appears most likely that Irene will only skirt the northern coast of Hispaniola, so the storm will likely be able to maintain its hurricane strength. However, there might still be enough influence from the island to weaken Irene a little bit or at least keep the storm from intensifying for a time due to the land interaction. Once the storm clears the island later Tuesday, a more rapid intensification of Irene will be possible once again.

Eventually, Irene will make a more northwestward turn through the Bahamas on Wednesday and then threaten the east coast of Florida by late Thursday and Friday, possibly as a major hurricane by this point in time. Even if the storm skirts by the east coast of Florida without making a direct landfall, the hurricane will pass close enough to the east coast of Florida to affect coastal areas with sustained hurricane-force winds. Irene will then threaten Georgia and the Carolinas by later Friday into next weekend as it likely makes a turn more to the north.

by Meteorologist Randy Adkins, updated by Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski

Posted: 22-AUG-2011 07:17am EDT
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