Just a quick update for those along the East coast watching the now Hurricane Irene.
As anticipated, Irene has emerged off the northern coast of Puerto Rico, and has intensified while marching over the northeast portion of the island. There is clearly an eye on the radar image out of San Juan this morning:
Maximum sustained winds sit at 75 mph, and there is no doubt in my mind this will strengthen and become a major hurricane within the next 48-72 hours. Now that the center is north of PR, interaction with the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola to the west will be little to non-existent as it passes north of that island, likely north of the coast. This allows the storm to at minimum maintain it’s intensity. Once over the Bahamas, the even warmer waters of the Gulfstream and near perfect low shear environment will allow for impressive intensification over the next several days.
Irene will begin to feel the effects of the trough over the upper midwest as illustrated below, which will begin to pull the storm more northwest and finally north as it crosses the Bahamas, before making landfall somewhere in the Carolinas by the end of the week, in the Friday/Saturday timeframe, depending on it’s forward speed.
This is not meant to panic anyone in the Southeast US, but those along the coast should begin to make preparations to leave your homes by mid to late week now. The likelihood of this storm becoming a major hurricane, with the intensity of previous storms such as Hugo or Andrew is increasing. I would not be surprised if this becomes a strong category 3 or 4 storm before landfall. The exact track is difficult to say for certain, but anywhere from the Georgia/SC Carolina border to the outer banks of NC have the highest risk right now. National media outlets will play catch up over the next few days and even the National Hurricane Center will come around to this conclusion within the next 24-48 hours. Those farther up the East coast in Virginia through eastern PA and NJ may have to deal with flooding rains, especially in the wake of record rainfall so far for the month of August for some areas. More later.