Intensity and direction of hurricane Irene increasingly uncertain

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Weather conditions are making it increasingly difficult to forecast how powerful hurricane Irene will get and the direction she will head in towards the U.S. coastline. The forecast path of hurricane Irene predicted by the models has shifted slightly further east, showing a landfall late Saturday afternoon somewhere between Wilmington and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane.

In their latest update on hurricane Irene, risk modeller EQECAT stresses the uncertainty around these forecasts, saying that extended forecasts contain significant uncertainty especially on where exactly hurricane Irene will make landfall. EQECAT also highlight a 10 to 20 knot southwesterly wind shear which could affect the intensity of Irene, wind shear can hinder the organisation of a hurricane.

The models currently still expect hurricane Irene to reach Category 3 strength with maximum sustained winds of 125mph before making landfall on the U.S. east or southeast coast. Some models now show what could be a worst case scenario of a major hurricane tracking up the eastern U.S. coastline impacting many of the major population centres on its path. It’s not an easy call, there’s also a chance that hurricane Irene could curve into the Atlantic, missing the coast altogether and some models reflect this with a landfall further north near Canada.

What is certain though is that hurricane Irene will impact the Turks & Caicos islands and the Bahamas over the next two days. Irene is still a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 100mph, enough to cause significant damage to any area which experiences a direct hit. Dangerous storm surges are likely with some low-lying areas likely to be inundated.

The next 48 hours will bring a clearer picture of Irene’s future path and intensity, giving a better picture of exactly the size of the threat to the U.S. east coast. You can see the current forecast path of hurricane Irene below and you can view a more detailed interactive tracking map on our 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season page.

Hurricane Irene forecast path

Hurricane Irene forecast path

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