Update: Hurricane Irene has now become a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100mph and higher gusts. Forecasts now show Irene strengthening further to a Category 3 storm with winds of up to 125mph by the time the storm passes through the Bahamas and could make Category 4 with 135mph winds after the storm passes the islands. Irene now has the potential to cause major insured losses and loss of life and her progress should be followed closely.
Hurricane Irene’s forecast path has moved slightly further to the east and forecast models suggest that landfall on the coast of either South or North Carolina is most likely at the weekend. The forecasts suggest that Irene will still be a major Category 2 storm by that time. The Carolinas are particularly exposed to flooding from storm surge and inland flooding. It’s extremely uncertain exactly where Irene will make landfall on the U.S. coast or how powerful she will be at that time. Other storms to impact that area of the U.S. coastline have caused as much as $5 billion or as little as $500m in damages, said EQECAT, highlighting the Category 4 hurricane Floyd and Category 2 hurricane Dennis respectively, both from 1999. The Bahamas however are at severe risk of receiving a damaging blow from hurricane Irene.
Original article: Hurricane Irene has now passed Puerto Rico having delivered the island a side swipe which saw as many as 800,000 people lose their electricity supply as the storm downed power lines, felled trees and caused some flooding. Irene is currently just off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic and sustained winds have intensified to 80mph.
Irene, currently a category 1 hurricane, is forecast to intensify as the storm moves along the coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, then sets her sights on the Turks & Caicos islands, before heading into the Bahamas and onwards towards the U.S. coastline. The National Hurricane Center forecast that hurricane Irene could become a Category 3 storm by the time it reaches the Bahamas which means that sustained winds could have risen to as much as 115mph. That’s sufficient to cause significant damage should the storm make a direct hit on any of the Turks & Caicos or Bahamas islands.
Beyond the Bahamas there is a little more uncertainty in the forecast path of hurricane Irene. The majority of models currently show Irene missing the Florida coast and heading north to South Carolina. The model consensus shows hurricane Irene making landfall on the South Carolina coast on Saturday as a strong Category 3 hurricane. However it is still to early to predict where it will make landfall and there is a chance that Irene could miss the U.S. altogether and recurve into the Atlantic. We’ll update you as the forecast path becomes more certain.
There is also a chance that Irene could intensify to an even more powerful storm if interactions with the Bahamas islands were minimal. Weather conditions are conducive for development and intensification, with waters very warm around the Bahamas area.
The latest forecast path for hurricane Irene can be seen below. You can keep updated with our 2011 Atlantic hurricane season page.