Irene Becomes Category 3 Storm

At 8am this morning the National Hurricane Center upgraded Irene to a major hurricane (category 3 or higher), with sustained winds at the center of the storm estimated at 115 mph.  The minimum central pressure is down to 28.26″.  The center of Irene was 335 miles southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and the storm is moving to the west/northwest at 9 mph.

These storms follow the path of least resistance and that means it will likely turn northwest into a weakness between to high pressure centers.  The weakness in the high pressure centers will be created by a trough of low pressure moving through the Great Lakes on Thursday.  That trough will push a cold front into the mid Atlantic with scattered thunderstorms tomorrow.  A second trough of low pressure, forecast to be over the Pacific Northwest early Thursday, will be tracking east and will likely be the crucial factor in determining whether Irene gets pushed off the mid Atlantic coast or moves farther inland.

Right now, most computer models are using that second trough to nudge Irene off the coast to a position a few hundred miles east of Ocean City, MD as a category 1 or 2 hurricane in the early morning hours of Sunday.

The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is following this scenario, keeping the storm east of the MD/DE coast and not making landfall until it reaches southern New England late Sunday night or early Monday morning.  The margin of error on hurricane tracks this far in advance is hundreds of miles, so the forecast track may well change…stay tuned for updates throughout the next few days.

Tom Tasselmyer

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