Hurricane Irene Marching Towards Florida

As of 11:00 a.m. AST on Monday, August 22, 2011 (NHC Advisory #8): Hurricane watches and warnings are being issued as Irene moves WNW (300°) at 13 mph, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Irene is forecast to strengthen to a major hurricane over the next few days, with the official forecast expecting Category 3 strength as it moves across the central Bahamas.

Based on the latest guidance, the National Hurricane Center has shifted the official forecast track slightly East, lessening the threat to South Florida, but they stress that the 4-5 day estimates have average errors of 200-250 miles (based on the most recent 5-year averages). This places Irene about 200 miles East of the Southern tip of Florida on Thursday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

Looking at the Wavewatch forecast for the Cape Canaveral offshore buoy, we can see storm-surf conditions peaking early Friday, with primary swell conditions in the 35 feet at 13 seconds range. Further up the coast, the Cape Hatteras and Texas Tower forecasts are also showing huge (20+ feet), moderate-period swell filling throughout the upcoming weekend.

Given the uncertainty of Irene’s track, things can change pretty quickly over the next few days. Also, the threat to the Southern states is very real, especially if Irene continues to strengthen and wanders further West. For the latest updates and information regarding the hurricane, stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center as well as your local meteorologist.