Above is the latest visible satellite image showing Hurricane Irene out over the Bahamas. The image below is the corresponding infrared satellite picture:
As you can tell in both images, Irene is becoming very well organized, with a well defined eye structure centered right over Crooked Island in the Bahamas at this hour. Intense convection (thunderstorm activity) is also expanding well outward from the center in all directions, which means that both the tropical storm and hurricane force wind fields will also expand outward over time (as we've been expecting).
The latest Air Force Hurricane Hunter examination of Irene, as well as recent satellite imagery indicate that she has indeed begun the much anticipated turn toward the Northwest, currently moving at 12 mph. The minimum central pressure as of the 11am EDT observation was 28.23 inches of mercury (956 millibars) with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.
I've received several e-mails today asking for an update on my thoughts regarding the future track and impacts of Irene on the U.S. In my opinion, it's very important not to flip-flop back and forth on the track and/or impact forecast based on every new computer model run that comes in. We are seeing a lot of that in certain parts of the media right now, particularly with today's technology giving wide open access to anyone that would like to examine the computer model forecasts, etc. (which is fine, I certainly have no problem with that - you just need to be careful how you use it).
Until Irene gets closer to the U.S., I intend to only give one update per day regarding my thoughts on the expected track and intensity impacts of Irene (unless some drastic change in actual movement or intensity takes place during the middle of a given day). As I've done so far this week, that update will be posted in the late afternoon or early evening hours each day.
Other posts on Irene will focus on the present location of the system and any interesting observations that have come in either via satellite imagery, recon reports, surface observations, etc.
With that said, I strongly encourage residents along the Eastern U.S. seaboard, particularly from the Carolinas on Northward, to continue preparing for a major hurricane by this weekend.
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