By Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities
The latest National Hurricane Center forecast for Tropical Storm Irene projects that the storm will be a hurricane when it makes landfall in southern Florida on Thursday night. If it is, then it will be the first hurricane to make a direct landfall in the United States since the devastating Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
Since today is Sunday, nothing is certain about a late-week U.S. impact. Earlier this season, NHC forecasters had initially predicted that Emily would hit southern Florida as a hurricane; however, its interaction with Hispaniola and a slight eastward shift in the track meant that Florida was spared.
Irene is also expected to interact with Hispaniola early this week, which will certainly weaken the storm; however, it’s expected to be a more glancing blow with the northern part of the island rather than crossing from north-to-south through the rugged terrain. As a result of that and overall favorable atmospheric conditions, warm water, and general computer model consensus, the NHC is expecting that Irene will hit Florida as a hurricane on Thursday night.