Monday, August 22, 2011

Tropical storm Irene is strengthening into a hurricaine - Florida put on alert - 21st Aug 2011

Tropical Storm Irene whipped the northern Leeward Islands with rain and squalls today as it barreled west on a track through the Caribbean that looked set to threaten Florida.

Irene, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to pass Puerto Rico's southern coast late on Sunday and early Monday and then strengthen into a hurricane as it approached the Dominican Republic.

It would be the first hurricane of the busy, but so far not destructive, 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

At 11am, Irene had top winds of 50 miles per hour and was about 235 miles east-southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, moving into the northeastern Caribbean sea, the U.S.-based National Hurricane Center said.

Residents of Antigua reported rains, strong squalls and surf as the storm passed the Leeward Islands in the northeast corner of the Caribbean.

Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for most of the northeastern Caribbean islands, and for Haiti.

'Irene will pass near Puerto Rico tonight or early Monday and approach the Dominican Republic on Monday ... some strengthening is forecast during the next day or so and Irene could become a hurricane on Monday,' the Miami-based hurricane centre said. Read More