Hurricane Irene, the first of the 2011 Atlantic season, picked up strength as it moved toward the southeastern Bahamas on a path that could take it to Florida by week’s end, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Irene, with maximum winds of 80 miles (129 kilometers) per hour, was about 90 miles west-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as of 9 a.m. East Coast time and is moving west-northwest at 14 mph, according to an advisory by the Miami-based hurricane center.
The NHC expects the hurricane to pass over Puerto Rico this morning and reach the north coast of the Dominican Republic later today. Orange Crop
Florida’s orange crop is vulnerable to tropical weather if the area is exposed to strong winds. A hurricane warning in Puerto Rico has been changed to a tropical storm warning. Hurricane warnings continue for the north coast of the Dominican Republic, while watches are in force for the north coast of Haiti and the Central Bahamas. Storm Winds
Hurricane-force winds extend outward for 15 miles from Irene’s core, and tropical-storm-force winds extend for 150 miles, mostly to the northwest and northeast of the core, the center said in its advisory.
A storm becomes a hurricane when winds hit 74 mph. The last major hurricane to hit the U.S. was in 2005, according to the hurricane center.
Hurricane forecasters have posted hurricane and tropical-storm warnings for the island of Hispaniola and the southern Bahamas as hurricane Irene, the Atlantic season's first hurricane, crossed Puerto Rico overnight Sunday.
The intensity forecast upgrades Irene to a major hurricane, with winds in excess of 110 miles per hour, by the time it reaches the central Bahamas Thursday morning. RECOMMENDED: Top 10 most expensive hurricanes
Irene appeared as a tropical storm early Saturday evening from a cluster of thunderstorms some 175 miles east of Martinique. By early Monday morning, the center of the storm had arrived over Puerto Rico. The storm's path also left much of Irene's circulation over warm water, so Irene kept spinning up. Irene is the ninth named storm in the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season – a season busier so far than were 2009 and 2010.