The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season saw its first hurricane, Irene, forming over Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea on August 20.

NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed over Irene when it was still a tropical storm on August 21. NASA said in a statement that Irene contained numerous powerful thunderstorms.

NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-13 captured how Irene was formed.

A GOES-13 video here shows the progression of Tropical Storm Harvey through the western Caribbean Sea and the birth of Hurricane Irene (Credit: NASA).

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), Irene moved over Puerto Rico on Monday and will move to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, near or over the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Tuesday night, and near the central Bahamas on early Wednesday.

The NHC has issued public advisory indicating that there is a chance that a “damaging or even extreme event could occur that warrants preparations to protect lives and property.”

The maximum sustained winds of Irene hurricane remain near 100 miles per hour with higher gusts, NHC said, adding that the wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour will occur at individual locations.

Irene is a category two hurricane and additional strengthening is forecast through Thursday.

Here is a projected wind speeds from NHC:

Irene hit Puerto Rico, causing widespread tree and powerline damage on late Sunday. More than 800,000 homes are reportedly without power on the island and Irene had maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour in the Caribbean island.

As Irene heads towards U.S. East Coast and is forecast to make a possible landfall in the mainland U.S. in Florida, Georgia or California by the end of the week, NHC projected in its public advisory the havoc this hurricane could wreak.

Hurricane Irene is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 1 to 2 inches across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches are expected over Northern Hispaniola with isolated maximum amounts of up to 10 inches possible over higher terrain. These rains could cause “life-threatening” flash floods and mud slides in areas of steep terrain.

Rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches are expected in the southeastern and central Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A storm surge is forecast to raise water levels by as much as 9 to 13 feet above normal tide levels in the same region.

About 2 to 4 feet raise in water levels above normal tide levels along the entire coast of the Dominican Republic is also projected that will be accompanied by “large and dangerous waves” near the coast, NHC warned.

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