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Hurricane Irene's track shifts slightly east

Posted On: Aug. 22, 2011 12:00 AM CST

MIAMI—Hurricane Irene's threat to South Florida may be lessening, but the storm's track still could change, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.

The storm made landfall near Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico, early Monday as a tropical storm packing winds of about 70 mph and later grew to hurricane strength. A hurricane warning was in effect for the Dominican Republic.

Boston-based catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide Corp. noted in an analysis that the storm had cut electricity to more than 1 million people.

However, AIR also said it did not expect significant insured losses in Puerto Rico because of sound construction, “relatively high” building code enforcement and the storm's wind speeds when it struck.

In an analysis Monday, the National Hurricane Center said the storm’s track had shifted to the east, although it still was slightly west of the consensus of various models. The center said that “although it is too early to be certain,” the threat to South Florida may be diminished. It cautioned, however, that observers shouldn’t count on an exact forecast track, particularly four or five days out.

“Current forecasts place Irene on a path that could take it to the east coast of Florida by Friday, though there is considerable uncertainty in its forecast path,” Scott Stransky, an AIR scientist, said in an analysis of the storm. “A slight shift in the forecast path towards the east, as some computer models are currently suggesting, will allow the storm to undergo more significant intensification and make landfall as far north as North Carolina.”

Irene is the ninth named storm and the first hurricane of the current Atlantic hurricane season.

Forecasters at both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Tropic Meteorology Project at Colorado State University have predicted an unusually active hurricane season this year.