Right now, the latter of the questions is easier to answer than the future strength. The storm will track between two areas areas of high pressure before it feels the weakness created by a trough. The end result is a track that is either near Florida or one that makes landfall on the State. Forecast models have been in relatively good agreement about this for a few days. Any threat from Irene would not come before this Friday (August 26th).
The good and bad news with the storm is that future intensity is not known. Forecast models depict anything from a tropical storm to a hurricane, around the Florida Peninsula, next weekend. The best guess is, right now, Emily will have a tropical storm status, if best, at its closest approach to Florida. We have seen this scenario time and time again, and even this season, where tropical cyclones are all but destroyed by the most mountainous Caribbean Islands. Remember Emily?
|Emily 2011 Path|
Emily was all but obliterated, for a time, because of the mountain ranges on the Island of Hispaniola. So far, Irene is at the exact same latitude and longitude as Emily. If a weak tropical can emerge from the Caribbean Sea it has the potential to provide much needed rain for Florida.
I do think the official forecast track track may be little bit too far south then where it should be. Overall, I think the Navy NOGAPS has a good handle on the situation (https://www.fnmoc.navy.mil/wxmap_cgi/cgi-bin/wxmap_loop.cgi?&area=ngp_atlantic&prod=sfc10m&dtg=2011082018&set=All).
|Irene 1999 Path|