The disturbance over the western Atlantic became Tropical Storm Irene over the weekend, and as of Monday morning, intensified into the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season.

While the majority of storms have posed little threat to the United States so far this season, current model guidance for Irene shows a potential landfall somewhere between central Florida and the Carolinas later this week.

Should the storm make landfall as a hurricane, it would be the first the U.S. has seen since hurricane Ike in early September 2008.

The varying tracks of the storm have many growers in the Southeast keeping a close watch, as tropical rains and winds could prove detrimental to several crops.

"Should Irene take a path closer to central Florida, citrus groves would be impacted most prominently by the strong winds", said Don Keeney, Senior Agricultural Meteorologist for CropCast.

"A landfall farther north in eastern Georgia, South Carolina or North Carolina would inflict damage to the mature corn crop, as brittle stalks would be unable to withstand storm force winds.

“The cotton crop, too, stands in the face of danger with this track. Cotton bolls are beginning to open across the region, and heavy rainfall would result in significant quality declines to that crop." said Keeney.

Satellites currently, show Irene moving to the WNW, away from Puerto Rico this morning (Aug. 22).

The eye of the storm should pass very close to the northern edge of Hispaniola later today or tonight, and this part of the storm's path is crucial, as its interaction with the mountainous terrain could potentially weaken the storm for a time.

However, should the storm's eye pass farther north of the island, it could create the potential for more intensification than currently forecast.  MDA EarthSat is currently favoring a path in which Irene would brush the northern coast of Hispaniola and would then travel northwest, eventually curving north close to the Carolinas by Saturday early morning as a category three hurricane (winds between 111 - 130 mph).

This track is slightly east of the current NHC forecast.

For more information, visit http://www.mdainformationsystems.com.