Irene's eyewall collapses; further intensification unlikely

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:14 PM GMT on August 26, 2011

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Satellite data and measurements from the Hurricane Hunters show that Irene is weakening. A 9:21 am EDT center fix by an Air Force Reserve aircraft found that Irene's eyewall had collapsed, and the central pressure had risen to 946 mb from a low of 942 mb this morning. The highest winds measured at their flight level of 10,000 feet were 125 mph, which would normally support classifying Irene as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. However, these winds were not mixing down to the surface in the way we typically see with hurricanes, and the strongest surface winds seen by the aircraft with their SFMR instrument were just 90 mph in the storm's northeast eyewall. Assuming the aircraft missed sampling the strongest winds of the hurricane, it's a good guess that Irene is a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds. Satellite imagery shows a distinctly lopsided appearance to Irene's cloud pattern, with not much heavy thunderstorm activity on the southwest side. This is due to moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots due to upper-level winds out of the southwest. This shear is disrupting Irene's circulation and has cut off upper-level outflow along the south side of the hurricane. No eye is visible in satellite loops, but the storm's size is certainly impressive. Long range radar out of Wlimington, North Carolina, shows that the outermost spiral bands from Irene are now beginning to come ashore along the South Carolina/North Carolina border. Winds at buoy 41004 100 miles offshore from Charleston, SC increased to 36 mph as of 10 am, with significant wave heights of 18 feet.


Figure 1. Distribution of Irene's wind field at 9:30 am EDT Friday August 26, 2011, as observed by the Hurricane Hunters and buoys. The right front quadrant of the hurricane had about 90% of the storm's hurricane-force winds (yellow and warmer colors, bounded by the heavy black line between the "50" and "60" knot thin black lines.) Tropical storm-force winds (heavy black like bounding the light blue area) extended out 290 miles from the center of Irene. Image credit: NOAA/AOML/HRD.

Forecast and storm surge potential for Irene
With its eyewall collapsed and just 24 more hours over water before landfall, it is unlikely Irene will have time to build a new eyewall and intensify. The storm is too large to weaken quickly, and the best forecast is that Irene will be a Category 2 hurricane at landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, and a rapidly weakening Category 1 hurricane at its second landfall in New England on Sunday. However, since Irene is such a huge storm--tropical storm force winds extend out up to 290 miles from the center--it has set a massive amount of the ocean's surface in motion, which will cause a much larger storm surge than the winds would suggest. At 9:30am EDT this morning, a wind analysis from NOAA/HRD (Figure 1) indicated that the potential storm surge damage from Irene rated a 5.1 on a scale of 0 to 6. This is equivalent to the storm surge a typical Category 4 hurricane would have. While this damage potential should gradually decline as Irene moves northwards and weakens, we can still expect a storm surge one full Saffir-Simpson Category higher than Irene's winds. Since tides are at their highest levels of the month this weekend due to the new moon, storm surge flooding will be at a maximum during the high tidal cycles that will occur at 8 pm Saturday night and 8 am Sunday morning. Wherever Irene happens to be at those times the storm surge damage potential will be maximized. A surge rivaling that experienced during Hurricane Isabel in 2003 is likely in northern NC, southern Maryland, and up Chesapeake Bay on Saturday night. Coastal New England from New York City to Massachusetts may also see storm surges characteristic of a Category 1 hurricane during Sunday morning's high tide, even if Irene has weakened to a tropical storm. I continue to give a 20% chance that a storm surge high enough to over-top the Manhattan flood walls and swamp the New York City subway system will occur on Sunday.

Wind damage
I don't think Irene is going to do a lot of wind damage to the mid-Atlantic states, since the eye of the storm will be just offshore, and the I-95 corridor from Virginia to New Jersey will be on the weak (left) side of the hurricane. The current wind distribution of Irene (Figure 1) shows almost all of the hurricane's winds are on the right side of the storm, and by the time the storm reaches Virginia, there will be likely be no hurricane-force winds on the left side of Irene. Sustained winds should stay below 74 mph (hurricane force), and wind damage will be similar to that wrought be some of the strongest Nor'easters of the past 20 years, from Virginia northwards to New York City. Since Irene will be steadily weakening as it approaches its second landfall on Long Island, I give a 50% chance that no mainland U.S. surface station in New England will record sustained hurricane-force winds. I do think it likely that one or more of the offshore islands--Block Island, Nantucket, and Marthas Vinyard--will get Category 1 hurricane winds. Though the wind damage to buildings will be similar to what the Northeast has seen during some of the more severe nor'easters of the past 20 years, tree damage will be much worse. The trees are in full leaf during hurricane season, and catch the wind much more readily than during the winter. Tree damage will very heavy, and we can expect trees in regions with saturated soils will fall over in high winds onto power lines. Irene is likely to cause one of the top-five most widespread power outages in American history from a storm. The record power outage from a Northeast storm was probably the ten million people that lost power during the great Blizzard of 1993. I don't think Irene's power outages will be quite that extensive, but several million people will likely lose power.

Irene likely to bring destructive fresh water flooding
In addition to storm surge, flash flooding and river flooding from Irene's torrential rains are the main threats. The hurricane is expected to bring rains in excess of 8" to a 100-mile-wide swath from Eastern North Carolina northwards along the coast, through New York City. The danger of fresh water flooding is greatest in northern New Jersey, Southeast Pennsylvania, and Southeast New York, where the soils are saturated from heavy August rains that were among the heaviest on record. New Jersey has had its 6th wettest August on record, with most of that rain falling in the past two weeks. Expect major river flooding throughout New Jersey the Delmarva Peninsula, and regions near New York City, as Irene's rains run off the saturated soils directly into the rivers. In general, the heaviest rains will fall along the west side of the hurricane's track, and the greatest wind damage will occur on the east side. I don't think flooding from heavy rains will be a huge concern in North Carolina, which is under moderate to severe drought. Irene's rains are likely to do some good in Southeast Virginia, where a fire triggered by lightning from a thunderstorm on August 4 sparked a fire in the Dismal Swamp that is burning out of control. Right now, it does not appear that tornadoes will be a major concern, but there will probably be a few weak tornadoes. Hurricane Bob of 1991, the last hurricane to affect New England, spawned six tornadoes, most of them weak F-0 and F-1 twisters.


Figure 2. Predicted rainfall for the 5-day period ending at 8 am EDT Wednesday August 31, as issued by NOAA/HPC.

Links
For those of you wanting to know your odds of receiving hurricane force or tropical storm force winds, I recommend the NHC wind probability product.

Wunderground has detailed storm surge maps for the U.S. coast.

The National Hurricane Center's Interactive Storm Surge RIsk Map, which allows one to pick a particular Category hurricane and zoom in, is a good source of storm surge risk information.

Wunderblogger Mike Theiss is in Nassau, documenting the storm's impact on the Bahamas.

Internet radio show on Irene at 4:30pm EDT
Wunderground meteorologists will be discussing Hurricane Irene on a special edition of our Internet radio show, the Daily Downpour, today (Friday) at 4:30pm EDT. Shaun Tanner , Tim Roche, Angela Fritz, and Rob Carver will there, and I will be available if my schedule permits. Listeners can email in or call in questions. The email address to ask questions is broadcast@wunderground.com.

Portlight mobilizes for Irene
The Bahamas have been hit hard by Irene, and unfortunately, it appears that the Northeast U.S. may have its share of hurricane victims before Irene finally dissipates. My favorite disaster relief charity, Portlight.org, is mobilizing to help, and has sent out their relief trailer and crew to North Carolina. Check out this blog to see what they're up to; donations are always needed.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Irene's Wrath ! (MikeTheiss)
A shot of the Palm Trees at Nassau, Bahamas being thrashed by high winds during Irene's closest approach !
Hurricane Irene's Wrath !
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas (ktbahamas)
Utility pole with street light snapped in half by Irene's winds on a busy street in New Providence.
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas
Irene Response (presslord)
Portlight deploying to North Carolina
Irene Response

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Hi Everyone...

Seems like Irene has reached her peak and not likely to reintensify. (from what I gathered from Dr. Masters.

That is good news! Hopefully it will move quickly and get in and out.

Stay safe all in Irene path!!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting P451:


It's no longer a threat to:

The Lesser Antilles
The Cayman Islands
South Florida
NOLA
The deforested mountains of Haiti


When this occurs this place goes dead. Those folks aren't weather fanatics they are doom wishers for their location only.

Once the threat ceases for their location or the other (for whatever reason they have become) favored locations to scream (OH NO! Not ____! That would be terrible!) the place dies.




TRUTH.
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Quoting WaterWitch11:


They waited too long for Ike. Media should have been on it sooner.
NHC was on it from way out. Stupid Politicos out of Galviston and Huston were asleep at the switch. That train wreck didn't need to happen. Only hope barrier island and lowland folks on East Cost take a lesson and listen to NHC.
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Quoting DallasGumby:
It's more than just money. Evacuations themselves cost lives, injuries, and damage - and those making such decisions have to consider the anticipated cost of taking one action versus the possible cost of not taking the action. So, they can't pretend a hurricane will be have certain characteristics unless there appears a likelihood that it will.


tell that to the people that almost drowned even in a hurricane shelter during hugo in Awendaw...and the shelter was higher elevation than the homes those people lived in...had they not left their homes, they would have died...and had the GOVT not called for an evacuation due to a possible catastrophic event...then not warning people to evacuate would have been the fault of those who should have given the warnings
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3599
BULLETIN
HURRICANE IRENE INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 25A
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
200 PM EDT FRI AUG 26 2011

...IRENE WEAKENS A LITTLE...TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS
ARRIVING ALONG THE COAST OF THE CAROLINAS.


SUMMARY OF 200 PM EDT...1800 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...31.2N 77.5W
ABOUT 300 MI...480 KM SSW OF CAPE HATTERAS NORTH CAROLINA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...100 MPH...155 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...N OR 360 DEGREES AT 14 MPH...22 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...951 MB...28.08 INCHES
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting PrivateIdaho:


Those winds I saw earlier at the Edisto buoy offshore must finally be working inland.


Fantastic.

Just what I need at 3pm leaving work today.
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Quoting DallasGumby:
It's more than just money. Evacuations themselves cost lives, injuries, and damage - and those making such decisions have to consider the anticipated cost of taking one action versus the possible cost of not taking the action. So, they can't pretend a hurricane will be have certain characteristics unless there appears a likelihood that it will.

Good point. Maybe I"m getting ahead of myself.
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Quoting hswiseman:


The circular center of circulation is not an "eye" per se. The "eye" is an intense convective ring surrounding the center of circulation. Irene does not have one.


You're right - Its just a gapping hole where the center of Irene is, where the air is sinking and the winds are calm.

But don't worry, it isn't an eye.

Sarcasm: FLAG
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting gulfbreeze:
NO was on the west side not a direct hit or strong side.


Thank You.
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Link

NYC Hurricane Evacuation Map - This is a major endeavor.

Mandatory evacuations for all areas at greatest risk (Zone A) in all 5 boroughs.
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Quoting Tampa77:
NYC now issuing manual evacs


Just a clarification (because it may be misconstrued), this is an evacuation of the "Zone A" low-lying areas.
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Quoting Tampa77:
NYC now issuing manual evacs


any mandatory evacs scheduled?
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Well I can't stay for the weekend, I'm going on a family vacation, but I thought I'd just stop by real quick.

I see Irene is struggling with her eye, eyewall, and core features due to dry air and some shear. Gradual weakening should continue. However, folks should keep in mind that although this storm has dry air issues, it is absolutely not a dry storm, in fact, if anything it's the exact opposite. HPC 5-day QPF totals reveal the models are forecasting massive amounts of rainfall up and down the east coast




Winds will also be an issue, especially due to the massive wind field. This storm is quite unlike most storms which confine their strongest winds to the eyewall. This storm has consistently been reporting hurricane force winds up to 90 miles out from the eyewall. Luckily this was on the eastern half of the storm, but the point remains. Another result of the large wind field is the storm surge and waves generated.

You can watch some wave height animations here and here and a storm surge product here.



Stay safe everyone, and I'll be back in a few days
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Quoting Unfriendly:
eye speye with meye little eye... an eye on radar.


The circular center of circulation is not an "eye" per se. The "eye" is an intense convective ring surrounding the center of circulation. Irene does not have one.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


TWC watcher!!

LOL.


Still an interesting stat even if it did come from you know who...
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting tiggeriffic:


looking at the animated radar, Edisto is getting a squall, if it is anything like the one we had a little bit ago...i will put money they are having winds like that


We had a brief windy and pouring rain event here in Summerville.
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Quoting robodave:
Now is not the time for them to downplay Irene. Not enough time to play games. They have to pretend this will be a cat3 in NC. That's what I would do. Forget the money. A little bit of lost money is nothing compared to an actual CAT3 on top of that@! If people aren't leaving now then they're playing games.
It's more than just money. Evacuations themselves cost lives, injuries, and damage - and those making such decisions have to consider the anticipated cost of taking one action versus the possible cost of not taking the action. So, they can't pretend a hurricane will be have certain characteristics unless there appears a likelihood that it will.
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NYC now issuing manual evacs
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Don't know if you know this - Mandatory evacuations for New York City.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Reed could very well be correct with Irene. It looks as if her southwest shear she was fighting through let up. Her outflow to her southwest is MUCH better. The dry air is something she isnt going to shake though.

This storm is a puzzling one for sure, definitely a learning experience. NHC has done fantastic in storm track. Major props to them.
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Mandatory Evacuation just got issued for all citizens in parts of NYC
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Quoting hswiseman:


Landfall was along the LA coastline...Katrina weakened to under 100mph gust by time it reached New Orleans.
NO was on the west side not a direct hit or strong side.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


where did you find that? I can't find sustained winds that strong anywhere close to Edisto.


looking at the animated radar, Edisto is getting a squall, if it is anything like the one we had a little bit ago...i will put money they are having winds like that
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3599
eye speye with meye little eye... an eye on radar.
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT FRI AUG 26 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON HURRICANE
IRENE...LOCATED ABOUT 300 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF CAPE HATTERAS
NORTH CAROLINA...AND ON TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN...LOCATED ABOUT 655
MILES WEST OF THE SOUTHERNMOST CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BLAKE
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
502. Gorty
Quoting streamtracker:


Hello Groty, you and I are both aware that wind is stilla threat in W Ma!

Here is my W. Ma Sunday forecast from Wunderground:
Tropical storm conditions possible. Showers. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Humid. Near steady temperature in the upper 60s. East winds 40 to 50 mph with gusts up to 60 mph... becoming northeast and...increasing to 50 to 70 mph with gusts up to 85 mph in the afternoon. Chance of rain near 100 percent.

70 mph winds with 85 mph gusts will be damaging in a region dominated by many aging trees.

Anybody downplaying wind damage potential for W. Ma is unaware of the forests conditions in the region. We are in an area with lot's of aging barns and old houses. While I do not expect roofs to get ripped from houses, I do expect to see a lot of downed trees and large limbs. I expect widespread power outages and many damaged structures from tree damage.

Add to that the many communities built next to creeks that will flood and we have a recipe for some real pain in our area.

My house is less than 100 feet from a stream that rose over it's banks and onto my yard the last time we had a three day 8 inch rain event. I expect more than that in a 24 hour period this weekend. I am currently filling sand bags to protect the vulnerable places around my foundation (basement windows, a place were they only built the foundation to 3 feet instead of 8 feet, in front of the garage door, etc.)


Don't worry, though it will be sad, downplayers will downplay that. They still have no idea about the wet ground plus the huge wind field... it could get nasty... plus that is also coming from skilled forecasters.
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




It even has an 'eye'

HA!
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Media need to attract viewers and outfits like TWC, CNN (which has been REALLY bad this time) Fox, etc have been describing what is now a large Cat 2 hurricane in apocalyptic terms.

On Monday when it is over, in addition to the damage Irene caused, the credibility of meteorologists and the NHC will be damaged. Crying wolf about the 'Big One'. Again.


I beg to differ. I think given the scenarios the computer models were spitting out just 72 hours out, and the possibility of a strike at astronomical high tide warranted much of what's been heard.

We just have to explain to people that what's possible isn't always what happens. As everyone says, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

All that said, from what I've seen and heard, Irene's not quite done singing just yet.

Welcome to the Gulf Stream Irene, you have 6 to 12 hours over it. What can you do?
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Quoting sullivanweather:
Check out the feature @27.5°N,60°W.

It appears the upper low spawned from Irene's outflow is building down towards the surface and may become 91L.

A couple models actually develop this into a tropical storm and move it to a position off the East Coast in 5-6 days.


Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting tiggeriffic:


local stations in Chas pretty much saying same thing. Daniel Island which map wise is close to Mt Pleasant is getting em too...hubby and son got kicked off and they were working...from what they said they are closing the bridges to high profile vehicles minimum


Those winds I saw earlier at the Edisto buoy offshore must finally be working inland.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:


It ain't the size of the winds in the storm, son, it's the size of the storm with the winds.

Gloria was never this big. Irene has a ridiculously large TS strength wind field. The danger she poses is surge, not wind. Comparing central pressures, in that context, is effectively useless.


That is a good call there. Take Ike for example. Made landfall as a Cat 2 with 110 mph and produced devastating damage to Galveston. I sat through the entire storm about 40 miles North of Galveston and Ike blew the roof off Reliant Stadium and blew out windows in downtown Houston. Galveston is approx 50 miles from Houston. The TWC is doing a good job of comparing Irene to Ike. It may not look like a Rita or Katrina before landfall (though those weakened a lot before actually making landfall) but Irene will certainly produce much higher storm surge than you would think with a typical Cat 2 hurricane. Just like Ike did.

Keep in mind Ike is the 3rd costliest Hurricane to ever strike the U.S. Only behind Katrina and Andrew.. All the people from N.C. to Maine need to worry about the devastating storm surge Irene can easily cause.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Check out the feature @27.5°N,60°W.

It appears the upper low spawned from Irene's outflow is building down towards the surface and may become 91L.

A couple models actually develop this into a tropical storm and move it to a position off the East Coast in 5-6 days.
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I can't believe this. A huge and powerful storm is bearing down on the US coast, and this place is as dead as a doornail.

What is going on?
Member Since: September 3, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 520
Take it from someone who was in New olreans when Katrina hit. CAT 3
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Katrina made landfall as a solid Category 3 hurricane.


Landfall was along the LA coastline...Katrina weakened to under 100mph gust by time it reached New Orleans.
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Now is not the time for them to downplay Irene. Not enough time for doubt. They have to pretend this will be a cat 2 or 3 in NYC. That's what I would do. Forget the money. A little bit of lost money is nothing compared to an actual CAT3 on top of all the money spent to evacuate!

Storm still looks scary to me. I hope nobody blinks.

What concerns me is the news hypes the storm and then when it weakens they act like it's over and people that live there on the coast that should evacuate choose not to. Bad bad...
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Quoting hswiseman:

Well said. Katrina was only a solid Cat 1 when it hit NO.


Katrina made landfall as a solid Category 3 hurricane.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting NICycloneChaser:
Just became a paid member. LOVING the long radar loops.


$10 a year. Best bargain on the Interwebs.

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Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
For those of you thinking that Irene weakening make it less dangerous remember what happened during Katrina. Katrina hit as a cat 4 or borderline 3 what it hit mississippi. The surge it brought wit hit was a cat 5 surge that has accumulated earlier in the GOMEX. A factor to consider is the size of the system which in this case is huge. Bigger systems mean more water rising and being dumped on the coast. If you do not want a nasty surprise, listen to your local emergency management and do as they advise. But even better use your common sense because once you are in the middle of that mess there is no way back.


125 MPH winds at landfall.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting CaneHunter031472:
For those of you thinking that Irene weakening make it less dangerous remember what happened during Katrina. Katrina hit as a cat 4 or borderline 3 what it hit mississippi. The surge it brought wit hit was a cat 5 surge that has accumulated earlier in the GOMEX. A factor to consider is the size of the system which in this case is huge. Bigger systems mean more water rising and being dumped on the coast. If you do not want a nasty surprise, listen to your local emergency management and do as they advise. But even better use your common sense because once you are in the middle of that mess there is no way back.

Well said. Katrina was only a solid Cat 1 when it hit NO.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


where did you find that? I can't find sustained winds that strong anywhere close to Edisto.


local stations in Chas pretty much saying same thing. Daniel Island which map wise is close to Mt Pleasant is getting em too...hubby and son got kicked off and they were working...from what they said they are closing the bridges to high profile vehicles minimum
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3599
Quoting NICycloneChaser:
Just became a paid member. LOVING the long radar loops.


Are you able to post them on here?
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5238
Irene is coming back

Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
BWAHAHA,
I just got a robocall from PEPCO (our elec. co, sort of) saying expect them to be out this weekend. What a wonderful excuse for their always fairly awful service.
Okay, back to work, thanks to all for all the info.
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Just became a paid member. LOVING the long radar loops.
Member Since: August 10, 2010 Posts: 2 Comments: 1970
Quoting fragileuk:


Lurked for years, This one has amazed me more than any others regards to the comments on here. RI fish FL NYC etc. So far this will remain the most accurate answer to date regardless of what she does.
Thank you!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.