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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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
I think Irene is being overhyped. Let's compare it to Gloria. Back in 1985 Gloria moved over Cape Hatteras with a 942 mb pressure and Suffolk County on Long Island with a 961 mb pressure. Gloria was a damaging hurricane, but hardly the apocalypse.

Irene will be weaker than Gloria was in the OBX, and is likely to be weaker than Gloria was in Long Island/New England.

Irene will probably be far enough east to keep a northerly wind flow over the Chesapeake, limiting storm surge.

There will be a few billion dollars in damage, and maybe a dozen killed. Half of the dead will probably be doing stupid things that put them in harm's way.

And on Monday people will be talking about how overhyped this all was.

What's sad is that it was the Weather Channel and other media who overhyped this storm, not the NHC although you can bet people will be blaming the NHC for overhyping.

Ike was about the strength Irene is now, and Irene is even larger than Ike was. But I hardly think Ike was overhyped after what happened...

Just a little food for thought.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


That's the stupidest thing I've heard yet.


Looks like baltimorebrian is in for a rude awakening
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New vortex at 951 mb and this:

L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
I think Irene is being overhyped. Let's compare it to Gloria. Back in 1985 Gloria moved over Cape Hatteras with a 942 mb pressure and Suffolk County on Long Island with a 961 mb pressure. Gloria was a damaging hurricane, but hardly the apocalypse.

Irene will be weaker than Gloria was in the OBX, and is likely to be weaker than Gloria was in Long Island/New England.

Irene will probably be far enough east to keep a northerly wind flow over the Chesapeake, limiting storm surge.

There will be a few billion dollars in damage, and maybe a dozen killed. Half of the dead will probably be doing stupid things that put them in harm's way.

And on Monday people will be talking about how overhyped this all was.

What's sad is that it was the Weather Channel and other media who overhyped this storm, not the NHC although you can bet people will be blaming the NHC for overhyping.


it's only called over-hyping if there was no reason to ever think the storm would be bad. In this case, there is surely no solid evidence to say the storm has been over-hyped, at least not as of yet. Heck usually the people who cry "over-hyped" jump the gun 100 times more than the media outlets who over-hype things.

Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
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.


That's the stupidest thing I've heard yet.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32860
MahFL it is... not ..... thanks for correcting my mistake, and YW.

Typos are common in my world as I am not as perfect as you.
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Quoting tiggeriffic:
ok...back on after a decent squall hit the Charleston area...last i heard Presslord was still without power, several thousand in other parts of Chas without power...my oldest son was headed toward Daniel Island to meet my hub to do some electrical and dad called son to say turn around NOW...squall hit the work van and he almost lost control...he got home and was white as a ghost...said it was the wind and fact he was surrounded by tractor trailers... since then they have shut down all contractors on Daniel Island...they have been kicked off, only residents allowed now...waiting on the next squall


WOW!!! Over here in N. Chas there hasn't been much. Daniel Island is just a quick jaunt down 526. Hmmm. Guess we might be in for worse conditions later then.
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Quoting tiggeriffic:
ok...back on after a decent squall hit the Charleston area...last i heard Presslord was still without power, several thousand in other parts of Chas without power...my oldest son was headed toward Daniel Island to meet my hub to do some electrical and dad called son to say turn around NOW...squall hit the work van and he almost lost control...he got home and was white as a ghost...said it was the wind and fact he was surrounded by tractor trailers... since then they have shut down all contractors on Daniel Island...they have been kicked off, only residents allowed now...waiting on the next squall


Johns Island has has intermittent power outages all morning. It's going to be a long day - and night.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
I think Irene is being overhyped. Let's compare it to Gloria. Back in 1985 Gloria moved over Cape Hatteras with a 942 mb pressure and Suffolk County on Long Island with a 961 mb pressure. Gloria was a damaging hurricane, but hardly the apocalypse.

Irene will be weaker than Gloria was in the OBX, and is likely to be weaker than Gloria was in Long Island/New England.

Irene will probably be far enough east to keep a northerly wind flow over the Chesapeake, limiting storm surge.

There will be a few billion dollars in damage, and maybe a dozen killed. Half of the dead will probably be doing stupid things that put them in harm's way.

And on Monday people will be talking about how overhyped this all was.

What's sad is that it was the Weather Channel and other media who overhyped this storm, not the NHC although you can bet people will be blaming the NHC for overhyping.
Can you look into your crystal ball and give me tonite's lotto numbers? Have you ever heard of the obscure term, "Better safe than sorry"?
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Blog Update:

Hurricane Irene Video Update
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417. JLPR2
Seems like our next player.
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Buoy winds still increasing...



This is SE of Charleston, see more here:
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Quoting reedzone:
Now who said deeper convection would never develop on Irene anymore??




That's good stuff.. Who said that anyway?
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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.
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413. MahFL
403...well the NHC does have this wording....

"STORM SURGE...AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER
LEVELS BY AS MUCH AS 6 TO 11 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL IN THE
HURRICANE WARNING AREA IN NORTH CAROLINA...INCLUDING THE ALBEMARLE
AND PAMLICO SOUNDS. STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH
AS 4 TO 8 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL OVER SOUTHERN POTIONS OF THE
CHESAPEAKE BAY...INCLUDING TRIBUTARIES...AND THE EASTERN SHORE OF
THE DELMARVA PENINSULA. STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS
MUCH AS 3 TO 6 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL ALONG THE JERSEY SHORE.
NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE...
DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE-THREATENING WAVES."

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irene is building a NEW eyewall and tonight is going to be her last day of streghthining. if she gets her core in shape, a 115mph tonight is possible as the euro HWRF and GFDL show some stregnthining tonight...
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1728
Quoting BA:
further intensification unlikely? wow

bookmark this post for accountability down the road


Explain
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something else to take into consideration on Irene... yes, the intensity has gone down, but ONLY wind wise... local met explained it like this:

those are just the winds she has coming at you...she already absorbed all the moisture, the power, etc of being much stronger...she still has all that in her and is waiting to release it...the surge will still be higher than the cat she is now...
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
409. hamla
WHERE IS PATRAP WHEN U NEED SOME GOOD INFO ON HERE
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Quoting NJ2S:
does anyone know if she will pass to the east or west of nyc??


Either way. We don't know yet. A majority of models have Irene's center passing within 40 to 50 miles of Manhattan in either direction. In any case, given Irene's huge wind field and emphasis in storm surge, I don't think east or west would make much of a difference. A course closer to the NJ shore would bring higher winds to the city.
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Now who said deeper convection would never develop on Irene anymore??

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Quoting nash28:
Just a couple of quick bands rolling through here thus far....

Nothing much. Perfect sleeping weather though... And I am at work. Bah.
It looks as if Irene is forming a tail (of sorts) and this is dragging fast, hard showers here in key West
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Quoting NJ2S:
does anyone know if she will pass to the east or west of nyc??
No.
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404. HCW

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I think Irene is being overhyped. Let's compare it to Gloria. Back in 1985 Gloria moved over Cape Hatteras with a 942 mb pressure and Suffolk County on Long Island with a 961 mb pressure. Gloria was a damaging hurricane, but hardly the apocalypse.

Irene will be weaker than Gloria was in the OBX, and is likely to be weaker than Gloria was in Long Island/New England.

Irene will probably be far enough east to keep a northerly wind flow over the Chesapeake, limiting storm surge.

There will be a few billion dollars in damage, and maybe a dozen killed. Half of the dead will probably be doing stupid things that put them in harm's way.

And on Monday people will be talking about how overhyped this all was.

What's sad is that it was the Weather Channel and other media who overhyped this storm, not the NHC although you can bet people will be blaming the NHC for overhyping.
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Quoting NJ2S:
does anyone know if she will pass to the east or west of nyc??


not known just yet...wiggles and wobbles change from hour to hour...but batten down...surges are unreal...i am in charleston, sc and it is well to our east...the waves, the erosion, etc are unreal right now...and we are not getting 1/50th of what you are about to get come sunday
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
401. BA
further intensification unlikely? wow

bookmark this post for accountability down the road
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Conditions are going downhill here...Good afternoon guys.

Quoting P451:


Wonderful image.

But, that can't be real, you obviously photoshopped it.

I've been told the storm is fading rapidly and decaying. The all clear is being sounded from NC to Maine. CNN is lining up to interview several users from Dr. M's blog who called it. So, that just can't be a true representation of Irene. Nope, not buying it.

/sarcasm (except for the image part, thanks for posting that)


LOL.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32860
Quoting MoltenIce:
Nanmadol: My eye is better than yours.


Pacific super typhoons are a dime a dozen. They have thousands of miles of super-heated water. Pulling it off in the eastern Atlantic takes guts, and sometimes guts is all you need. LOL
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Quoting Vero1:
As a reminder from NHC

EVEN THROUGH THE SYSTEM IS WEAKENING...THE THREAT OF STRONG INLAND
WINDS WILL REMAIN FOR A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
IS THE POTENTIAL LOSS OF LIFE DUE TO FALLING TREES
. INLAND FLOODING
WILL ALSO CONTINUE TO BE A HAZARD.

FORECASTER FRANKLIN
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
11 PM EDT MON AUG 29 2005
That's the main thing that that I warned all the folks I know up there about.
1. Safety...watch out for trees, and flooding, and surge if in a surge zone
.
2. Aftermath....be prepared for 7 days with no power. These folks don't know basic storm prep as those of us in the south do.
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Quoting Smikey:
Start of a new eyewall?



looks that way to me
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395. bwi
Seems like center fix wobbling ever closer toward 78w

17:08:00Z 30.967N 77.567W
947.7 mb (~ 27.99 inHg)
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Comment for today don't trust Irene looks to be cranking up again on latest satellite and the system at 27n and 60 west looking more interesting then td10. Good luck to all on the east coast. Sorry two of my sons went to live in NYC from S. Fl. shows you. You can run but you can't hide.
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393. NJ2S
does anyone know if she will pass to the east or west of nyc??
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Quoting P451:


So what is that then? A giant butthole?





I think some people have just forgotten what storms begin to look like in the higher latitudes - and mistaken them for storms they've watched decay while still in the deep tropics.

It's just not the same processes at work.

While Irene does not have a fantastic structure it is still a solid Cat 2 hurricane that is actually improving some right now.

Maybe the TWC "It can happen tomorrow" bogus crap about a Cat 5 hitting NYC has people stirred up to think that this system, since it doesn't look like Katrina did in the center of the GOM, that it's now a nothing storm.

The increasing baroclinic nature of systems that push further north also keep the winds up even as the storm itself loses it's punch. The wind field also expands dramatically northward.

A 75mph - 100mphG hitting western LI late Sunday afternoon is a very good bet.

Torrential rains is a very good bet.

High surf is a very good bet.


And, as I will repeat until we reach that milestone, until the system interacts with NC tomorrow, we do not know exactly what to expect in NJ/NY/CT.

However, given all the data gathered which has to be an unprecedented effort, I think the forecast track is very very solid - much more trustworthy than usual.



That was snark… You don't remember the real Baghdad Bob? Saddam's PR man, who always had words of victory even as the walls were crumbling around him…

And thanks for your last few posts, very clear and informative…

[back to lurking]
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Start of a new eyewall?

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ok...back on after a decent squall hit the Charleston area...last i heard Presslord was still without power, several thousand in other parts of Chas without power...my oldest son was headed toward Daniel Island to meet my hub to do some electrical and dad called son to say turn around NOW...squall hit the work van and he almost lost control...he got home and was white as a ghost...said it was the wind and fact he was surrounded by tractor trailers... since then they have shut down all contractors on Daniel Island...they have been kicked off, only residents allowed now...waiting on the next squall
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
looks like 949 mb - no change since last center fix but up from early mornings 942/943

Edit: early morning's for the grammar police (personally i blaym it on fonix)
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Quoting P451:


So what is that then? A giant butthole?





I think some people have just forgotten what storms begin to look like in the higher latitudes - and mistaken them for storms they've watched decay while still in the deep tropics.

It's just not the same processes at work.

While Irene does not have a fantastic structure it is still a solid Cat 2 hurricane that is actually improving some right now.

Maybe the TWC "It can happen tomorrow" bogus crap about a Cat 5 hitting NYC has people stirred up to think that this system, since it doesn't look like Katrina did in the center of the GOM, that it's now a nothing storm.

The increasing baroclinic nature of systems that push further north also keep the winds up even as the storm itself loses it's punch. The wind field also expands dramatically northward.

A 75mph - 100mphG hitting western LI late Sunday afternoon is a very good bet.

Torrential rains is a very good bet.

High surf is a very good bet.


And, as I will repeat until we reach that milestone, until the system interacts with NC tomorrow, we do not know exactly what to expect in NJ/NY/CT.

However, given all the data gathered which has to be an unprecedented effort, I think the forecast track is very very solid - much more trustworthy than usual.



Hey P451, just wanted you to know I upped your post and totally agree with you, as a weather enthusiast and somebody who's right in the path of this thing!
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Just a couple of quick bands rolling through here thus far....

Nothing much. Perfect sleeping weather though... And I am at work. Bah.
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Quoting ecupirate:
Irene will not get into the warmest gulf stream waters untill about 33N. She is and has been in cooler water.



actually, as proven by the very graphic you have shown.... she will be over slightly warmer waters for a time to the north of her current position no matter what the track....

thanks for saving me the work of finding the graphic ;)
Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
Quoting P451:


So what is that then? A giant butthole?





I think some people have just forgotten what storms begin to look like in the higher latitudes - and mistaken them for storms they've watched decay while still in the deep tropics.

It's just not the same processes at work.

While Irene does not have a fantastic structure it is still a solid Cat 2 hurricane that is actually improving some right now.

Maybe the TWC "It can happen tomorrow" bogus crap about a Cat 5 hitting NYC has people stirred up to think that this system, since it doesn't look like Katrina did in the center of the GOM, that it's now a nothing storm.

The increasing baroclinic nature of systems that push further north also keep the winds up even as the storm itself loses it's punch. The wind field also expands dramatically northward.

A 75mph - 100mphG hitting western LI late Sunday afternoon is a very good bet.

Torrential rains is a very good bet.

High surf is a very good bet.


And, as I will repeat until we reach that milestone, until the system interacts with NC tomorrow, we do not know exactly what to expect in NJ/NY/CT.

However, given all the data gathered which has to be an unprecedented effort, I think the forecast track is very very solid - much more trustworthy than usual.


I love your posts...
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I'm done trying to forecast this thing's intensity lol. Like somebody on the Storm2k forums said, every time it looks like it's gaining strength, two hours later the eyewall collapses. Only goes to show you how valid the calls for slow weakening are.
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was just checking out the severe weather map in WU, noticed the air quality advisories due to Great Dismal Swamp fire... hopefully Irene can put that out, and cross off one good deed on her checklist ;)
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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