Hurricane Irene Weakens on its Approach to North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:58 AM GMT on August 27, 2011

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As of 300AM EDT, Hurricane Irene was located at 33.7N, 76.5W, 60 miles south of Cape Lookout. It was moving north-northeast at 14 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Irene has a minimum central pressure of 952 mb.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for the US Atlantic coast from the Little River inlet in North Carolina to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts. Tornado watches are also in effect for the North Carolina/Virginia/Maryland coast. Figure 1 shows the hurricane, tropical storm, and tornado watches and warnings for Irene. Remember, a hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected, and tropical storm force winds (greater than 34 mph) will occur within 36 hours. Tropical storm warning means that tropical storm force winds are expected in the next 36 hours, but hurricane conditions are not. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm force winds are possible within 48 hours.

To find out if you need to evacuate, please contact your local emergency management office. They will have the latest information. People living in New York City can find their evacuation zone here or use this map. FEMA has information on preparing for hurricanes. FEMA also has a blog describing their response to Irene.


Figure 1 Map of watches and warnings taken at 225AM EDT, August 27, 2011

Satellite Views
Figure 2 shows that Irene is a large storm, with outflow reaching from South Carolina to Long Island, NY. Irene's eye is not visible.


Figure 2 IR satellite view of Irene taken at 226AM EDT, August 27, 2011

Track Forecast

Irene is forecast to make landfall on the North Carolina coast Saturday morning as a category 1 storm with sustained winds around 90 mph. I believe that Irene's center of circulation will make landfall somewhere between Cape Lookout and Okracoke on the Outer Banks around 9-10 am. Irene should then move roughly north, along the mid-Atlantic coastline before making landfall in western Long Island. However, it is important to not focus solely on the track forecast. Irene is a large storm with a large windfield and equally large areas of storms and showers. It's impact will be felt over a wide swath of the northeastern US.


Figure 3 Official track forecast of Irene at 11PM EDT, Aug. 26.

Irene and Flooding
Six to ten inches of rain are possible along Irene's track from North Carolina north into New England, with 15 inches possible in isolated areas. Radar estimates indicate at least 5 inches have already fallen near Morehead City, NC. As a result, flooding is very likely. The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) has issued their Significant River Flood Outlook for the next five days shown in figure 4. HPC thinks that river flooding from the Delmarva peninsula to northwestern Maine is likely, while river flooding in much of the rest of the northeastern US is possible.


Figure 4 Significant River Flood Outlook issued by HPC.

Impacts

Tropical storm forces winds are occuring at Cape Lookout now, with hurricane force winds expected on the North Carolina coast later today. Use this Wundermap to keep track of how the winds are behaving around the North Carolina coastline. Within the hurricane warning area in North Carolina, storm surge is expected to be 6-11 feet above ground. This is our storm surge forecast map. To see how high the tides are running, NOAA has an excellent page collecting all of the relevant tide gauges.

People living on the the east coast of the US from the Carolinas to Cape Cod should continue monitoring Irene and be in the process of finishing their hurricane preparations. If you have not started preparing for this storm, start immediately. If an evacuation order is given, please follow it, unless it is unsafe to do so. Irene will be a large storm, impacting areas far from the storm center track.

Links

If you're curious about power outages, here are some maps: Dominion Power Outage Map (NC/VA), Progress Energy Outage Map (NC/SC), and NOVEC Outage Map (Northern Virginia).

Dr. Masters will have a new blog entry this morning, and there will be another blog this afternoon. I'll be back with another blog entry late tonight.

Stay safe,

Dr. Rob Carver

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Quoting KeysieLife:
Hey guys, and gals, last night we were watching the Top Sail Beach peir camera. This morning it's dark. Anyone know what time it went down and if the peir finally crumbled from the huge waves hitting it?

The Pier is still there, no damage by the looks of it, and the streaming cam never went down, I have been watching for the last 9hrs.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15935
Watching Mike Seidel getting blown around on TWC is amusing. Most amusing is flipping over to MSNBC and seeing the old reporter talk about the other crazy reporters on the beach. Zing!
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Gov. Perdue on witn tv now.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1455
Quoting Levi32:
Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?
well alot of people arent that worried that she is now a cat 1. if she was a 3 at landfall people would be buzzing and this blog would be insanely busy. also levi, do you have the steering map for the 8-10 day GFS and Euro?
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Mate, can you call Oz to wake him up or WUmail me his number and i'll call him.
He's awake and saying there nothing that could be better right now than a comfortable hotel room bed... He sounds very tired.
Member Since: September 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1316
Quoting HappySkeptic:


Here in Virginia Beach near Chick's Beach, limbs are starting to come down but *fingers crossed* power is still on. It has blinked a couple of times and power is off in scattered locations around Hampton Roads. As far as comparing this to Isabel, the winds and tidal flooding will likely be a bit stronger on the Southside (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach) than it was in Isabel. Water level at Sewell's Point on this morning's high tide was about one foot higher than the first high tide during Isabel (4.6' above MLLW today vs. 3.8' above MLLW during Isabel's first high tide). The astronomical tidal prediction for Sewell's Point tonight is 3' above MLLW which is a departure of about 1.5 feet above normal MHW. Add a surge of 4-6' above that and we could see 8-9' above MLLW. Isabel was +7.8 MLLW.


I was in Chesapeake during Isabel in 2003.. thanks for giving me a good side by side comparison! Really helps me relate to whats going on.
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Anyone else think she has slowed down and even wobbled to the west a bit in the last couple of hours?
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Quoting Levi32:
Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?
I think a number of residents on the NC coast are without power, and residents N of NC are busy with prep... and Floridians are catching up on what they put off last week. ;~)
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634. Oskee
.
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.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Well from what i watch on stream last night, Irene hasn't been as bad as most thought. Morehead City got barely any hurricane gust let alone sustained winds. Only thing they got was 3ft of storm surge.


North Carolina doesn't realize how lucky they are. This should have been a Cat 3 - just look at the central pressure. If she still had an eye with this pressure while coming ashore, we'd be talking about a major hurricane hit. We still have the rest of the northeast to worry about too.
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Quoting Levi32:
Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?


I have been thinking that for 2 days...

for a landfalling hurricane this blog should be going crazy.

I guess the ones being afffected by Irene are without power....

and the "others" are not here because it is not affecting them..

I am SE Florida and I am watching.. like a moth to the flame... I find it fasinating..

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Quoting Floodman:


My uncle weathered two Typhoons aboard a destroyer (the old deisel type) in the 50s and I have a friend who has some really awesome but disturbing photos that a shipmate took during a typhoon off the Phillipines in the 80s (the guy had himself lashed to railings on a gangway...it is my understanding that after that particular stunt, the guy spent a little time in the brig). It is the Navy's SOP to empty the harbors of their larger vessels when a storm approaches



with sailboats...the theory is...they are designed to float...and cut through water...buildings are not.....
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I think Irene has stalled, she's been sitting in the same place for about 1 1/2 hrs now..
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2686
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Trying to get a better idea of how this storm is affecting people in NC/VA, but if anyone in the thick of the storm still has power that is still on here, how does it compare to Isabel? Better? Worse? The same?


Here in Virginia Beach near Chick's Beach, limbs are starting to come down but *fingers crossed* power is still on. It has blinked a couple of times and power is off in scattered locations around Hampton Roads. As far as comparing this to Isabel, the winds and tidal flooding will likely be a bit stronger on the Southside (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach) than it was in Isabel. Water level at Sewell's Point on this morning's high tide was about one foot higher than the first high tide during Isabel (4.6' above MLLW today vs. 3.8' above MLLW during Isabel's first high tide). The astronomical tidal prediction for Sewell's Point tonight is 3' above MLLW which is a departure of about 1.5 feet above normal MHW. Add a surge of 4-6' above that and we could see 8-9' above MLLW. Isabel was +7.8 MLLW.
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627. HCW
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Are HH's allowed to fly over land?



has far has i no yes but they cant be droping any thing
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Hey guys, and gals, last night we were watching the Top Sail Island
pier camera. This morning it's dark. Anyone know what time it went down and if the pier finally crumbled from the huge waves hitting it?
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Quoting Levi32:
Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?

Well from what i watch on stream last night, Irene hasn't been as bad as most thought. Morehead City got barely any hurricane gust let alone sustained winds. Only thing they got was 3ft of storm surge.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15935
ANYONE REMEMBER IKE SIMILAR IMPACT

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Quoting chsstormgirl:


CMC, GFS, and NOGAPS have been hinting at the same thing...


Just some early speculation on my part but If the gerneral pattern remains the same the potential for a recurve seems rather high.
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Winds are now ENE in DC, gusting to 22mph.

Rain shield has reached us, and is continuing to push north and west... light rain is starting to fall - expected to get much heavier soon.

Widespread power outages are expected, according to Pepco Energy.
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Quoting presslord:



a good argument can be made that the safest place to weather a storm is aboard...the cruising literature is full of discussion on this....


My uncle weathered two Typhoons aboard a destroyer (the old deisel type) in the 50s and I have a friend who has some really awesome but disturbing photos that a shipmate took during a typhoon off the Phillipines in the 80s (the guy had himself lashed to railings on a gangway...it is my understanding that after that particular stunt, the guy spent a little time in the brig). It is the Navy's SOP to empty the harbors of their larger vessels when a storm approaches
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Quoting chsstormgirl:


CMC, GFS, and NOGAPS have been hinting at the same thing...


The GFS has the high closer to Europe and it turns the storm much earlier. I hope that is the correct solution
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Quoting helorime:
I have been curious about Irene's unusually low pressure. It has been running about 2 categories lower than expected for a storm of her strength. Is that due to her size?


Definitely due to her size. She may have extremely low pressure but due to her size, the pressure gradient isn't as tight as it would be in a smaller storm, so the winds aren't as high.
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Over 10 inches of rain in spots:



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Quoting PcolaDan:


Sounds like Mississippi, lost to the media.

Mate, can you call Oz to wake him up or WUmail me his number and i'll call him.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15935
Quoting Levi32:
Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?



no....you're not....it's rather odd....
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Quoting liljade:
Could you share the link for GOM storm that me be coming?


Yeah, the TCFP has been purple and blue in the GOM for two weeks, what finally might form?
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Quoting civilbull:
Check this out. Looks like we will be dealing with a labor day hurricane Link


dang, if it holds true, the same area that is being pummeled now will get it again.. yikes!
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one death reported in Nashville, NC. Man killed by tree limb while feeding his animals. :(
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Am I the only one who finds it strange that the blog isn't just exploding while a hurricane is making landfall on the eastern seaboard?
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Quoting presslord:
OK...here's what concerns me...

There has long been an undeniable anti-Southern bias within the major media. That, coupled with the fact that DC and NY are the media centers of the universe...and the "it's all about me" mindset so often seen from those two burghs...and I fear the post storm needs of our friends in North Carolina will go unreported.


Amen
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
Some folks live on board boats. Should have moved it to a more sheltered spot, moored it better or both. Personally I'd have abandoned ship and gone inland but I'm no sailor. Riding out a cat 2 in a sheltered harbor should be doable just not my cup of tea.



it's not only doable...it's highly recommended ...many serious sailors do it...
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Quoting civilbull:
Check this out. Looks like we will be dealing with a labor day hurricane Link


CMC, GFS, and NOGAPS have been hinting at the same thing...
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Trying to get a better idea of how this storm is affecting people in NC/VA, but if anyone in the thick of the storm still has power that is still on here, how does it compare to Isabel? Better? Worse? The same?


Here in Elizabeth City, NC, I'd honestly say it's hard to compare to Isabel. Just from my recollections, Isabel moved a bit faster, and that makes a big difference. The lead up to landfall, the rain shield were very similar to Isabel in terms of strength and rain/wind output. As the eye moves closer to us, we shall see what happens. Biggest difference I think is that Isabel passed west of Elizabeth City, so we did get the full brunt of the storm, where Irene's track is trending toward us being on the west side of the eye.

The damage I've seen thus far though has thankfully been FAR less than Isabel's, and the simple fact we've still got power in 95% of the county/city right now does show Irene's overall weakness (or the power company's strength :P )

Isabel was a cruel mistress, Irene is trying, but doesn't seem to have the heart.
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Just had 61 mph gust here!! Rain coming down in sheets!
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
Are HH's allowed to fly over land?



yup...
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Pressure dropping here in Baltimore. 1007mb

First rain bands approaching from the SE, winds starting to pick up a bit.
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As expected,new heavy overwash on the outerbanks (Hwy 12) at Rhodanthe.
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Quoting presslord:
OK...here's what concerns me...

There has long been an undeniable anti-Southern bias within the major media. That, coupled with the fact that DC and NY are the media centers of the universe...and the "it's all about me" mindset so often seen from those two burghs...and I fear the post storm needs of our friends in North Carolina will go unreported.


Sounds like Mississippi, lost to the media.
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Quoting Dutchlady:

What are people still doing out on a yacht? (shakes head)
Some folks live on board boats. Should have moved it to a more sheltered spot, moored it better or both. Personally I'd have abandoned ship and gone inland but I'm no sailor. Riding out a cat 2 in a sheltered harbor should be doable just not my cup of tea.
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Are HH's allowed to fly over land?
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597. bwat
Quoting overwash12:
No,damage there and I live on Brumley.
Thanks for the update. There are two of us based outta Hertford that take care of all of em from knotts island down to swan quarter. I know next week is gonna be busy, I hate to think what the canals leaving hydeland, fryingpan, and gum neck are gonna look like.
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Check this out. Looks like we will be dealing with a labor day hurricane Link
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Quoting EastCoastMove:


Homegrown GOM!
Could you share the link for GOM storm that me be coming?
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Quoting bwat:
Did you go to the Wildlife ramp on Brumley Rd? Thats one of my areas I take care of. Any damage?
No,damage there and I live on Brumley.
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Good morning.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Saturday, August 27th, with Video
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Quoting presslord:
OK...here's what concerns me...

There has long been an undeniable anti-Southern bias within the major media. That, coupled with the fact that DC and NY are the media centers of the universe...and the "it's all about me" mindset so often seen from those two burghs...and I fear the post storm needs of our friends in North Carolina will go unreported.


I was thinking the same thing.
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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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