Irene hits North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:37 PM GMT on August 27, 2011

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Hurricane Irene roared ashore over Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 7:30 am this morning. The Cedar Island Ferry Terminal measured sustained winds of 90 mph, gusting to 110 mph at 7:19am, and a trained spotter on Atlantic Beach measured sustained winds of 85 mph, gusting to 101 mph at 10:35 am. The Hurricane Hunters measured 80 mph winds over water at the time of landfall. Winds at the Cape Lookout, North Carolina buoy, which the eye passed directly over, peaked at 67 mph as Irene made landfall. At 10am EDT, top winds observed at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were 53 mph, gusting to 73 mph. Winds are rising now along the coast of Virginia, with sustained winds of 56 mph, gusting to 62 mph observed at 10 am EDT at Chesapeake Bay Light. Satellite loops show a large but deteriorating storm with dry air intruding to the southwest. The radar presentation of Irene visible on the Norfolk, VA radar is very impressive--Irene is dropping torrential rains over a huge area.


Figure 1. Radar-estimated precipitation from Irene as of 12:18 pm EDT August 27, 2011. An expanding region of rains in excess of ten inches (pick colors) was observed north of where the center made landfall.

Storm surge damage from Irene
The storm surge and wave action from Irene is likely to cause the greatest damage, and this will be a historic coastal flooding event for many regions of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. A storm surge of 8.5 feet was reported this morning in North Harlow, NC, and three feet in New Bern, NC. Significant wave heights (the average height of the largest 1/3 of the waves) reached 27 feet at Onslow Bay, NC this morning, and wave heights along the New Jersey shore Sunday morning during the time of high tide are expected to be 15 - 20 feet, according to the NOAA Wavewatch III model (Figure 2.) A storm surge of 3 - 6 feet is expected near Atlantic City, NJ Sunday morning, during the time of high tide. With 15 - 20 foot waves expected on top of this storm surge, there will be tremendous damage to the coast and low-lying structures. Storm surge is also a major concern for New York City. The latest NWS forecast is calling for a 5 - 8 foot storm surge in New York Harbor, which would easily top the flood walls protecting the south end of Manhattan if the storm surge occurs at high tide. High tide is near 8 am Sunday morning. A research storm surge model run by SUNY Stonybrook predicts that water levels at The Battery at the south end of Manhattan will peak at 2.2 meters above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) at high tide Sunday morning, which would be about six inches below the top of the flood wall (which is 5 feet above mean sea level.) Waves on top of the surge would likely spill over the top of the floodwall in this scenario, and cause some flooding in southern Manhattan. Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog has links to a storm surge animation for New York City done by the SUNY Stonybrook group. Climate Central has a nice satellite image showing which parts of New York Harbor are below five feet in elevation. Storm surge heights of up to eight feet are predicted in Western Long Island Sound, and 3 - 6 feet along much of the New England coast from New York to Massachusetts. This is going to be a damaging coastal flooding event for this stretch of coast, though perhaps not as damaging as the one New Jersey will experience.


Figure 2. Predicted wave heights along the U.S. coast from NOAA's Wavewatch III model for 8am EDT Sunday, August 28, 2011. This is the time of high tide, and this model is suggesting that the coast of New Jersey will be subject to battering waves 15 - 20 feet high at the time of high tide.

Inland flooding damage from Irene
Inland flash flooding and river flooding from torrential rains are a major concern. Latest radar-estimated rainfall amounts in North Carolina already exceed ten inches in some locations. Cedar Island, NC has reported 7.21" as of 11am EDT, and a 100 mile-wide swath of 8+ inches of rain will likely fall from Eastern North Carolina northwards along the coast, through New York City, and into Vermont and New Hampshire during the next two days. Destructive river flooding will be a significant danger from New Jersey northwards to Southeast New York, where soils are saturated and run-off will be the greatest.


Figure 3. Distribution of Irene's wind field at 9:30 am EDT Saturday August 27, 2011, as observed by the Hurricane Hunters, land stations, and buoys. The right front quadrant of the hurricane had all 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 260 miles from the center of Irene. Irene's storm surge damage potential has dropped to 4.3 on a scale of 0 to 6, down from a high of 5.1 yesterday. Image credit: NOAA/AOML/HRD.

Wind damage
Irene is slowly deteriorating, but the storm is too large to weaken quickly. The latest wind distribution map from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division (Figure 3) shows that all of Irene's hurricane-force winds are on the storm's east side, so only North Carolina's Outer Banks will get winds of 75 - 80 mph. The coast from Virginia northwards through New Jersey will see tropical storm-force winds of 50 - 70 mph from Irene. These strong winds, when combined with the torrential rains that are falling, will cause widespread tree damage and power failures that will affect millions of people. When Irene makes its 2nd landfall on Long Island, NY on Sunday, coastal locations to the right of the eye will likely experience top sustained winds of 60 -70 mph.

Lady Liberty not in danger from Irene
The Statue of Liberty is not vulnerable to a storm surge, since the good lady stands atop a 65-foot high foundation and 89-foot high granite pedestal. However, the 305' height of the lady's torch above the foundation means the statue will experience winds a full Saffir-Simpson category higher than winds at the surface. The statue is rated to survive a wind load of 58 psf, which is roughly equivalent to 120 mph winds (Category 3 hurricane). However, a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds will be able to generate 120 mph winds at a height of 300 feet, and would theoretically be capable of toppling the Statue of Liberty. Winds from Irene should stay below 80 mph at 300 feet, and not pose a threat to the Statue of Liberty.

Tornadoes
Two tornadoes were reported in coastal North Carolina last night. One tornado destroyed 2 homes and damaged 6 others in Columbia, with several minor injuries, and the other hit Belhaven, damaging multiple trailers. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is calling for a slight risk of severe weather along coast Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware today. We might see five or ten tornadoes from Irene over the next two days, but the atmosphere is not unstable enough for Irene to generate as many tornadoes as we're used to seeing from a landfalling hurricane. A tornado watch is posted for coastal areas from Eastern North Carolina northwards to Southern New Jersey.

Insurance company AIR-Worldwide is estimating that insured damages from Irene in the U.S. will be $1.5 - $6 billion. They estimate losses in the Caribbean at $0.5 - $1.1 billion from Irene, 60% in the Bahamas.

Typhoon Nanmadol
Over in the Western Pacific, Typhoon Nanmadol has weakened to a Category 3 storm after battering the Philippines as a Category 4 super typhoon with 155 mph winds. At least two people have been killed in the heavy flooding there. Nanmadol is a threat to Taiwan, and Wunderground meteorologist Elaine Yang (who hails from Taiwan), has the details in her blog.

Links
Our Weather Historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England.

Joe Romm at climateprogress.org has a thoughtful piece called, How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?

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.

Jeff Masters

Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas (ktbahamas)
Downed street light broken by strong gusts of Irene.
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas
Battery Park, the night before Irene... (line)
Battery Park, the night before Irene...

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Quoting TStormSC:
Any reason the HH aircraft are rotating in and out of Biloxi? Seems they'd save a lot of time and fuel by rotating crews out of the mid-Atlantic somewhere.
Crew changes maintenance and axillary equipment I bet.
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Quoting unruly:
Bob did a little damage but, these folks don't take this sort of thin seriously. Most up here werent around in '38 or for Donna. (They all live in Florida now )


haha, true. I remember going outside in Donna's eye. And the flood in our basement.
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:
Weather for Marlboro, NJ
73°F | °C Sat
Overcast
Wind: E at 28 mph
Humidity: 100%

thats my weather right now. its literally pouring walls of rain right now.
Where is that in NJ, CLoser to Philly or NYC?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Current pressure: 29.42" (996.4 mb)


Where do you live again?
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3775
1080. ncstorm
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Welcome back NC. Glad you're ok. :)


Thanks!!
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Any reason the HH aircraft are rotating in and out of Biloxi? Seems they'd save a lot of time and fuel by rotating crews out of the mid-Atlantic somewhere.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Winds here are still gusting up to 50 MPH..


Like all of us, Irene really likes NC. Refuses to go away.
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 888
1077. Vero1
Quoting FLdewey:
Downtown NYC



Can't be a good sign.


Can you say "Martial Law"?
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1076. barbamz
http://www.hurricanetrack.com/
Is this a beetle captured by flooding?
Edit: Cam is moving around.
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1075. ncstorm
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It was horrible - We didn't lose power ourselves until around 5AM.


I lost power a little after 4..but I have to say thank you to Progress Energy for getting power back to residents..they are still over 25,000 people in New Hanover County without power..
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Winds here are still gusting up to 50 MPH..
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1073. FLdewey
Downtown NYC



Can't be a good sign.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 42 Comments: 6269
Current pressure: 29.42" (996.4 mb)
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Quoting TXInaSpin:



Thanks AtHomeInTx.. Heck of a ride for shure.. Everything is well and rebuilt. Only thing that freaked me out was the alligators in the driveway lol..


Lol. The lady in the room beside ours from Bridge City had one in her kitchen. Lol. You will see strange things after a hurricane.
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1070. unruly
Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Yeah, can't teach some, they just have to live it to learn. Been too long since a 'cane up there - '91? And that may not have affected your area that much.
Bob did a little damage but, these folks don't take this sort of thin seriously. Most up here werent around in '38 or for Donna. (They all live in Florida now )
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1069. P451
Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:
why are people posting computer models of invests 240 hours out? Those models won't even be correct for 40 hours out nevermind 240 hours. Computer models and simple invests/weak tropical depressions don't mix.

Remember.... the first ever computer model projections of Irene had it being a fish well east of Bermuda.


Because the tropics are quiet and there are no storms to track... duh.

Remember, Irene doesn't count, it's not affecting the important places of WU lore.

Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
Quoting ncstorm:


We did good..thank goodness Wilmington was in a drought..we got over 7.8 inches of rain..but I will say, after 2am, Irene became a beast..the wind was no joke!


It was horrible - We didn't lose power ourselves until around 5AM.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Alright, here's the end of the 12Z Euro uploaded to imageshack..



That looks like a fish storm to me, nothing to worry about unless it aims bullseye to Bermuda. Looks as if it is at that point heading north, not to mention it never reaches the antilles.
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1066. TopWave
We are taking a beating down here in Richmond
VA...High Winds, power is out most places...large trees down uprooted.....lookout NE!!!!!!!
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1065. FLdewey
What happened... did we go too long without a NOLA reference?

Missing the Gustav connection.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 42 Comments: 6269


thats some surge
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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:
why are people posting computer models of invests 240 hours out? Those models won't even be correct for 40 hours out nevermind 240 hours. Computer models and simple invests/weak tropical depressions don't mix.

Remember.... the first ever computer model projections of Irene had it being a fish well east of Bermuda.

That's def. not true. The first computer projections had irene crashing into south florida and or going into the gulf of mexico.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Waiter... WAITER!



I love that photo. That is a great photo.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Power restored..finally..Goodbye Irene!!


Welcome back NC. Glad you're ok. :)
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1060. ncstorm
Quoting P451:


How'd you make out?



We did good..thank goodness Wilmington was in a drought..we got over 7.8 inches of rain..but I will say, after 2am, Irene became a beast..the wind was no joke!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Weather for Marlboro, NJ
73°F | °C Sat
Overcast
Wind: E at 28 mph
Humidity: 100%

thats my weather right now. its literally pouring walls of rain right now.
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1726
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yes, I was in Longview when the Prez came on TV saying there were distress calls from Orange Co. Was a scary thing to hear. Glad you're ok.



Thanks AtHomeInTx.. Heck of a ride for shure.. Everything is well and rebuilt. Only thing that freaked me out was the alligators in the driveway lol..
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Quoting P451:


The biggest problem is that many people are trying to equate this to a system landfalling deep in the tropics - sustaining wind shear - dry air, etc.

In the deep tropics such a scenario yields a decaying storm sometimes rapidly decaying.

So the storm has been written off by many as a ghost remnant.

The exact opposite is occurring and it just seems a number of people don't understand it and are dismissive of it.


The same thing happened with Ike...the NWS warned our area (Cleveland, OH) that we would have significant wind gusts and sustained winds while the remnants of Ike pushed up and were transitioning/being enhanced by a trough.

Well, lo and behold, it was a very, very expensive mistake for some people, both in $$ and lives.

Not the same situation, but somewhat of an analog...if people aren't used to it they don't believe it.
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1056. P451
Quoting ncstorm:
Power restored..finally..Goodbye Irene!!


How'd you make out?

Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
1055. P451
Quoting PcolaDan:

At least until ConEd loses power. :|


Yeah, I've had power outages up here and at least gotten the website on my phone to briefly take a look at what is going on.

This go around when it goes out...what's the point? You know what happened: Widespread damage that will take days if not longer to fix.

If the forecast comes true, and it seems like there is a solid possibility those wind totals do pan out, I am expecting a lot of trees down, loss of power, and several days to a week before I am chainsawed out of the area I am... and then will head elsewhere while they continue to fix the grid.

I'm hoping it doesn't come to that of course but the nature of this system is dropping plenty of hints that it's probably a reality some will be facing.
Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
1054. ncstorm
Power restored..finally..Goodbye Irene!!
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1053. FLdewey
Quoting PcolaDan:

At least until ConEd loses power. :|


LMAO... wait.

If a volt falls in the power plant on nobody is around, does it still hold a charge?
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 42 Comments: 6269
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
why are people posting computer models of invests 240 hours out? Those models won't even be correct for 40 hours out nevermind 240 hours. Computer models and simple invests/weak tropical depressions don't mix.

Remember.... the first ever computer model projections of Irene had it being a fish well east of Bermuda.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
notice the early 70s and earlier homes did not have aluminum soffit and siding on their homes they were built by people that seen these landfallers
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we should have 92L soon. that wave looks mighty impressive
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1726
Quoting DallasGumby:
Note that I edited the post and immediately retracted, upon seeing he was referring to a tropical storm rather than a tropical cyclone.


Yeah sorry, I am way behind in this blog right now.
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1047. P451
Quoting Levi32:
It should be reiterated that we have flight-level winds of 80-85kts east of the center at 700-750mb, and that's on the dry side of the hurricane. The plane can't fly into the stronger NW quad. That means that we could have 90+ kt winds at flight-level that will be at risk of cascading down to the ground as the hurricane moves into New England. With a central pressure this low, Irene is very capable of delivering freak winds well above Category 1 strength. This is not a storm to take lightly, and NYC may get conditions that some people may not expect from Irene right now.


The biggest problem is that many people are trying to equate this to a system landfalling deep in the tropics - sustaining wind shear - dry air, etc.

In the deep tropics such a scenario yields a decaying storm sometimes rapidly decaying.

So the storm has been written off by many as a ghost remnant.

The exact opposite is occurring and it just seems a number of people don't understand it and are dismissive of it.
Member Since: December 16, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 10202
Quoting FLdewey:
cool way to see NYC power issues in real time:

Link

At least until ConEd loses power. :|
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting TXInaSpin:


I was on the roof during IKE here in Bridge City, Tx. calling someone! So why not?


Yes, I was in Longview when the Prez came on TV saying there were distress calls from Orange Co. Was a scary thing to hear. Glad you're ok.
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1044. FLdewey
Quoting E46Pilot:


See in Florida we know not to do that. It just damages the bottom of the pool.


Yeah, and if its PVC furniture the water is never, EVER coming out.

(Not without a sawzall anyway)
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 42 Comments: 6269
1043. Patrap
Same first Gustav Band Uptown at my Place.

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1042. FLdewey
No exercise for you...


Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 42 Comments: 6269
Quoting Levi32:


She's been maintaining a pressure of 950mb for over 24 hours now, through having dry air rip up her eye and destroy the entire eyewall, and now through 9 hours of being over the outer banks of North Carolina with weakening convection and a total collapse of the eye feature at the center. That shouldn't be possible, but it has happened. She isn't filling. Too much air is getting exhausted from the system through both tropical and baroclinic processes. It's simply incredible - not to mention that her winds aren't stronger than Cat 1 with that pressure for now.
This may be your Phd thesis Levi
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Quoting Zaphod:
Not only are NE soils softened by rain, but they've been shaken by the recent quake. Add saturating rains and some wind, and I fear a lot trees are going to come down.

Hopefully not too many will crush houses and people as they do so, but a lot will take down power lines.


This will possibly be the biggest story off the coast from Irene.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting largeeyes:


You seriously think her grandma is sitting on the roof calling her?


I was on the roof during IKE here in Bridge City, Tx. calling someone! So why not?
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1038. Patrap
Uploaded by djnanashi on Aug 31, 2008

This was the first wave of Gustav hitting the French Quarter in New Orleans. At the end you can see the speed the storm clouds are coming in and hear the wind picking up

Note everyone evacuated as Gustav approached..

A Lot to Baton Rouge where they took a beating. But we here had lotsa high water,but no breeches, and a Few Tornadoes and no power for 3 days.

NOLA was very empty..





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Winds have died down now here in Knotts island,N.C. We must be in the eye of the storm. Winds will swing around to southwest pretty soon. We have had at least 8 to 12 inches of rain. Highest gust around 80mph.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Waiter... WAITER!



See in Florida we know not to do that. It just damages the bottom of the pool.
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Gnite all. Past my bedtime.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1459
Quoting Levi32:


You're right - I haven't looked at anything else lol. TD 10 came and went and when I went to click record on my video this morning I was like what....where'd the tropical depression go? Lol. All I have done is glanced at the 7-15 day ensemble forecasts, which show anomalous ridging continuing over southeast Canada, which is a landfall threat pattern for the east coast, but there are also a couple troughs that progress through the pattern, so timing of the troughs and development of any systems will determine whether they recurve east of North America. I'll get more into that when Irene is gone.

haha alright thanx and will the gulf coast be at risk anytime soon because so far this season nothing really made it into the gulf (arlene was in the BOC and don was just a WEAK tropical system) it seems at the moment the pattern is a US East Coast threat from Miami to Maine but there are the troughs and timing is extremely important like it was with Irene :)
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1726

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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.