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 TropicalAnalystwx13:


Irene packs more of a punch than most people think - that is from experience.

Except instead of one catastrophic knock-out, she packs in twenty thousand lighting-fast rabbit punches at once.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 85
Quoting violet312s:


That site no longer allows hot linking.


Booooo. Why not?
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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.


So the NHC forecast for a TS at Long Island might be wrong?
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Quoting E46Pilot:
By looking at most of the photos coming in. It appears to be mostly a surge/flooding event.


So when this thing gets up to NYC and the battery floods, what happens to all the tunnels there. Do they have doors on the tunnels to protect them?


Doors? Not that I'm aware of. I've been through all of the tunnels and I've never seen anything that could cover them. I know the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels are equipped with massive water pumps for scenarios like this.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Here's today's 12Z Euro run at 240 hours:



Recurving is inevitable here. Bermuda would have to watch out though.


That site no longer allows hot linking.
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I've been reading the comments from a few pages back LoveObama. I hope it's all good news for you and your family. It's really sad how some people have treated you here. The "pressure" on these blog has dropped to 46...since yesterday...and counting. Avg about 2"poof" per page. God Bless and all the best to you and your family. Stay safe.
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Quoting atmosweather:
Irene is starting to look more and more like a typical late fall Nor'easter rather than a 950 mb tropical cyclone. It's almost unfathomable. There is no central core wind maximum whatsoever, the highest winds don't begin to be felt until at least 75 miles from the center of the dry spot, which isn't even a proper eye because the air inside it is basically saturated (the HH noted a dew point exactly the same as the air temperature in the center). Since there is no drier air entraining into the outer portions of whatever you call the call, there is no subsidence and thus even the air ABOVE the surface in the center is saturated. It's one of the most incredible phenomena I've ever seen in any type of weather system.

She is remarkable in so many ways. Which is a nice way of saying, omg, she's a mutant freak of a hurricane! *g*
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 85
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.


Irene packs more of a punch than most people think - that is from experience.
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Quoting victoriahurricane:


Note the word tropical storm
Note that I edited the post and immediately retracted, upon seeing he was referring to a tropical storm rather than a tropical cyclone.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
So what else are we watching in the tropics?

look whats off africa right now and you tell me :)
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Quoting BostonWench:


Everyone deals with stress differently. And not everyone prays.

+1
Some would say praying isn't helping anymore then sitting here pressing the F5 button.
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By looking at most of the photos coming in. It appears to be mostly a surge/flooding event.


So when this thing gets up to NYC and the battery floods, what happens to all the tunnels there. Do they have doors on the tunnels to protect them?
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Heard there are 24' waves there - true?
in tahiti today they are getting a 20 sec swell at 15 ft http://magicseaweed.com/Teahupoo-Surf-Report/619/
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Here's today's 12Z Euro run at 240 hours:

Link

Recurving is inevitable here. Bermuda would have to watch out though.
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So why is the NE quadrant relatively quiet, while almost all the action is N & W of the COC?
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Quoting HapiVali:
Anyone think the jet stream/a jet streak in addition to the cold front coming across NY will interact with Irene and cause any intensification prior to her second landfall?


It won't cause an actual intensification of Irene or an increase in maximum winds. What the interaction will do is provide extra instability aloft to increase the strength of the winds further from the center, so areas more than 100 miles W of the center will still experience winds near hurricane force.
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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.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It became that storm that crossed Florida as a Category 1, entered the Gulf of Mexico and rapidly developed, becoming a Category 5 hurricane, and then weakening to a Category 3 in time for a landfall in Louisiana/Mississippi.


as the K storm if the one that just rolled off develops b ba ba baaaa
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Heard there are 24' waves there - true?
We're not on the beach anymore.Been getting dangerous ever since yesterday night.Maybe in a few hours will go back out.But not now.Until some of the roads are clear.I'm in my hotel room right now.
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Quoting Krycek1984:


In any event, if LoveObama (a troll name if there ever was one) really isn't a troll, they shouldn't be on the wunderblog if their family is in such danger. They should be doing other things to help. Like praying. Not fiddling around on the computer and pressing F5 once a minute.


Everyone deals with stress differently. And not everyone prays.
Member Since: August 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
Eastern NC took a real beating from Irene. Glad Portlight will be heading in there tomorrow.
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Link
to the Wakefield, VA radar from NWS
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4485
notice how the politicians and one who have fixed wages look worn out and the ones who are making a hr are game on. tv e
Quoting NCSaint:


AMEN!!! That was by far the roughest, and slowest moving Cat 1 I've ever experienced. Good luck mid- and north-atlantic coastal communities....you're gonna need it. HEED the local warnings on this one, she's no joke
there is all kinds
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Irene is starting to look more and more like a typical late fall Nor'easter rather than a 950 mb tropical cyclone. It's almost unfathomable. There is no central core wind maximum whatsoever, the highest winds don't begin to be felt until at least 75 miles from the center of the dry spot, which isn't even a proper eye because the air inside it is basically saturated (the HH noted a dew point exactly the same as the air temperature in the center). Since there is no drier air entraining into the outer portions of whatever you call the core, there is no subsidence and thus even the air ABOVE the surface in the center is saturated. It's one of the most incredible phenomena I've ever seen in any type of weather system.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
An interesting note here


I know the focus is on Irene, but TD 10 just died out in the CATL, which means it could come further west and maybe redevelop


Hmmm didn't that happen in 2005?


It became that storm that crossed Florida as a Category 1, entered the Gulf of Mexico and rapidly developed, becoming a Category 5 hurricane, and then weakening to a Category 3 in time for a landfall in Louisiana/Mississippi.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Kitty Hawk.


Heard there are 24' waves there - true?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
An interesting note here


I know the focus is on Irene, but TD 10 just died out in the CATL, which means it could come further west and maybe redevelop


Hmmm didn't that happen in 2005?
I agree that is possible.It may pull a 93L on us and develop as soon as it get's into the Carribean.
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NYC now reporting 3,700 people in #Irene shelters meant to hold more than 19 times that many. A total of 370k ordered evacuated
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1455
Quoting Tazmanian:



welcome back


mode runs have this has a TS with in the next 72hr most if all mode runs take this wave up too a high end cat 4 by about 192hrs not sure where mode runs take it






OUCH. Thanks for notifying us...here in NC, 1 has been way too many. Hopefully if this next wave does develope it will be the correct term of a fish storm. Big, beautiful, harming no land areas
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4485
Quoting JamesSA:


I would give her the benefit of the doubt in this instance. Some of you are mean spirited.


It's actually NOT mean spirited. Mean spirited is pretending to be someone in need. Mean spirited is spreading rumors that bodies are floating in water. Mean spirited is wasting people's times with lies.

In any event, if LoveObama (a troll name if there ever was one) really isn't a troll, they shouldn't be on the wunderblog if their family is in such danger. They should be doing other things to help. Like praying. Not fiddling around on the computer and pressing F5 once a minute.
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Quoting Methurricanes:
rain is letting up a little bit, will probably pick up shortly, again.

Yeah, that first band looked pretty heavy on radar. Luckily you've got a little break before the next one.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 85
Quoting violet312s:


What an idiot!


No shortage of them, ever. Someone posted a photo on Facebook "Ocracoke meets Hurricane Irene" of another guy doing the same thing. Reminds me of those who decide to walk out there pre-tsunami.
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I hope the roads clear out soon so that I can see my family again in D.C.Their also getting the storm.There is a tropical Storm warning for them.
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An interesting note here


I know the focus is on Irene, but TD 10 just died out in the CATL, which means it could come further west and maybe redevelop


Hmmm didn't that happen in 2005?
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Quoting mehmattski:


Here's a tree that fell down on Duke's East Campus:


Tree down on Duke's East Campus
Click the photo for the story (No one was hurt). Also, my first post- hi from Durham! (wave)


Most of those Oaks on East Campus are nearing the end of their lifespan, having been planted in the 1920s and 1930s. A report, two years ago, indicated that 90% or more of the trees would need replacement due to advanced age and disease by 2030.

It looks as if this tree snapped, due to disease, rather than uprooting, as was so prevalent with downed trees during Fran.
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NC governor news briefing. They will not send out rescue teams until the weather improves, which will not be until after dark has set in. Those who need rescuing are in for a very long night.
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Quoting JamesSA:


I would give her the benefit of the doubt in this instance. Some of you are mean spirited.


I lived in this area. I cant really recall seeing very many houses here a person could even easily get on their roof. How did Grandma get on the roof? A ladder? Nothing in the story makes sense.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1455
Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Where exactly are you?
Kitty Hawk.
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Quoting largeeyes:


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


I would give her the benefit of the doubt in this instance. Some of you are mean spirited.
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Quoting HapiVali:
Anyone think the jet stream/a jet streak in addition to the cold front coming across NY will interact with Irene and cause any intensification prior to her second landfall?
yea actually being that its goin back over water and that theres less friction we could see intencification from thattoo then the pressure itself could make intensification from that and then the jetstreak....
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Quoting JamesSA:
This photo is from Aurora...
Wow is that from N.C.
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rain is letting up a little bit, will probably pick up shortly, again.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
Quoting largeeyes:
Darwin winner....

Link


What an idiot!
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Quoting TXInaSpin:



I think you "Troll Police" Owe this lady an apology maybe. Don't be so quick to judge smart guys..


You seriously think her grandma is sitting on the roof calling her?
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1455

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About

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