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 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: 1451
Poll.

The record lowest pressure in New York City is 28.26" on March 1, 1914.

Will Irene break New York City's pressure record?

Yes or No?

I'll go out on a limb and say yes.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
So what else are we watching in the tropics?


African wave that just came off. ECMWF takes it down to 928 mb by the end of the run.

Welcome back, btw.
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Quoting DallasGumby:
Wilma, 882.

Irene has ZERO chance of being that.


Note the word tropical storm
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I really hope the name Irene is retired - >$3 billion in damage already.

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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?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
So what else are we watching in the tropics?



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




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Darwin winner....

Link
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1451
Quoting summerland:

Good luck to them. Here's a link to the storm surge probability tool. Keep zooming in on the Hamptons -- it looks like Southampton may be okay.

Link


Thanks Summerland, I appreciate that!

I warned my family about this storm 3 days ago, so hearing that made me feel a little bit like Cassandra.
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Quoting FLdewey:
So you joined yesterday, and patiently waited 24 hours to be concerned?

Come on, at least put some effort into it.

We're experienced with trolls, and you are a true amateur.

NEXT.



You have to wait a full 24 hours before you're allowed to start blogging. It happened to me when I tried to join for Omar.
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Quoting petewxwatcher:
Pressure at 29.60" or lower from Jacksonville, FL to Atlantic City, NJ.







29.68 in Nashville IND.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm currently in N.C filming the storm.However my family is about to get the brunt of it soon.


Where exactly are you?
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Next HH mission on its way
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 886
09L/TS/I
MARK
37.38N/75.98W forecast point

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting MrsBoomerNC:



Great to see the local representation! Would have been awesome to have had this WU community when Fran was coming through. Have been a 'cane junkie ever since :) Seems like Irene's rain bands stopped at the Durham/Wake line.


Please don't mention the "F" word ;-)

Yeah, no rain but could have been worse!
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Quoting Levi32:


Yeah they're like snowflakes lol.


Ah, you would be the expert on those among us bloggers. Lol. Maybe really loud snowflakes.
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So what else are we watching in the tropics?
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Quoting LoveObama:


What scares me is that house is elevated. My family was not in an elevated home.



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


Hey! Those pin oaks really make a mess when they go down. Glad there were no injuries.
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Quoting LargoFl:
I hope things quiet down for you up there and that your family is ok when this is over
I'm currently in N.C filming the storm.However my family is about to get the brunt of it soon.
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Quoting Levi32:


Yeah they're like snowflakes lol.


like snow flakes when the weather gets warm sorry that reminded me of love dun gonne okay continue... i think this could strengthen a lil bit over water
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Basically no rain here.



Great to see the local representation! Would have been awesome to have had this WU community when Fran was coming through. Have been a 'cane junkie ever since :) Seems like Irene's rain bands stopped at the Durham/Wake line.
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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


Definitely!
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I left Tampa, Florida in 2008 to get away from hurricanes and live in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Tomorrow we're supposed to have 35-45mph sustained winds with gusts to 65 mph and 6 to 10 inches of rain which is incredible this far in northern New Hampshire from a tropical system. A nor'easter maybe but this will be one for the books.
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Quoting Levi32:


We've seen the winds in Nags Head, NC gusting to 70mph even with no rain falling in that dry part of the storm. The winds may still be an issue. It is true that Irene will be like a nor'east in that the NW quad will be the wettest and windiest, but if she maintains any kind of a core convective area over the water south of Long Island, there will be effects felt east of the center as well for several dozen miles. The northern part of the storm would affect you before the dry eastern part got there anyway.


Having been through 4 hurricanes, that just sounds freaky! 70mph wind gusts and no rain??
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I manage to save some of the battery life for my laptop.So I'm not gonna be on here long.Power is lost.So far I've herd about one death here in N.C.Havn't here much about anything today really due to power being out.However I've been in touch with my family from time to time.Their conditions are starting to really deteriorate.
I hope things quiet down for you up there and that your family is ok when this is over
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36852
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Been learning a lot about storms the last couple of years that we didn't know. Fascinating! And no two are ever the same it seems.


Yeah they're like snowflakes lol.
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emerging over water
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My brother's in Middletown, NJ and said it's pouring but no wind yet.
Member Since: August 18, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 188
Quoting pastagirl:
Hi All,

I don't post much, but I just found out that my sister, her husband, and their two little boys have decided to ride out the storm where they're vacationing in Southampton NY - because their neighborhood in Manhattan was evacuated.

I'm a little upset about it...

Good luck to them. Here's a link to the storm surge probability tool. Keep zooming in on the Hamptons -- it looks like Southampton may be okay.

Link
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 85
Quoting Levi32:


Yes, and I used the global models to predict that the environment would support only a slowly weakening storm, and likely a low Cat 3 at landfall in NC. We didn't get the winds, but look at the pressure. That should have been a Cat 3. The predictions really weren't that far off. It's the core dynamics that messed up the maximum winds, something we are bad at predicting in advance.

I see, thanks for responding!
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The last (non-extratropical) hurricane to pass directly over New Jersey:



1903 Vagabond Hurricane
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Something might be developing off of Africa.That could be the next named storm after Irene leaves the picture.Two more waves over Africa need to be watched closely as well.
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This photo is from Aurora...


From a link posted here earlier...
Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
It got pretty bad last night - We went to bed around 11:30 PM and we had power. However, we all got up around 5AM when the winds starting howling. There are A LOT of trees down, and damage to mobile homes. Flooding wasn't a BIG BIG issue because of our drought, but our backyard and frontyard are still like a river. From what I have heard, it got really bad in the coastal areas.

Other than that, GOOD BYE IRENE!!!!!!!!!!!!


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
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All evacuation shelters in NY and NJ are accepting pets. Also, all taxis in NYC are required to accept pets. Please spread the word to those affected and check our website for more info.
http://www.aspca.org/Blog/Categories/Hurricane-Ir ene.aspx
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


I'm here a lot! I'm over in Carrboro. Agree with the wind, I think some were at least 50 mph.


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)
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895. dader
Quoting Levi32:


We've seen the winds in Nags Head, NC gusting to 70mph even with no rain falling in that dry part of the storm. The winds may still be an issue. It is true that Irene will be like a nor'east in that the NW quad will be the wettest and windiest, but if she maintains any kind of a core convective area over the water south of Long Island, there will be effects felt east of the center as well for several dozen miles. The northern part of the storm would affect you before the dry eastern part got there anyway.


Thanks! Wind is picking up here now, should be a rough night.
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Quoting barbamz:


Levi, you think, this maybe what the ECMWF (Euro) Model has originally seen? Actually, it's not really 913 mb but - related to circumstances - unbelievable strong.


Yes, and I used the global models to predict that the environment would support only a slowly weakening storm, and likely a low Cat 3 at landfall in NC. We didn't get the winds, but look at the pressure. That should have been a Cat 3. The predictions really weren't that far off. It's the core dynamics that messed up the maximum winds, something we are bad at predicting in advance.
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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.


Been learning a lot about storms the last couple of years that we didn't know. Fascinating! And no two are ever the same it seems.
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My folks live a few miles from the ocean in Ma and they received a call from the police department stating they may have to evacuate. I am hoping since the storm is taking the western track they can stay put. But they will leave if told to.
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Quoting wpb:
high rise structures wind speed plus 20 to 30%
AND some trees in the Northeast are 150-200 feet tall so that also is signifagantly above the ground so hihger winds can be expected.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 679
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.


Levi: followed much of your notes throughout. Now, your calls on the NE are supported further, by a future graduate level paper on this interaction.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
And just in case you don't believe the buoy!

000
URNT12 KNHC 272034
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL092011
A. 27/20:03:50Z
B. 36 deg 00 min N
076 deg 07 min W
C. 700 mb 2630 m
D. NA
E. NA
F. 157 deg 73 kt
G. 067 deg 29 nm
H. 950 mb
I. 12 C / 2744 m
J. 16 C / 2744 m
K. 16 C / NA
L. NA
M. NA
N. 12345 / 7
O. 0.02 / 2 nm
P. AF303 3309A IRENE OB 17
MAX FL WIND 87 KT E QUAD 19:36:00Z
;
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884. wpb
high rise structures wind speed plus 20 to 30%
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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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