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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The Duck Pier note about the pressure recording too low by 1.5 mb means we should use it with caution. What if it is wrong by more? But if that figure for the discrepancy is accurate the central pressure is 947 mb or lower.
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Quoting txag91met:


I don't see that happening...water temps don't support a CAT 3 now...upper 70s off VA coast.

I do see gusts to 70 mph in spots (NYC)...just a HUGE system.



I don't expect it either, but people are going to be under 60-80mph gusts for a very long duration. It won't be that fun. Water will be a bigger damage problem in NYC, from both sky and ocean.
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Norfolk
NEXRAD Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.50 Elevation


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
Quoting breald:
If this is a dupe question please forgive me, it seems the blog ate my original post.

With Irene taking a more inland track will that put Southern New England in a better position, or does it not matter because of her size? Thanks.


It's not going to matter much with regards to the impacts felt in your area. Expect torrential rainfall that could exceed 10 inches in places and very gusty winds to hurricane strength. Irene is not going to be much weaker, if at all weaker, once she reaches NY and New England. She is doing an incredible job of remaining a very deep and intense storm, even better than I expected...despite agreeing with the models that suggested she would do this.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
Still a 950 mb storm?? That's amazing, especially for a Category 1.
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Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 17:12 (EDT)
Wind Speed: 56 knots Gusts: 69 knots Direction: 149° T

Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 17:12 (EDT)
Barometric Pressure: 950.6 mb
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Quoting txag91met:


The reason the wind speeds are not CAT 3 with that pressure is the gradient (dp/dx) is weak. Nashville is 1008 mb!



Incredible! Nashville?? This storm is creating its own micro-atmosphere!
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Member Since: October 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1267
Quoting presslord:
the Portlight crew is headed east on 64 from rocky Mount....they will be in the area for a while...if you send me (WU mail) an address,name, etc., I'll be glad to see if they can check it out...


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
Quoting Levi32:


950.9mb now and my jaw is dropping at how this storm refuses to fill up.


this is crazy it prolly wont weaken to much with pressure like this
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Quoting violet312s:
Beaufort was a mandatory evacuation county I believe. People were told that they would not get any help until after the storm has passed. No point putting more lives at risk to save those who did not heed to warnings to leave.


Amen to THAT. If you DON'T listen when they come banging and TELL YOU TO LEAVE you know you live in a flood prone/canseethewaterfromyourhouse, then it's like the Preacher tells Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles:

"Son, you're on your own."

If I was THAT sheriff or volunteer's wife, I don't him DEAD because you're a dumbass.
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Quoting Levi32:


Well that's only true at the core, because she hasn't really had a core since yesterday, but if she were to suddenly develop an eye again, those Cat 3 winds would likely show up. What Irene really has is an 80-mile thick wind maximum, like a very broad, weak eyewall for a storm with a pressure of 950mb.


I don't see that happening...water temps don't support a CAT 3 now...upper 70s off VA coast.

I do see gusts to 70 mph in spots (NYC)...just a HUGE system.

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951, isnt tht belowthe pressure according to he nhc
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Quoting atmosweather:


I've seen everything in terms of following tropical systems...but that's absolutely unbelievable.


950.9mb now and my jaw is dropping at how this storm refuses to fill up.
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Quoting txag91met:


The reason the wind speeds are not CAT 3 with that pressure is the gradient (dp/dx) is weak. Nashville is 1008 mb!



Well that's only true at the core, because she hasn't really had a core since yesterday, but if she were to suddenly develop an eye again, those Cat 3 winds would likely show up. What Irene really has is an 80-mile thick wind maximum, like a very broad, weak eyewall for a storm with a pressure of 950mb.
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Quoting IceCoast:
An amazing system. Blog seems pretty slow for the First landfalling Hurricane since 08.


Now that FL is safe, lots not interested. Don't see the usual ENC bloggers, prob. due to power outages.

Thanx to folks like Levi, Pat, Neo, and the regular others who are keeping us informed.
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Quoting Levi32:
951.5mb at Duck Pier at 5pm EDT with 63mph winds gusting to 77mph. That's not even Irene's minimum pressure folks. She isn't even filling up with air yet. It's incredible.


I've seen everything in terms of following tropical systems...but that's absolutely unbelievable.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
Irene pretty much on expected NNE track right along the seaboard... Interesting the NWD motion shift prior to landfall and into E NC, as appeared for a while last night would track closer to Hatteras... However, from what I recall, the GFS had indicated that temporary bend back to the left induced by combined approaching trof weakness / the orientation of Atlantic ridge building NW-ward simultaneously, holding firm... More or less ECMWF did same... Overall, the guidance from those two models has been excellent as usual when it counts most. Often the case, can note last several days the NHC has just split it's track between their narrow range.

Also find amazing how the steering pattern projections send Irene far NEWD into northern latitudes / near polar regions within 3-4 days, higher up than many... If ever wanted to see a classic example of a tropical cyclone transporting heat from the tropics to the poles, and doing it quite literally, this is a good one!

Safe wishes continue for all of you affected within Irene's wide swath.
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If this is a dupe question please forgive me, it seems the blog ate my original post.

With Irene taking a more inland track will that put Southern New England in a better position, or does it not matter because of her size? Thanks.
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Beaufort was a mandatory evacuation county I believe. People were told that they would not get any help until after the storm has passed. No point putting more lives at risk to save those who did not heed to warnings to leave.
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 886


Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 17:06 (EDT)
Barometric Pressure: 950.9 mb
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the Portlight crew is headed east on 64 from rocky Mount....they will be in the area for a while...if you send me (WU mail) an address,name, etc., I'll be glad to see if they can check it out...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10479
There is a note that the pressure at Duck Pier is running about 1.5 mb too low. However with 55 kt winds it implies a central pressure of 947 mb anyway.
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Quoting Levi32:
951.5mb at Duck Pier at 5pm EDT with 63mph winds gusting to 77mph. That's not even Irene's minimum pressure folks. She isn't even filling up with air yet. It's incredible.


The reason the wind speeds are not CAT 3 with that pressure is the gradient (dp/dx) is weak. Nashville is 1008 mb!

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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
wwebcam oceancitymd.gov/northdivision
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NOAA Page showing tide level, wind speed, gusts and pressure for coastal stations.
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LOL just saw a thread on a forum titled "If emergency services don't respond, we sue!"

referring to local officials stating that emergency services may not be able to respond to 911 calls during the height of the storm. I wonder if these people are going to prank call 911 just to see if they'll come, and try to sue if they don't? lol some people are too ignorant.
Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
803. 996tt
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
how is grandma talking to you from the roof on her i phone which is soaking wet held in her hand texting all the while 75 mp-h wind gusts blowing into her face yet all this is done while not holding onto her roof but typing on a i phone unless she got the laptop or desktop on the roof with her wow either way kinda hard to believe

tell grandma to hold on doing great all most over


I think we should give people like this the benefit of the doubt and not call everyone a liar when perhaps we are missing some of the details. This is a silly weather blog, its not like they are keeping 911 operators from tending to others in need. Most of us posting on here apparently have plenty of spare time. Haha, I am just trying to catch my breathe before another set as that swell jacks my old arse up after about 2 hours. If you think they are FOS, maybe say nothing just on the off chance that they are truly someone in need.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


What the heck? Wilma wasn't at 882 as a tropical storm...
Wilma did have pressures around 980 hPa as a tropical storm prior to exploding to a monster.
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951.5mb at Duck Pier at 5pm EDT with 63mph winds gusting to 77mph. That's not even Irene's minimum pressure folks. She isn't even filling up with air yet. It's incredible.
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Smoke on the Water




Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
Quoting BostonWench:
Yup, flooding already in MA...

Picture 1
Picture 2


Wow, all the way in Massachusetts! What a huge storm.
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Quoting thegoldenstrand:


I think you completely missed it.

Lowest pressure while a tropical storm is what is being discussed...

But... back to Wilma... when it hit the keys... not that strong, but it really flooded everything really bad... about a 8 foot storm surge... Now that was a monster.


I believe the record was set by Hurricane Katrina, who maintained a 965 mb central pressure as it weakened to a tropical storm over eastern MS.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
Link

I found this webcam at Virginia Beach..
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Quoting IceCoast:
Virginia beach Cams
Link


Two out of the three cams out of business and the third is on ROCK 'N ROLL!
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Beaufort county emergency contact link:

Link

That is the county Aurora is in.
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Quoting DallasGumby:
Wilma, 882.

Irene has ZERO chance of being that. Your GUESS is more of that over-hype.


X2 on what you said.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
Cloud tops with Irene continue to warm and are thus weakening, which is being reflected in weaker radar echos during the course of this afternoon, but that doesn't mean that those echos won't intensify as they encounter more baroclinic support in New England, and they will be capable of delivering double-digit-inch rainfall to a swath all the way up the east coast.

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Quoting atmosweather:


It wouldn't have made much difference considering how large the system is, and would have actually placed almost all of the hurricane force winds in the NE quadrant to the east of the Outer Banks. In terms of organization and intensity, as noted by the NHC forecaster at the 5PM advisory, the central core of Irene tightened up and became better defined on radar throughout the morning, which sometimes happens as the turbulent effects of land contribute to the storm contracting and trying to find more latent heat to tap into.


Thanks,

I was thinking being over the water a little longer and it might have spun up a little faster.
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Yup, flooding already in MA...

Picture 1
Picture 2
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Quoting Krycek1984:


He meant Tropical Storm, not Tropical Cyclone. i.e. winds below 75 mph.
I edited my comment and posted a revision.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127549
Quoting thegoldenstrand:


Any thoughts on what kind of storm this could have been if it tracked about 40 miles east of where it did???


It wouldn't have made much difference considering how large the system is, and would have actually placed almost all of the hurricane force winds in the NE quadrant to the east of the Outer Banks. In terms of organization and intensity, as noted by the NHC forecaster at the 5PM advisory, the central core of Irene tightened up and became better defined on radar throughout the morning, which sometimes happens as the turbulent effects of land contribute to the storm contracting and trying to find more latent heat to tap into.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265

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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.