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 NoVaForecaster:


My house is surrounded by old growth forest. I'm definitely headed down to the basement when I go to sleep. Those trees are huge and they have been damaged by the snowstorm this winter, so I'm not taking any chances!


That reminds me of when I used to live in Fairfax Station as a little kid, my house was surrounded by big old trees, my neighborhood even looked depressing.
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683. txjac
Quoting overwash12:
We are in the northern eyewall(what is left of the eye) winds gusting to 75mph in my best est. Still have

Hope it stays that way for you. Stay safe
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Quoting presslord:


yes...my point is...we can't legislate away every single potential danger....sometimes bad stuff just happens...


I strongly believe some places should have mandatory basements, just as many homes in hurricane prone areas, like Florida, must meet special code for hurricane winds.

How many of us have seen homes in the midwest ripped right off their slabs/crawlspaces? Too many. It doesn't make sense to build a home in the midwest and not have a basement. It's dangerous.
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Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 16:24 (EDT)
Wind Speed: 53 knots Gusts: 60 knots Direction: 121%uFFFD T






Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 16:24 (EDT)
Barometric Pressure: 955.9 mb
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129904
Quoting Patrap:
Norfolk
NEXRAD Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.50



Exit, stage right...
Member Since: August 18, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 188
We are in the northern eyewall(what is left of the eye) winds gusting to 75mph in my best est. Still have power which is unbelievable!
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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:
I definitely plan on pulling an all nighter to watch whatever Irene has to offer


Got 5 hours last night and won't get much tonight - but will definitely sleep tomorrow once she passes the DC area.
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Looks like there are going to be quite a few Darwin Awards this weekend.


Member Since: July 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3013
Quoting presslord:
yes...a basement would be a great place to seek shelter from a flood
*facepalm*
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Evacuation zones in metropolitan New York City. Link

In the event of blog slowdown, please notify immediately.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2836
Sounding this am near Irene's eye:



And...a PWAT of over 3 inches. Awfully wet, even for a TC, this far north.
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Quoting Krycek1984:


We weren't talking about floods...we were talking about trees coming down and killing people in their homes.


yes...my point is...we can't legislate away every single potential danger....sometimes bad stuff just happens...
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Quoting LoveObama:
My family has seen bodies in the flood water.


You're in contact with family in Aurora? I hope they're all OK. How high has the storm surge got there? I guess in a little place like that they know everyone?
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Darkness is Four Hours away almost,,so those in New York and points North need to rush their preps to completion as the winds will be picking up after Dark.
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Quoting presslord:
yes...a basement would be a great place to seek shelter from a flood


We weren't talking about floods...we were talking about trees coming down and killing people in their homes.
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I definitely plan on pulling an all nighter to watch whatever Irene has to offer
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Quoting IceCoast:

Canady Landing, Aurora North Carolina, Beaufort County- this is where the Pamlico River meets the Intracoastal Waterway on the southwest side. -Ed Whitehurts Jr

Sure hope they evacuated.
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Quoting IMA:
102 at the San Antonio airport, 104.7 at my house. I hate it, it literally makes me sick, but at least I don't have a hurricane sittin' over me or coming at me.


You're out in Pipe Creek, aren't you? I think that's what you told me in '08.
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Closing subways this afternoon gave transit time to make sure everyone was out and also to get home and do what they need to do there. So good call by the rich guy.

The risk of not doing it is way worse than the risk of doing it.
It's always refreshing when public officials listen to their public safety advisors.
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Quoting IceCoast:

Canady Landing, Aurora North Carolina, Beaufort County- this is where the Pamlico River meets the Intracoastal Waterway on the southwest side. -Ed Whitehurts Jr

Oh, Lord. That soundside flooding...those folks take it in the chops EVERY single time, God bless 'em.
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Quoting LargoFl:
Isnt the bahamas british? maybe the english are or were covering YOUR storm stories? just a thought


No, independent since 1973. Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, BVI and the Turks and Caicos are all British Overseas Territories (for its official name) still.
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Quoting NOVArules:


I have a basement, but I would not like to sleep down there, especially when it's dark, way too many daddy long legs living down there. Heck, when I turn off the lights down there, I RUN like someone's chasing me.


Being down there is better than getting hurt upstairs!

I became very thankful for my basement just a few days ago, and much more aware of the plight of people going through hurricanes and tornadoes. A terrible line of thunderstorms producing extremely winds struck my neighborhood. A large tree blew into about 5 pieces and two of the pieces flew about 100 feet down the street I'm on. I was sleeping, I popped out of bed and I instantly screamed and said to my partner "get to the basement now!". We got down there as fast as we could. I thought we were going to die. One of the scariest moments of my life. Brought a new understanding to the plight of people going through these hurricanes and tornadoes.
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Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


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Quoting NOVArules:


This is why I am scared to sleep at night, when Irene will be at her worst in my area as my bedroom is right next to a mature oak tree.

Maybe you would be better off sleeping in a room that has no oak tree overhanging it. I slept in the closet (no windows) during Hurricane Charley, and I use the term 'slept' loosely...
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Canady Landing, Aurora North Carolina, Beaufort County- this is where the Pamlico River meets the Intracoastal Waterway on the southwest side. -Ed Whitehurts Jr
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N=
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So does Irene weaken to 75mph/80mph at 5pm or do they keep it at 85mph?
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yes...a basement would be a great place to seek shelter from a flood
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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:


From what I've seen, most of the media is ACCURATELY making a big deal about the flooding from the rain (most of us are already at near record total August rainfall amounts) and the power outages.


Plus there's already 500k without power in Virginia, as of the latest report.

Is Irene going to be the end of the world? No. Is it going to seriously adversely affect us up here? Yup. No way around it. The vast majority of houses in NY and further north AREN'T BUILT WITH HURRICANES IN MIND. Snow? Yes. Rain? Yes. The kind of wind we'd see in a nor'easter? Yup. Sustained TS force and higher winds? Not so much.

Some people always panic, some people always dismiss any concern, but I'd say most people are pretty close to the middle of the road. Me, I have my supplies laid in, my crap off the back porch, and my freezer turned down to max cold. Hopefully the trees next to and around my house don't fall - there's a pair of old lindens across the street. Used to be 3, but one fell in a thunderstorm earlier this year...

Hopefully being around the corner from a firehouse and a hospital means that if my power goes out, it gets turned back on sooner ;)

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Quoting P451:
Well, she's on the move....




Don't let the lessening of colors fool you the rain shield is not decaying and her winds are expanding. At most she will drop down to a 75mph hurricane upon landfall in Long Island tomorrow mid-morning. Rainfall of 8-15 inches in a wide swath is expected. There are 75mph gusts in forecasts spanning 400 miles west to east from PA through MA. 85mph+ gusts Jersey shore, Long Island, SE NY State.

It's going to be a mess.


The urban and suburban forests are the biggest problem coming. Tree and grid damage will be enormous. Good amount of water pushed north, as well.
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Quoting LargoFl:
Isnt the bahamas british? maybe the english are or were covering YOUR storm stories? just a thought


Bermuda is part of the U.K. The Bahamas have been independent from the U.K. for nearly 40 years.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3784
NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) -- A New Bern man suffered a head injury after strong winds blew down a large billboard that struck a mobile home where he was working.

Forty-four-year-old Gary Henderson said he was helping a friend move furniture Saturday afternoon when the billboard toppled into three trailers, sending pieces of metal debris flying through the air.

Henderson was treated at the scene by emergency responders and then was taken by his family to a hospital in Havelock for further evaluation.

His friend, Andrew Owens, was not injured.

Henderson said he was surprised to be alive after the incident.

The billboard, advertising a local marina, reads: "Anything is possible."
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Quoting Krycek1984:


Basements really should be required for all houses that aren't in an extremely high-water table environment.


Unfortunately for the vast majority of the Atlantic states we do have high water tables. Here in NC basements are extremely rare unless they are walk-outs.
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we are seeing more and more weather oddities...
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The South shore of Long Island is going to get slammed. This is a huge circulation
and tens of thousands will lose power even though this is a CAT 1.
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Quoting Krycek1984:


Basements really should be required for all houses that aren't in an extremely high-water table environment.


I have a basement, but I would not like to sleep down there, especially when it's dark, way too many daddy long legs living down there. Heck, when I turn off the lights down there, I RUN like someone's chasing me.
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Not to distract from Irene, but I cannot believe this HEAT in Houston. Tying an all time record high of 109 at 2:30 in the afternoon is crazy. This has been a summer of numerous records for heat and drought.
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The Bahamas are an independent nation
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Quoting SamWells:


When Irene was Cat-3 over the Bahamas, there was no media hype, and the locals just accepted the reality of it and hunkered down. Winds to 120 MPH gusting higher were common.

Now we have a Cat-1 storm and The Weather Channel and a bunch of weather dudes are saying it is Armageddon, the end of the world, and ultimate destruction. Myself, I have actually survived many Cat-1 storms without evacuating, so I don't pull any punches about that.

UGH! This is not a normal cat 1 hurricane. You cant' compare it. People have to understand this. The storm surge, tied in with the new moon higher tides, will be great and destructive to the coastlines and bays. The already saturated land will over flow creeks and rivers with continous heavy rains. I have been through cat 2 hurricane (Georges) in Key West and that was a weaker storm with its overall impact compared to whT Irene COULD DO. If Irene was over Key West right now I know the flooding would be terrible. Some of our streets are flooded now with the new moon tide (normal). Now, imagine, if you added Irene into the mix...????.
When the storm passes and all the storm damage footage airs on the news and personal storm stories are told, then the real truth will emerge.
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Quoting wxdrone:
Has VA Beach gotten the memo that a hurricane is going their way? Lol. I'm watching a live report and there is what looks like normal traffic and groups of people walking and running around having fun.


Probably tourists...or just all the dumb people are out.
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Quoting SamWells:


When Irene was Cat-3 over the Bahamas, there was no media hype, and the locals just accepted the reality of it and hunkered down. Winds to 120 MPH gusting higher were common.

Now we have a Cat-1 storm and The Weather Channel and a bunch of weather dudes are saying it is Armageddon, the end of the world, and ultimate destruction. Myself, I have actually survived many Cat-1 storms without evacuating, so I don't pull any punches about that.
Isnt the bahamas british? maybe the english are or were covering YOUR storm stories? just a thought
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http://www.wral.com/weather/hurricanes/image_galler y/10052867/

Check out the pics from NC!
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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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