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 MsBlanch:


Your are joking right?

Glad to see you back online



no...and Thanks!!
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Galveston is basically on the ocean, water moderates temperature quite a bit, in fact compare Galveston and Houston's record highs substantial difference.

Galveston can be cool and pleasant while Houston is swelteringly hot. I spent quite a lot of my childhood there -- so heartbreaking what Ike did to it.
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Quoting presslord:
the Commodore of the NY Yacht Club is gonna ride out the storm aboard his sailboat playing poker with his buddies...


Your are joking right?

Glad to see you back online
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Quoting yonzabam:


Can't believe that's a record for somewhere so far south. Even the UK's record is above 100F.


Galveston is an island off the coast of Texas and subject to the cooling of the Gulf of Mexico.
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Quoting louisianaboy444:


Exactly, Long range models for Irene moved from Texas to the East coast...long range models are very unreliable


heck, there was a time when Irene was supposed to be just a fish. It was originally modeled to strengthen quickly and get picked up by mid latitude troughs. Then it was slow to strengthen and it missed the troughs... which lead models to shift it west bringing it to the Gulf Coast or Florida. Well most of us know what's happened since that point
Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
Quoting CybrTeddy:
12z ECMWF running, making the Tropical Wave emerging off Africa developing into a Tropical Storm by 72 hours.

Less than 72 hours.
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Quoting presslord:
the Commodore of the NY Yacht Club is gonna ride out the storm aboard his sailboat playing poker with his buddies...


Guess he doesn't know when to fold 'em.
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Quoting ElConando:


So I'm sure you saw the Cuban Missile Crisis coming like a year before it happened then :P.



I knew you were going to say that! LOL
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Quoting Grothar:


For how long?........


tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night...or until he dies...which ever comes first
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*Image can be enlarged by clicking on it
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I'm tired of all the morons claiming they're over-hyping this storm. Even if it is over-hyped, that's a heck of a lot better than under-hype. There's no such thing as a perfect forecast, so every major event is going to be over-hyped or under-hyped. Which would you prefer?
Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
Quoting yonzabam:


Can't believe that's a record for somewhere so far south. Even the UK's record is above 100F.


It's not the all-time record, just the record for the date.
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Quoting presslord:
the Commodore of the NY Yacht Club is gonna ride out the storm aboard his sailboat playing poker with his buddies...


For how long?........
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Quoting Grothar:
I alway like to look ahead.



So I'm sure you saw the Cuban Missile Crisis coming like a year before it happened then :P.
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Station @ Duck, NC

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Quoting Dennis8:
VERY RARE and a indirect consequence of Irene's circulation bringing dry air and west winds to Texas.

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
248 PM CDT SAT AUG 27 2011

..NEW RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE SET AT GALVESTON

THE AFTERNOON TEMPERATURE AT GALVESTON SCHOLES FIELD AIRPORT HAS HIT
THE CENTURY MARK OF 100 DEGREES SO FAR. THIS BREAKS THE PREVIOUS
RECORD HIGH FOR THE DAY OF 99 DEGREES SET IN 1990.


Can't believe that's a record for somewhere so far south. Even the UK's record is above 100F.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
Okay, I didn't know CT was mountainous.

@wunderground
Weather Underground
RT @CTDEMHS: USGS has issued a landslide alert in Connecticut due to expected rainfall totals from Hurricane Irene


we here in CT have many large hills and small mountains. If you ever drive around here, you will notice that the highways are just about the only roads that ever involve little or no elevation change. We don't see landslides often from a historical standpoint, however over the past decade there have been several significant late winter - spring flood events. It is no longer uncommon for several rainstorms to bring 3 to 7 inches of rain at the end of winter (1 to 2 inches used to be what was common). This has loosened up the soil over time and the last couple years landslides have been growing. Certainly with 5 to 15 inches of rain predicted, landslide will be an elevated risk.
Member Since: November 17, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 527
I alway like to look ahead.

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the Commodore of the NY Yacht Club is gonna ride out the storm aboard his sailboat playing poker with his buddies...
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Quoting Dakster:


SO much so that someone (SFWMD?) is reenforcing all of the canals in Miami-Dade County. I'll take a photo of a project in progress or at least a section that has been done already.


Thanks for the info. After the flood in October 2000, the canal overflowed and once it receded, took a large chunk of soil with it, speeding up the sinking. Around 05 we put sand to bring part of the backyard up to level with the rest of it but 6 years later is about the same as it was 11 years ago and maybe worse.
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VERY RARE and a indirect consequence of Irene's circulation bringing dry air and west winds to Texas.

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
248 PM CDT SAT AUG 27 2011

..NEW RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE SET AT GALVESTON

THE AFTERNOON TEMPERATURE AT GALVESTON SCHOLES FIELD AIRPORT HAS HIT
THE CENTURY MARK OF 100 DEGREES SO FAR. THIS BREAKS THE PREVIOUS
RECORD HIGH FOR THE DAY OF 99 DEGREES SET IN 1990.
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From the C130 RECCO message:

Estimated Surface Wind: From 300° at 85 knots (From the WNW at ~ 97.7 mph)

Appears to have been about 50 miles offshore of Duck, NC.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Fried crow tastes better. Just sayin'...


LOL. I've learned my lesson.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
Okay, I didn't know CT was mountainous.

@wunderground
Weather Underground
RT @CTDEMHS: USGS has issued a landslide alert in Connecticut due to expected rainfall totals from Hurricane Irene


You don't need mountains for landslides...

Regardless, CT does sit on the edge of the Appalacians, and has plenty of hills and cliffs. The shore is flat, but that changes relatively quickly as you head north and west.
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If the pressure continues to drop from 950 over water would the winds have time to catch up before the next landfall? Looks to be getting off the coast of NC/Virginia now.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Any time that you do not have a developed system yet, nothing is guaranteed. However, if this system does develop, it doesn't mean that there won't be a passing trof to the north that could recurve it. We also have to remember that a stronger system is going to want to move more poleward.

Anyway, I believe the models are doing what they've done time and time again this season. They are developing these African waves too quickly and immediately taking them out to sea. We'll see, but that's my hunch so far.


Exactly, Long range models for Irene moved from Texas to the East coast...long range models are very unreliable
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
He's speaking in Newyawkese....he doesn't want them to think it's no big deal if it's only a 1. The 1,2,3,37 is newyawk number hyperbole. They understand. Understand?


New Yorkers are like that. If you go to the theater and describe the waiting line, it is required you tell your friends, "There were at least 20,000 people in front of me" It is just their way. We of course know that means 20 people. A cultural thing. They knew what he meant.
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Is there an updated eye position? Thanks
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I am in NoVA as well, currently. It looks like about 15 sustained, gusting to 25 occasionally here. But, I'm just eyeballing it.
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i looked at the river gauges last night, east coast was all green.

Link
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Quoting FLdewey:
Killer skrimp...




Is it edible?
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Okay, I didn't know CT was mountainous.

@wunderground
Weather Underground
RT @CTDEMHS: USGS has issued a landslide alert in Connecticut due to expected rainfall totals from Hurricane Irene
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Works perfectly fine on Firefox 6. Aren't you the king of Firefox Taz? Lol.
not always true. I have 6.0 and get he same black box. The remote access is blocked BY THE server.
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ECMWF takes that African wave down to 928 mb.. Sheesh.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Quoting FLdewey:
Partial roof collapse at the Berkley Mall in Goldboro, NC. No injuries reported.

It was a dump anyway LOL.


A Belks store...
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1451
490. Gorty
Quoting P451:


I'm about 8 miles south of Peekskill near Ossining and Northern Westchester is calling for 50-70 gusting 80. White Plains in Southern Westchester is 55-75 gusting 85.

So...there you have it for me.

I'm also on a ridge that rises up from the Hudson and it's always windier up here than down in town.


When we had a microburst thunderstorm a few weeks ago it took down a swath of trees. It was estimated to be ~70mph. Many trees were down around the area away from that one scar and they had ~60-70 gusts from it - I was one of them.

So to see these sustained winds, saturated ground, and threats of gusts 80+ coming? Pretty sure damage is in the offing.

That is what pushed me to prepare very well for this event.


For me in western mass, for tomorrow, winds 45-65 mph with gusts to 80 mph.

And earlier in the day, I will have winds 45-55 mph. Probably in the am then getting that stronger range with that really high gusts in the pm.
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Quoting FLdewey:
5 People confirmed dead already in the Norfolk/Chesapeke Bay area, over 500,000 without power in NC and VA


Lol...And people said this was gonna be a fish. So much fail on their parts.
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487. hamla
Quoting IceCoast:

My roommate and good friend is from Westford, he's got a lot of family there.

Irene is already prompting Flash flood warnings in Eastern MA and how far away is it? What a huge storm.


send me email
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Quoting FLdewey:
5 People confirmed dead already in the Norfolk/Chesapeke Bay area, over 500,000 without power in NC and VA


Anyone want to continue with the over-hype bull that has been word-vomitted on this blog?
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Quoting AransasBayRat:

He obviously didn't become mayor for his met skills


Ah, but he might have become mayor because he understands the "thinking" of his goats -- uh, people. A cat 1 is weak, but 37 cats are a strong bunch. I was in college with a bunch from NYC. They would think categories go from 1 to 50 at least.
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Quoting ElConando:
Once we are past Hurricane Irene, I'd like to write a blog about the possibility of minor land slides from the drainage canals (everglades of origin or not) in S Fla. The backyard of my parents house has been slowly sliding into a drainage canal near my house for years. I'd like to know how prevalent of an issue is this not only in S Fla but across the nation.


SO much so that someone (SFWMD?) is reenforcing all of the canals in Miami-Dade County. I'll take a photo of a project in progress or at least a section that has been done already.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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.