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 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.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



its not working fine in firefox 6
Quoting violet312s:


I have FF6 too and I'm seeing the same "remote linking disabled" every time someone posts from that site.
That's weird. Works fine with me, but I have to refresh the page for it to work.

Guess we're gonna have to upload it to imageshack like Taz said.
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Quoting robodave:
I'm muhc happier about them hyping this because it was the media that did that not the NHC. This COULD have been much worse than it was. The media, naturally, went in that direction because they want ratings. This event is still very bad and we don't yet know the full extent of what's going to happen. But I'd rather people error on the side of caution than on the side of disregard.

Remember, NHC saw a cat 2 or a cat 3 and emergency personnel and government people needed to know what to do DAYS before it actually struck. Noe forecast is perfect. We should be grateful it's weaker!!!!

I totally agree. Prep for worst hope for best. Some people are never happy. If you consider worst case scenarios its called "hype" but if you are not as prepared as you could be then accusations fly for that also and its the same persons that find fault in either direction.
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:
NYC mayor Bloomberg just made this comment about the storm. Said " winds will be strong whether it's a Ts, cat 1,2,3 or a category 37 storm". LOL!
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?
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:

ecmwf and gfs show the tropical system far north possibly recurving but the nao that time will be positive does that make sense and will the tropical system recurve like is it gurranted?


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.
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476. DFWjc
Quoting lottotexas:
From Austin/San Antonio NWS:
HOWEVER...THE
ECMWF HAS SHOWN AN INCREASING TREND TO BRINGING A FRONT INTO THE
AREA OVER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND...AND THE LATEST GFS IS STARTING TO
GET ON BOARD WITH THIS PATTERN.


Here's wishing it would hit us up here...
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Works perfectly fine on Firefox 6. Aren't you the king of Firefox Taz? Lol.


I have FF6 too and I'm seeing the same "remote linking disabled" every time someone posts from that site.
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 886
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.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
The circulation around Irene has brought dry air into Houston and allowed the air to heat up EVEN more here...105 at IAH at 2pm and 105 at my home. The all time high here is 109. I am awaiting the 3pm reading.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Works perfectly fine on Firefox 6. Aren't you the king of Firefox Taz? Lol.



its not working fine in firefox 6
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471. mbjjm
Quoting yonzabam:


Can you prove it? Where are you getting the information that sustained wind speeds have dropped below 74 mph?


no surface obs with sustained hurricane force winds, just gusts
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Quoting BostonWench:
Oh, and some lightning and thunder with our rain in this band here in Boston!


Hmmm, must be interacting the the front already.
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Quoting weatherrx:
It does not appear that Irene is even a Hurricane anymore. Can someone disprove this


Agreed. The center is very near Elizabeth City, NC and the wind is 45 mph gusting to 59 mph. Have there been any on-shore measurements of sustained hurricane force winds? Not that anybody along the East Coast should not take this seriously, but this just does not look like a record-breaking event.
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The 12 UT looks like it has shifted a bit to the west. Also no storm in the GOM!!
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Quoting Tazmanian:




guys evere time you post a mode run or some in it showing remote linking disableed



can you plzs start uplodeing too imageshack


Works perfectly fine on Firefox 6. Aren't you the king of Firefox Taz? Lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm muhc happier about them hyping this because it was the media that did that not the NHC. This COULD have been much worse than it was. The media, naturally, went in that direction because they want ratings. This event is still very bad and we don't yet know the full extent of what's going to happen. But I'd rather people error on the side of caution than on the side of disregard.

Remember, NHC saw a cat 2 or a cat 3 and emergency personnel and government people needed to know what to do DAYS before it actually struck. Noe forecast is perfect. We should be grateful it's weaker!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weatherrx:
It does not appear that Irene is even a Hurricane anymore. Can someone disprove this


Can you prove it? Where are you getting the information that sustained wind speeds have dropped below 74 mph?
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Quoting MississippiWx:
00z Euro forecast a decent positive NAO in the coming week.





guys evere time you post a mode run or some in it showing remote linking disableed



can you plzs start uplodeing too imageshack


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Quoting NoVaForecaster:
NYC mayor Bloomberg just made this comment about the storm. Said " winds will be strong whether it's a Ts, cat 1,2,3 or a category 37 storm". LOL!

He obviously didn't become mayor for his met skills
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Quoting MississippiWx:


A positive NAO favors a stronger A/B high.

ecmwf and gfs show the tropical system far north possibly recurving but the nao that time will be positive does that make sense and will the tropical system recurve like is it gurranted?
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1584
Quoting MississippiWx:
The Euro is back to opening the Gulf in 8-10 day period.

Euro/GFS 500mb 8-10 day comparison:



Interesting with a possible developing storm around that time period approaching the islands
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Quoting hamla:
Quoting Methurricanes:
Lowell.

i have a sister that lives in westford,i used to live in lowell,bilerica
now in louisiana/mississippi

stay safe up there

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.
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Hey Mississippi forgive my question but does a positive NAO support higher or lower average heights? I always get it backwards it seems.


A positive NAO favors a stronger A/B high.
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456. Gorty
Quoting P451:
She is locked in and coming right up the coast. Forecasts WILL verify for the upper mid-atlantic and sw north east coasts. Coastal communities should expect 55-75 gusting 95. Inland up to 35 miles: 50-70 gusting 85. Further inland up to 75 miles or more: 45-65 gusting 75.





You have me in the 45-65 gusting 75 range which sounds about right.
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Quoting BoyntonBeachFL:


I was down at Long Beach earlier, waves were already large and surfers were being chased out of the water.
That's an area I know. Used to live 5 houses off the ocean. Didn't they make mandatory evacs there?
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Irene is the deepest Cat 1 hurricane on record to make landfall in the USA according to HURDAT.


The pressure was 951 mb at landfall and deepened to 950 mb after landfall. Since HURDAT reports landfalling pressure which will they use?

Either way still the deepest Cat 1.
Member Since: March 24, 2011 Posts: 3 Comments: 392
Oh, and some lightning and thunder with our rain in this band here in Boston!
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Quoting KEHCharleston:

Though living on the coast is terrific (I could never live too far from the marsh), times like say a lot for living away from the coast! LOL.
What did your Gov say about plans for coastal VA?


Folks in SE Virginia we told to evacuate out of low lying areas, while the Eastern Shore called for voluntary evacuations.
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451. Gorty
Quoting summerland:

How full are your storm sewers? How full are area creeks and rivers, or wherever the run-off goes? If they're already full, then take the level of your standing water and add at least ten inches. Floods depend on water having somewhere to go, so that's your main variable. If the creeks and rivers aren't full yet, then the water has an outlet.


I live in a rural area so it depends on how high the water table is currently. I do have a stream, but the hill is steep enough where I will need feet of rain to get it into my backyard.

If my water table is high already, I could see yard flooding.
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12z ECMWF, 240 hours. (Specifics are not to be taken seriously, as with every model further out than 120-144 hours).

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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. This is the same reliable model that showed no storms in the gulf for a month. And a coldfront coming through SE TX on the 10th ending hurricane season. Lol. Gotta love that guy. :)
From Austin/San Antonio NWS:
HOWEVER...THE
ECMWF HAS SHOWN AN INCREASING TREND TO BRINGING A FRONT INTO THE
AREA OVER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND...AND THE LATEST GFS IS STARTING TO
GET ON BOARD WITH THIS PATTERN.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Gorty:
So guys, my ground is very soggy from earlier rains, I am forecast to get at least up to 10 inches of rain. How serious of a flood threat is that?

We'll need just a little more information...
Do you live on the top of the hill, or the bottom?
;)
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Quoting JLPR2:
Gro should be posting this, but seeing as he isn't around. xD



Could be the one cmc, gfs and ngp have forming.
ngp
cmc
gfs
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A word of caution about storms exiting the Outer Banks: Frequently they will jump start strengthening as they exit the coast. I know VA Beach and Norfolk have been smacked by an ex-TD that suddenly becomes a TS and a TS that suddenly becomes a Cat. 1 upon exiting, for instance. It usually does not last long. And, they do not strengthen catastrophically. But, it happens.

The best I can figure is the wetlands and sounds have just enough latent heat and delta T to get things going again by the time it exits.
Member Since: February 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 140
443. BDAwx
it looks like Irene is about to "yo-yo" up the coast rather than wrapping the dry air into its western side. I think ridiculously heavy rain and major flooding to the west of the storm's track is very likely.

I would label Irene, a serious but manageable hurricane threat.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. This is the same reliable model that showed no storms in the gulf for a month. And a coldfront coming through SE TX on the 10th ending hurricane season. Lol. Gotta love that guy. :)


:) mail...
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00z Euro forecast a decent positive NAO in the coming week.

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Winds continue to pick up in DC -

16mph, gusts to 31 mph now.

Pressure continues to fall - down to 1002mb
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 580
Link


NHC online live hurricane scanner
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Irene's equatorial outflow channel extends down to South America. Amazing.

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WOW, just saw pictures of the mall in New Bern. It looks like its an island. I don't even know where that water came from.
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435. hamla
Quoting Methurricanes:
Lowell.

i have a sister that lives in westford,i used to live in lowell,bilerica
now in louisiana/mississippi

stay safe up there
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Lowell.


Nice, pretty much my whole family (immediate and extended) lives in the Merrimack Valley so keep me updated on conditions there.
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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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