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 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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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?

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.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
channel 12 Beaumont,TX

A trough will move through Southeast Texas Saturday Afternoon. This will bring much drier air into the area. The result will be cooler lows and hotter afternoon highs. Temperatures will be extremely hot.

By next Tuesday and Wednesday, we will "cool" to near 100 both days.

Next Thursday and Friday, afternoon highs will continue the cooling trend and only reach the mid-nineties.

Rain chances will continue to be zero through next Wednesday. Rain chances return to the forecast next Thursday and Friday.

Around the 5th of September, the reliable European Model shows a Tropical Storm moving into Mexico south of Brownsville.


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. :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 459
Quoting wxdrone:
I admit that I was critical of the models at first, but once they got a grasp on things, they've been right on. I'll eat crow. Thank you.

Fried crow tastes better. Just sayin'...
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Quoting NOVArules:


Here in Northern Virginia, Irene is only giving us rain, not very windy yet.

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?
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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?

There is a very serious Flood threat for your area. NWS Taunton MA discussion on heavy rainfall.

3) HEAVY RAIN WITH MODERATE TO MAJOR FLOODING POSSIBLE: THE FLOOD
WATCH CONTINUES FROM SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY NIGHT FOR ALL BUT
THE CAPE AND ISLANDS. GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT ON 4 TO 8 INCHES OF
STORM TOTAL RAINFALL IN WESTERN PORTIONS OF THE FORECAST AREA
WITH 1-3 INCHES ACROSS RI AND EASTERN MA...CAPE COD...AND THE
ISLANDS. THERE IS A LOW PROBABILITY OF ISOLATED AMOUNTS OF 10
INCHES IN THE CT RVR VLY GIVEN THE UPSLOPE COMPONENT AND EVIDENCE
OF A FRONTAL STRUCTURE DEVELOPING FROM IRENE NORTHWARD INTO THE CT
RVR VLY. THIS WOULD RESULT IN MODERATE TO MAJOR URBAN AND RIVER
FLOODING TO PARTS OF THE REGION. AT THIS POINT...INTERIOR SOUTHERN
NEW ENGLAND ESPECIALLY THE CT RVR VLY IS AT GREATEST RISK FOR MORE
SERIOUS FLOODING. NONETHELESS...THE BOSTON TO PROVIDENCE CORRIDOR
STILL HAS THE POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT URBAN/POOR DRAINAGE
FLOODING.
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It does not appear that Irene is even a Hurricane anymore. Can someone disprove this
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I admit that I was critical of the models at first, but once they got a grasp on things, they've been right on. I'll eat crow. Thank you.
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425. yoboi
Quoting aislinnpaps:


Luck??? Gee, thanks. Galveston was ready for Rita, most of LA wasn't as prepared.


LA was prepared no loss of life
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Quoting IceCoast:


Are you in Methuen or the Merrimack Valley by any chance?
Lowell.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 646
channel 12 Beaumont,TX

A trough will move through Southeast Texas Saturday Afternoon. This will bring much drier air into the area. The result will be cooler lows and hotter afternoon highs. Temperatures will be extremely hot.

By next Tuesday and Wednesday, we will "cool" to near 100 both days.

Next Thursday and Friday, afternoon highs will continue the cooling trend and only reach the mid-nineties.

Rain chances will continue to be zero through next Wednesday. Rain chances return to the forecast next Thursday and Friday.

Around the 5th of September, the reliable European Model shows a Tropical Storm moving into Mexico south of Brownsville.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting lottotexas:
For what it's worth, TWC rain chances next week:
Thur Fri Sat Sun

Hou 30% 40% 60% 60%

SA 30% 60% 60%

CC 40% 40% 40% 60%

Beau 30% 40% 40% 40%

60%!! That's fantastic!
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Quoting lottotexas:
For what it's worth, TWC rain chances next week:
Thur Fri Sat Sun

Hou 30% 40% 60% 60%

SA 30% 60% 60%

CC 40% 40% 40% 60%

Beau 30% 40% 40% 40%


Been awhile since we've seen that. Here's hopin'.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 459
420. dader
Quoting BoyntonBeachFL:


I was down at Long Beach earlier, waves were already large and surfers were being chased out of the water.


Long Beach should get it bad. We are concerned about a Dune Road breach- which will happen- but depending on how bad it is.

I think LI may get the worst of this on the East Coast-- outside of the OBX
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just heard a lady from the Upper West Side say her preparation was that she had some good books to read...
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For what it's worth, TWC rain chances next week:
Thur Fri Sat Sun

Hou 30% 40% 60% 60%

SA 0% 30% 60% 60%

CC 40% 40% 40% 60%

Beau 30% 40% 40% 40%
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Quoting winter123:


Don't worry, the SAL will take care of it (like every other wave this year), at least in the short term. If it survives towards about 500 miles east of the islands, then I'll pay attention...


I think the waves have been suppressed by a 'lack of vertical instability' throughout the Atlantic this season.
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416. 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?
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Still raining hear, NNW of Boston.


Are you in Methuen or the Merrimack Valley by any chance?
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Quoting dader:


Same- Floridian in Southampton. Light drizzle right now- calm winds but you can see the tree tops starting to get going. The waves across the Shinnecock Inlet sound tremendous. But Dune Road is closed so I can't view it.

Ill report in as well.


I was down at Long Beach earlier, waves were already large and surfers were being chased out of the water.
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Still raining hear, NNW of Boston.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 646
Quoting KEHCharleston:
From looking at some of the TV coverage, folks in VA seem to be taking Irene a little less seriously than other areas that are in Irene's path (lots of folks on the road - driving around, waving to news reporters and cameras, bars open for hurricane parties etc). I have seen the storm planning outlined by Governors of NC and NJ, Mayor Bloomberg, but have not heard what authorities in Virginia have planned. Any of you know?


Here in Northern Virginia, Irene is only giving us rain, not very windy yet.
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Quoting JLPR2:
Gro should be posting this, but seeing as he isn't around. xD



Very probable that 92L will be tagged with that African wave within the next 12-24 hours, assuming that is model support remains as tight as it is now and has been for the last few days.
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Good live stream on the OBX of NC by some storm chasers. 60-70Mph Gusts and 969mb pressure at there location. The sound they are in has had its water pushed all the way out by the strong winds from the east.
Link
http://www.hurricanetrack.com/
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Looks to be an area of low pressure in BOC/SWGOM being drawn up into TX by a passing front. NOGAPS shows the low pressure into MX of course.


hmmm, ok. guess we will see. Thanks
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Quoting QacarXan:
Still not seeing the anticipated swoop NE. Am I missing something? TIA!

Be patient. Irene is a slow, lumbering monster. She'll get there in her own time.
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Quoting Gorty:


Does elongated means wider reaching strong winds? I heard those are supposed to expand more as she comes up here.


No, elongated just means stretched out to the north more so than a symmetrical storm which would be more round than this storm is now.

The wider reaching winds you heard about are probably due to the more subtropical nature she will take on as she moves further north.
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405. dader
Quoting BoyntonBeachFL:
Floridian here on Long Island for Irene. I'll be reporting all night long. Stay tuned.


Same- Floridian in Southampton. Light drizzle right now- calm winds but you can see the tree tops starting to get going. The waves across the Shinnecock Inlet sound tremendous. But Dune Road is closed so I can't view it.

Ill report in as well.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


what is it showing? Having a hard time viewing...


Looks to be an area of low pressure in BOC/SWGOM being drawn up into TX by a passing front. NOGAPS shows the low pressure into MX of course.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 459
H.Irene's_6pmGMT_ATCF : Starting 26August_6pmGMT and ending 27August_6pmGMT

The 4 southern line-segments represent HurricaneIrene's path
and the northernmost line-segment is the straightline projection.

Using straightline projection of the travel-speed&heading derived from the ATCF coordinates spanning the 6hours between 12pmGMT then 6pmGMT :
H.Irene's travel-speed was 9.7mph(15.6k/h) on a heading of 17degrees(NNE)
H.Irene was headed toward passage over BackBayNationalWildlifeRefuge,Virginia for reentry into the Atlantic ~7hours from now

Copy&paste 31.1n77.5w-32.1n77.1w, 32.1n77.1w-33.4n76.6w, 33.4n76.6w-34.7n76.6w, 34.7n76.6w-35.5n76.3w, konx, 34.7n76.6w-36.598n75.879w into the GreatCircleMapper for more info

The previous mapping (for 27August_12pmGMT)
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402. h0db
Quoting QacarXan:
Still not seeing the anticipated swoop NE. Am I missing something? TIA!


See:

374. WeatherNerdPR 7:02 PM GMT on August 27, 2011

Radar image elapsed up to 15:00 EDT
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401. JLPR2
Gro should be posting this, but seeing as he isn't around. xD

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Quoting aspectre:
Pure luck that Rita shifted directions more eastward just before the scheduled landfall on Galveston.


Luck??? Gee, thanks. Galveston was ready for Rita, most of LA wasn't as prepared.
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Watching TWC... looks like Mike seidel is standing in a blizzard in Nags Head... but it's sand!
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Rainfall accumulations very high for the Mid-Atlantic:


Its gonna be interesting seeing helicopter shots of this area.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3709
Quoting winter123:


Don't worry, the SAL will take care of it (like every other wave this year), at least in the short term. If it survives towards about 500 miles east of the islands, then I'll pay attention...


Didn't take care of the wave clearly that spawned what we're looking at hitting NC right now. And as mentioned, SAL is very low thanks to Irene. This wave has a virtually free shot right now, with unanimous model support just like with what we saw with Irene.
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Pure unadulterated good luck that Rita shifted directions more eastward just before the scheduled landfall on Galveston.
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Still not seeing the anticipated swoop NE. Am I missing something? TIA!
Member Since: August 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
Floridian here on Long Island for Irene. I'll be reporting all night long. Stay tuned.
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393. JLPR2
Quoting BrockBerlin:


Actually SAL is very low at the moment.


SAL is almost non existent.
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Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Irene most likely will not be retired - but the real issue with this storm will be the flooding and storm surge as it get's closer to NYC. Just ask the folks in PR as they thought the worst was over -- the flooding started! Stay vigilent a land falling Hurricane is dangerous no matter what.

Why not? It's going to have billions worth of impact... if not from direct damage, places like atlantic city and new york city are essentially closed, all transportation is closed and may have difficulty re-opening on monday, leading to other cancellations, people not being able to come in to work, etc. The only positive aspect is it's hitting on a weekend.

It has nothing to do with wind speed, it's about total impacts. Remember TS allison?

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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yep. If rain comes with this low pressure Tx may be getting some love soon. Link


what is it showing? Having a hard time viewing...
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Actually SAL is very low at the moment.

I agree
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389. yoboi
if Hurricane Rita would have happened before Katrina death toll would have been higher katrina put fear in people........
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388. h0db
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
>


Big, big NE move, finally, in the past 90-120 minutes, putting it right back on the NHC track :-)
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I pray that boy who was killed by the tree was not in an evacuation area. I can't imagine the family's grief alone without the added, 'if we would have left'..
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
12z GFS develops by 192hrs a high-end Category 4 hurricane from the African wave. Given it has a possibility to develop within the next 72 hours, we could see an invest within the next 12 hours off Africa.

Woah, I'm away from the tropics for a few days and another big one emerges off of the coast of Africa. Just goes to show that we're getting into the peak of the season.

Hopefully everyone is doing well along the Carolina's and the mid-Atlantic coast. Lots of rain being dumped by Irene as it scoots along towards the NNE.
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Meanwhile in Northwestern PR...
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


No most likely a recurve.
Too early to tell.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.