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 BrockBerlin:


No most likely a recurve.
Too early to tell.
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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?
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382. yoboi
SE/TX will get rain next week
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380. Gorty
Quoting GeauxNola:


I see that. But my point is on IR you can see the eastern side drying up further near the center. She is becoming elongated to the north so rain onshore near boston isn't far fetched.



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



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...
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Rainfall accumulations very high for the Mid-Atlantic:
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I'd like to thank TWC for hiring the host for this hour.
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


No most likely a recurve.

But the ECMWF has been drifting the curve toward the West from the last run.
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Quoting Gorty:


Dude, go to weather.com, and type in Boston for the local weather, go to the radar and look at the constant rain that keeps coming in range from her.


I see that. But my point is on IR you can see the eastern side drying up near the center. She is becoming elongated to the north so rain onshore near boston isn't far fetched.

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Quoting TexasHurricane:


102 here as well I believe...just plain HOT!


Yep. If rain comes with this low pressure Tx may be getting some love soon. Link
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Quoting AllStar17:
Irene looks less impressive now than it did earlier.



In my opinion the only time she looked impressive was when she left the Bahamas.
Otherwise, she was just another media event!
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Last Observed Sample: 08/27/2011 14:36 (EDT)
Relative to MLLW: Observed: 3.98 ft. Predicted: 0.44 ft. Residual: 3.54 ft.
Historical Maximum Water Level: Feb 5 1998, 3.68 ft. above MHHW
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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.





wow
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Quoting AllStar17:
Irene looks less impressive now than it did earlier.

That happens when they're over land. We'll see what happens once she exits back over the water. There's time for her to reorganize some.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
That makes sense.

With Katrina and Gustav there were deaths of folks well outside of evac zones where large trees fell through to the foundation in single story homes.


Happened with Rita too. Would've been a much worse story without that much maligned evacuation. Trees crushed everything!
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366. Gorty
Quoting stillwaiting:
imo boston and providence will havecmuch higher winds than nyc,the flooding in sect and the cape might be significant,nyc should get lucky this time


Look at how far out the TS winds stretch lol.
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imo boston and providence will havecmuch higher winds than nyc,the flooding in sect and the cape might be significant,nyc should get lucky this time
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Irene looks less impressive now than it did earlier.
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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.


I agree, but the GFS turns it north away from land while the euro model brings it closer to land
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362. h0db
Quoting atmoaggie:
That makes sense.

With Katrina and Gustav there were deaths of folks well outside of evac zones where large trees fell through to the foundation in single story homes.


Irene's stall this morning dropped a lot of rain throughout tidewater. Ground super-saturation is responsible for more uprooted trees than wind alone. One of the most expensive storms in US history, adjusted for inflation, was 1972's Agnes, which was a tropical storm after it came ashore in FL/GA; all the destruction was due to severe rain as it moved N inland up the east coast.
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Quoting lottotexas:
paste and copy directly from NWS. tell them to turn caps off
Then annotate your source.
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Quoting summerland:

It's 102 here in San Antonio. Humidity down to 27% and falling. Forecast high is 105 & tomorrow should be worse. It's miserable out there.


102 here as well I believe...just plain HOT!
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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.


I am pretty sure at this time Irene will be retired at least due to damages done to Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, which was estimated to be over 1 billion. It also will probably be retired just by judging at the preliminary damages done to NC by Irene.
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Quoting unc70:
Irene has been moving almost due north since landfall, only 00.1 change longitude. The Center of Circulation is near the western edge of the visible "eye", I believe the result of the interaction of the tendency of the CofC to move towards the strongest bands of the storm (mostly N and W for the last 5-6 hours) combining with the forward motion almost due north.

The eye often becomes disrupted with several eye-like rotations spinning out, somewhat like a eddy in a stream. You see similar behavior during eye wall regeneration.

TWC needs a clue. They reported the dry slot over Kill Devil Hills as the assumption that they were near the eye. The dry slot has fewer gusts than when in rain or rain bands with their mixing dynamics.

That dry slot just leaving KDH looks like the last big one, completing my prediction from this morning.


I saw the same dry spot and thought is was the eye till I looked at the radar and saw the center was 40 miles SW. The NE quadrant area is getting close here.
968 mb Wind sse gusts 70 but increasing
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h0db - And, thanks for that report.

My blood pressure went down.
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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.



does it suggest another East Bound hit?
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Irene will have the water back here in an hour or so - won't strengthen but may help to maintain her. Water temp is warm (above 80 degrees) until you get to around the New Jersey coastline.
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Quoting Dennis8:



Rain..right now 103 in the Houston Heights DUSTBOWL.As for people and their caps issue..take some PAXIL

It's 102 here in San Antonio. Humidity down to 27% and falling. Forecast high is 105 & tomorrow should be worse. It's miserable out there.
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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.

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352. DVG
Quoting zoomiami:
anyone know of any of the new york stations being televised on direct tv?


Fox News
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Quoting h0db:


He was in his home, a 2nd floor apartment. A large tree fell on the structure. This is not one where you can blame the victim.


OK. Good to hear... in a certain context. As I mentioned, really not much that can be done about that.

It will happen.
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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.
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Quoting winter123:
Check out the forecast track of Typhoon Nanmadol! BAD news as far as rainfall goes.



That's gonna drop buckets on Taiwan, China, and the Philippines.
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I think 91L would be a TD by now if not for Irene's massive outflow.
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347. unc70
Irene has been moving almost due north since landfall, only 00.1 change longitude. The Center of Circulation is near the western edge of the visible "eye", I believe the result of the interaction of the tendency of the CofC to move towards the strongest bands of the storm (mostly N and W for the last 5-6 hours) combining with the forward motion almost due north.

The eye often becomes disrupted with several eye-like rotations spinning out, somewhat like a eddy in a stream. You see similar behavior during eye wall regeneration.

TWC needs a clue. They reported the dry slot over Kill Devil Hills as the assumption that they were near the eye. The dry slot has fewer gusts than when in rain or rain bands with their mixing dynamics.

That dry slot just leaving KDH looks like the last big one, completing my prediction from this morning.
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Thank you for the wobble explanation, P451!
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Quoting h0db:


He was in his home, a 2nd floor apartment. A large tree fell on the structure. This is not one where you can blame the victim.
That makes sense.

With Katrina and Gustav there were deaths of folks well outside of evac zones where large trees fell through to the foundation in single story homes.
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Quoting winter123:
Check out the forecast track of Typhoon Nanmadol! BAD news as far as rainfall goes.


Looks like the GFS had a seizure! lol
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Quoting Beachfoxx:
Just heard on news that an little boy has been killed, apparently by a tree that fell... I think the age was 9 or 10. : *(



:-( That makes me feel sick.
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Was away for a while--has she turned NE yet?
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Check out the forecast track of Typhoon Nanmadol! BAD news as far as rainfall goes.

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Quoting TexasHurricane:


who the heck knows....possibility I think. Not holding my breath however.



Rain..right now 103 in the Houston Heights DUSTBOWL.As for people and their caps issue..take some PAXIL
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338. Gorty
Quoting GeauxNola:


Meant to say the eastern side (not western) is drying up on satellite so I don't know why you would assume the radar returns are being blocked.


Dude, go to weather.com, and type in Boston for the local weather, go to the radar and look at the constant rain that keeps coming in range from her.
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337. h0db
Quoting Seastep:


And why, exactly was he outside?

There is really no excuse for this.

Yes, there will be the trees that fall on houses, but really no excuse but personally responsibility for most, if not all, fatalities with Irene at the end of the day.

Certainly hope it is not because they heard from someone that it is "over-hyped" so no big deal.

I am assuming media is over-hyping as they always do. I don't watch TV anymore (couple years), other than my beloved Steelers.


He was in his home, a 2nd floor apartment. A large tree fell on the structure. This is not one where you can blame the victim.
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Quoting jpsb:
Did someone say we might get some rain in Texas?


who the heck knows....possibility I think. Not holding my breath however.
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Quoting summerland:

The RADAR beam gets blocked, not satellite.


Meant to say the eastern side (not western) is drying up on satellite so I don't know why you would assume the radar returns are being blocked.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
12z ECMWF running, making the Tropical Wave emerging off Africa developing into a Tropical Storm by 72 hours.

Link?
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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.