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 Levi32:
The eye is filling in with precipitation on radar now. That's just about the only sign of weakening visible with Irene right now.


She's moving over more land than water right now - another hour or so she will be back over water and it may clear out again. we'll see. still looks like Elizabeth City or a little north of there (Virginia/NC boarder) is where the center will exit. Jog west/east changes this.
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Looks like La Nina might make a comeback by late Autumn.
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From the media currently available, it would seem the storm surge wash't horrible in NC. Of course we are talking NC, not NYC.
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Quoting Patrap:


Thank you Pat, I was too mad to find it. LOL
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Quoting stormhunter23:


lol its already on youtube
Link


TWC: The Wiener Channel
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This is just about the worst possible thing that could happen for the east coast for future storms... the media has been hyping this as a catastrophic threat all week, and then right before landfall it weakens, people don't leave, and now they have it in their heads that a hurricane isn't that bad.

Then, when an even stronger hurricane comes up the east coast like this next time, there are going to be a LOT of people who don't leave because they remember how Irene wasn't so bad, and then suddenly we have a ton of unnecessary fatalities.
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Quoting stormhunter23:


lol its already on youtube
Link

My eyes have been burned!
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Quoting STLweatherjunkie:

I didn't see, i believe you though, its just that every time you here someone talking about the eye of a hurricane they warn you that you shouldn't go outside, during the calm of the eye.

even if there wasnt a rain band he should have still been prepared for a significant deterioration in conditions on the other side of the eye ... seems like that would be common sense is all i was trying to say


Oh I agree...
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26654
As has been mentioned many times, the Category does not matter much at this point. Of course if the category were higher, there would be greater structural damage which would be disasterous. The flooding potential and storm surge with this system has been the focus all along. Storms behave much diffently in the North than in the Caribbean. Even our most devastingly killer hurricanes have brought terrible destruction to smaller areas. This is going to affect a region of the country with the highest population in the US. The structure of the coastline has been discussed a number of times. It forms almost a right angle from New England & NYC down the coast. When surges of this magnitude hit is could affect millions of people. Do not concentrate on the Category. It is moot at his point.
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NEXSAT IRENE Viz Loop
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Quoting Levi32:


Well in his defense there was nothing there on radar 15 minutes before it happened and a rain band wrapped around the southern side.

I didn't see, i believe you though, its just that every time you here someone talking about the eye of a hurricane they warn you that you shouldn't go outside, during the calm of the eye.

even if there wasnt a rain band he should have still been prepared for a significant deterioration in conditions on the other side of the eye ... seems like that would be common sense is all i was trying to say
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The eye is filling in with precipitation on radar now. That's just about the only sign of weakening visible with Irene right now.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26654
Quoting SamWells:


I have mooned Jim Cantore several times here on South Padre Island, TX, but never ended up on national TV. Despite what some say, he's a nice guy and ended up buying everyone drinks at a local gin joint.


Need to work on your stealth mode Sam. :) And I'm sure Cantore is perfectly nice.
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Quoting maeko:


i missed the shot but i heard everyone in the studio suddenly erupt with various exclamations! the newscasters on camera looked funny as they tried to pretend that nothing was going on!

silly Va Beach people! anybody got a link to the footage of these idiots?


lol its already on youtube
Link
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Quoting thegoldenstrand:


Its not just about the wind speed... Storm surge, rain... and even central pressure are nothing to sneeze at.


MSNBC had a good graphic earlier about a 6/12 ft storm surge - lower Manhattan in New York; parts will be under water in lower New York and that is why it is a big deal.
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The track of Irene could have been really bad, but the intensity predicitons of the storm did not hold up. Which is a great thing for the east coast, the media needs to stop trying to hype a big rain maker and still make it the storm of the century.
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recon making other pass too the center
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EPAC is dead.
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Quoting SamWells:


I have mooned Jim Cantore several times here on South Padre Island, TX, but never ended up on national TV. Despite what some say, he's a nice guy and ended up buying everyone drinks at a local gin joint.
An admitted mooner..only here.
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NCEP COUPLED HWRF HURRICANE MODEL FORECAST MADE FOR

HURRICANE IRENE 09L

INITIAL TIME 12Z AUG 27

FORECAST POSITIONS (FROM STATS.SHORT FILE...)

HOUR LATITUDE LONGITUDE MIN PRESS (hPa) MAX SFC WIND (KTS)

HOUR: 0.0 LONG: -76.50 LAT: 34.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 953.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 72.00
HOUR: 6.0 LONG: -76.30 LAT: 35.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 958.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 73.00
HOUR: 12.0 LONG: -75.90 LAT: 36.10 MIN PRESS (hPa): 961.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 66.00
HOUR: 18.0 LONG: -75.20 LAT: 37.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 959.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 65.00
HOUR: 24.0 LONG: -74.10 LAT: 38.90 MIN PRESS (hPa): 959.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 67.00
HOUR: 30.0 LONG: -73.10 LAT: 41.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 958.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 65.00
HOUR: 36.0 LONG: -71.70 LAT: 43.60 MIN PRESS (hPa): 964.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 56.00
HOUR: 42.0 LONG: -70.70 LAT: 46.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 966.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 44.00
HOUR: 48.0 LONG: -68.70 LAT: 48.70 MIN PRESS (hPa): 974.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 29.00
HOUR: 54.0 LONG: -66.80 LAT: 51.10 MIN PRESS (hPa): 980.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 48.00
HOUR: 60.0 LONG: -64.00 LAT: 53.50 MIN PRESS (hPa): 984.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 24.00
HOUR: 66.0 LONG: -60.30 LAT: 55.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 984.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 35.00
HOUR: 72.0 LONG: -57.50 LAT: 56.40 MIN PRESS (hPa): 983.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 39.00
HOUR: 78.0 LONG: -53.80 LAT: 57.30 MIN PRESS (hPa): 982.00 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 45.00


Recent Recon has pressure 8 mb lower than the 12Z forecast.
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Quoting MysteryMeat:
Figures, someone finally gets nekkid on The Weather Channel and it's not Stephanie Abrams.


That would make TWC the #1 network on TV...
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. He must follow the Weather Channel around. There was a streaker in Beaumont for um, Rita or Ike one. Probably wouldve been in Humberto if he'd had enough time to disrobe. Lol


I have mooned Jim Cantore several times here on South Padre Island, TX, but never ended up on national TV. Despite what some say, he's a nice guy and ended up buying everyone drinks at a local gin joint.
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Quoting STLweatherjunkie:


her eyewall is not as circular anymore and it is increasingly apparent that she is transitioning into an extratropical system (expanding rain shield on northern side.

yep
but you know there are those among us
that have eyes but refuse to see
and ears but do not hear
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Quoting AransasBayRat:


Thank you. Awaiting the link.


http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comm ent.html?entrynum=1168 - for TDWR, but WRD-88 has similar (but not as severe) issues.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
GoodMorning!!!!
New day and.... she's back



Slick!
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Quoting weatherrx:
The media hpye on Irene has really been a big joke. This storm was barely a hurricane at landfall, but the twc is still trying to push this as the storm of all storms. Somebody explain this to me??


Its not just about the wind speed... Storm surge, rain... and even central pressure are nothing to sneeze at.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
this is going too be a 500 too 1000 year storm for new york


with respect to what? rain, wind, surge? sources? no doubt it will be a significant storm in all respects but just throwing numbers out there like that probably isnt the best idea.
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Quoting weatherb0y:
Hey Levi, is it possible that Irene might attempt to restrengthen a bit once back over the Atlantic?


I don't see her restrengthening, but while she's over the sounds of the outer banks and the coastal waters of the mid-Atlantic, she will likely maintain herself very well, with only a gradually rising central pressure until she hits New England.
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Quoting weatherrx:
The media hpye on Irene has really been a big joke. This storm was barely a hurricane at landfall, but the twc is still trying to push this as the storm of all storms. Somebody explain this to me??


The sheer number of people out of electric? The miles of damage up the coast? The deaths? And not to leave out millions of people affected just in NYC alone?

Irene is not just affect one, two or three states, but the entire east coast.
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Quoting Ameister12:
Irene has been over NC for several hours and there is no sign as weakening at all.


Mostly over the water so far... now Irene has to pass over a little bit of land on current run to the ocean... should weaken a tad..
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Quoting Ameister12:
Irene has been over NC for several hours and there is no sign as weakening at all.


her eyewall is not as circular anymore and it is increasingly apparent that she is transitioning into an extratropical system (expanding rain shield on northern side.
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Quoting weatherrx:
The media hpye on Irene has really been a big joke. This storm was barely a hurricane at landfall, but the twc is still trying to push this as the storm of all storms. Somebody explain this to me??

Well, it's not like a storm the size of Ike threatens NYC every season.
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Quoting Ameister12:
WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his *you know what* live on TWC! MY EYES!!!
For those that missed it you didn't miss much. Category 1 at best. Idiot.
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With the tremendous outflow of this storm and the structure, it doesn't appear to me that it will weaken all that much. If you look to the west, that feature dipping down will only add the the outflow. As it emerges off land, it is possible that some moderate intensification might occur.

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Don't forget strong cat 3 pressure and surge..don't forget 950 mb
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wet system now with interaction with frontal boundry soon the xtra-tropical after that
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recon this found 85kt + winds
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Quoting Levi32:
She's running for the water.

Hey Levi, is it possible that Irene might attempt to restrengthen a bit once back over the Atlantic?
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


Well that's my home state for you......

yea I was going to mention that but felt it best to leave it alone. LOL
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Quoting STLweatherjunkie:

kinda pathetic that a meteorologist was "surprised" by the southern side of the eye wall ... however given that it is the twc ....


Well in his defense there was nothing there on radar 15 minutes before it happened and a rain band wrapped around the southern side.
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Quoting Ameister12:
WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his **** live on TWC! MY EYES!!!


Lucy in the Ski with Diamonds!
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Quoting jpsb:
Excellent idea, IMHO Saffir-Simpson is inadequate.
Agree...and have posted before a dashed number system.

First number, the current Category system (Wind)

Second number, the rainfall potential (Rainfall Flooding)

Third number, the storm surge potential (Surge Water Flooding)

i.e. Category 3-1-3

Even a tropical storm with a heavy rainfall potential could be rated as perhaps a Category 0-5-0.

The reasoning is that flooding causes the highest number of fatalities, and there is not a simple warning system for such. Perhaps, current technology does not allow accurate predictions of flooding whether by rainfall or surge to properly represent them in a simple rating system for the general population.

Just a thought.

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Irene has been over NC for several hours and there is still no sign of weakening at the moment.

It should return over water soon.
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IRENE took a jog to the NE - definitely wants the water - but now looks like she's starting to move back to the NNE. Definitely not north anymore - probably will exit NC around Elizabeth City and continue to ride the coastline.
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Quoting AransasBayRat:

It sure looks that way. Will her strength be partially determined by whether her eye goes back over water or stays on land? Or is she big enough to be about the same either way?


It will probably result in little difference either way since it is so large and the water off the coast is pretty cold north of the Gulf Stream, but it will be interesting to see whether the core can stay well-defined over the water east of Virginia.
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That is some massive outflow channel heading over Hispaniola, practically down to S.A.!
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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.