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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That is some massive outflow channel heading over Hispaniola, practically down to S.A.!
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Quoting Levi32:
TWC guy in Atlantic Beach reported a wind gust of 103mph with sustained winds over 70mph in the southern eyewall as it came around and took him by surprise.

kinda pathetic that a meteorologist was "surprised" by the southern side of the eye wall ... however given that it is the twc ....
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Quoting Bretts9112:
anyone see the naked guy on the weather channel?


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
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131. maeko
Quoting Ameister12:
WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his *you know what* live on TWC! MY EYES!!!


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?
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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??
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


The storm IS the size of Europe. That is not an exaggeration, but a lot of what TWC said is. It still is a huge, rare, storm and should not be taken lightly.



Lol, no, it isn't. The biggest ever tropical cyclone, Tip, would fit between Lisbon and Berlin. At least its diameter, sure the rest would as well. There's still a lot of Europe after that.
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BEAUFORT NC US, Washington, NC

Wind Gust: High: 77.0mph

Precipitation: 11.83in

Link
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Irene is probably the weirdest hurricane Ive ever known, something is seriously wrong here, 950 mb?

Irene is one brutal category 1, I was watching TWC and people were casually driving around at Virginia Beach, some people just do not like to not use their brain very much do they?
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Quoting Levi32:
She's running for the water.


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?
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


Nope. Where was it located at?

Virginia Beach during a live broadcast.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
this is going too be a 500 too 1000 year storm for new york
no its not taz image for a moment a cat five right now where a called cat 1 but really a strong T.S. is
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Quoting Ameister12:
WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his **** live on TWC! MY EYES!!!

lol
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120. 7544
just because irene misssed fla does not mean the others that form will do the same so keep your eyes open looks like the others will be born soon but where will they go is the big question stay tuned jose is next on the list
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She's running for the water.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Figures, someone finally gets nekkid on The Weather Channel and it's not Stephanie Abrams.
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Quoting stoormfury:
The GFS,and the EUROO are cosisrently showing that the windward islands will be impacted by two fropical cyclones the first week of september.

not sure what gfs and euro you are looking at but both show the storms turning well before they get to the windward islands.
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Nope
do you have a link to show this ?
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Splash Location: 35.33N 76.51W
Splash Time: 16:37Z

950mb (Surface) 85° (from the E) 6 knots (7 mph)
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Pressure continues to fall in DC - 1003mb (29.62in) now

Steady rain - winds are from the East at 16mph, gusts to 29mph

She's a HUGE storm.


and the naked guy on TWC was an idiot.
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Quoting Ameister12:
WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his **** live on TWC! MY EYES!!!

lol i think the wind blew his pants down haha
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Nope


I'll be in Houston all week next week for training...I don't want to have to drive back in Houston evac traffic b/c that would seriously suck
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According to surface analysis, there is a front northwest of Irene along the eastern seaboard, but the temperature gradient shown on the morning analysis seems to have disappeared in the afternoon heating, with mid-70s on both sides of the front.



Afternoon temps:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
09L/TS/I/XX
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WTF!!! Some guy pulled his pants down and showed his *you know what* live on TWC! MY EYES!!!
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Quoting Levi32:


Link
Thank you.
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Is Irene the lowest pressure Cat 1 to make landfall......ever? A mind twister for Dr. Jeff. Thanks!
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this is going too be a 500 too 1000 year storm for new york
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114050
Quoting weatherb0y:
Hey Levi, can you please post a link to the euro computer model? (or anyone else who would be kind enough to do so)


Link
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting Bretts9112:
anyone see the naked guy on the weather channel?




lol i did lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114050
Quoting stoormfury:
The GFS,and the EUROO are cosisrently showing that the windward islands will be impacted by two fropical cyclones the first week of september.
Possible for a link?Thanks!
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anyone see the naked guy on the weather channel?
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Quoting sunlinepr:
GoodMorning!!!!
New day and.... she's back



Thanks for that aswesome night and day clip! Beautiful.
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I have to say, I never expected full frontal on The Weather Channel. People are... wow. Words fail.
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09L/TS/I
MARK
37.03n/76.98w forecast point





ALWAYS FOLLOW NHC/TPC FORECASTS FOR ALL WARNINGS REGARDING THIS STORM
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Did y'all see the people in Virginia Beach on TWC?

LMAO
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


Nope


what is it suggesting? Tropical storm?
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Hey Levi, can you please post a link to the euro computer model? (or anyone else who would be kind enough to do so)
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LOL there are nuts driveing a round and out doors on TWC lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114050
Quoting nola70119:


Nor'easter

Check out this wiki an radar image of the Npr
'easter of 2006, even has an "eye"
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Quoting Levi32:


Well they're being extraordinarily picky by saying that it has been since 1821 that New York City has been directly hit by a hurricane. Whatever....all the big northeast storms have directly affected the area. This track is rare, and could cause a storm surge that they rarely see, but it's not a 200-year event.


A storm directly hit NYC in 1893 (can't even be pedantic and get it right, can they?). 1821 was probably the last major.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Long Beach, NY Cam.

Southern Chesapeake Bay.


Atlantic City


Thank you for the links
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GoodMorning!!!!
New day and.... she's back


Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
Norfolk is approaching 10" of rain already! And over 10" points South.

Link

Any reports out of there?
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Quoting Levi32:


Well if her central pressure doesn't start rising soon she will certainly not be normal lol.

She's not really a normal storm in general, because how often do you see a 950mb Cat 1 hurricane making a beeline for NYC? That entire sentence doesn't make much sense does it. She's a mean one and a rare one, and will be remembered.



Nor'easter

Check out the radar and wiki on the storm of 2006, even has an "eye"
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this is not a Overhyped. Storm this storm is the wore storm too evere hit the E coast in years



some of you downcaster need too stop downcasteing this storm
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114050

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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.

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