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 wunderweatherman123:

no as in oh no or no as in you dont believe me lol
as in New Orleans!!
Member Since: December 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54
I still can't get over the fact that an 80mph Cat 1 storm has 950mb pressure. Incredible.
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Quoting atmosweather:


They will receive more than that amount before midnight tonight...Reagan Airport has already received 1.64 inches and the worst of her rain and wind is yet to come for the area. The D.C./Baltimore area could get 6-8 inches in some locations.
Don't say that about my city!!(even though I know it'll become a reality).(Put's hands over hears a repeating the same sentence.That's not...... true that's... not true.....that's not true....that's not true....
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:

I know alot of people cant see the images but the 18z GFS shows a tropical storm developing in the Bay of Campeche and making landfall as a hurricane in lousiana


You should specify the time...

It's at 300+ hours out and will most likely be gone on the next run.
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Quoting lottotexas:
N.O.

no as in oh no or no as in you dont believe me lol
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Quoting LoveObama:
If anyone comes about any news from Aurora, NC please wumail it to me. I am looking for anything I can find about the area. Thank you.


I know they were having flooding issues this morning as well as very high winds for a long period of time. That's all I heard on the radio.
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Just had a 58 MPH wind gust on Roanoke Sound from the guys at HurricaneTrack.com
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DC's mayor said that because it's what our local forecasters are saying. They're usually great with predicting snowfall but this event seems to be out of their league in some cases, which is why I came here :-)
Member Since: August 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
Seriously, I'm in Idaho and I'm watching this storm. What a bunch of fair-weather, weather weenies down south. Must be drafting their fantasy football teams.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


I'm down with NY style pizza....but I'd give a kidney for a oyster po-boy from Nawlin's.


Send the kidney to me UPS and I'll hook you up
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Air Force plane going into Irene from the SE quadrant...impressive flight level winds to 94 mph:

231600 3539N 07419W 6958 02974 9810 +118 +073 209082 082 056 000 03
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:

I know alot of people cant see the images but the 18z GFS shows a tropical storm developing in the Bay of Campeche and making landfall as a hurricane in lousiana
N.O.
Member Since: December 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54
Quoting FLdewey:
JFK like you've never sen before...



$10 say security is playing field hockey with golf carts and broom sticks inside the terminal.
lol......so true.
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Quoting txag91met:

107F here in Houston, tied the 2nd highest temp...it may have gotten to 108F...all-time high is 109F in Sept 2000.

Good riddance to this heat later this week!
offical temp at 2:35 pm was 109
Member Since: December 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Too early to know for sure, probably just a wobble.



we have to come up with a new word for that. I could live a long and happy life without ever reading the word 'wobble' again. :)
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Quoting Levi32:
Look at the red echos flaring up NNW of the center already as soon as it gets over water.



I think Irene is moving east of the forecast points, but I also see that Irene is probably intensifying again?
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1216. Patrap
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


Nope, no new quakes on the USGS map



Maybe a transformer exploding?
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Quoting txag91met:


It won't strengthen, water temps are in the upper 70s, and drop to the mid 70s off New Jersey. Atmospheric pressure is low everywhere...this is a HUGE system. 1008 mb in Nashville!

Going to get windy in NYC may see gust to 60+ at JFK...maybe 70.




Oh she won't strengthen I don't think any reasonable person will suggest that lol. But her characteristics and her history seem to show that she will maintain hurricane strength all the way up the eastern seaboard.
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Norfolk radar shows a closed eye of sorts, though not a terribly impressive one.
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:
Progress Energy Outage Map


Wow some counties are have almost no power.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3768
Quoting BobinTampa:


optical illusion or did she take a turn to the NE?


Too early to know for sure, probably just a wobble.
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1209. Patrap
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
If he's in NYC have a reciprocal exchange. He/she can ship you some pizza, bagels, whatever. Most of it really is better in NYC area, the food is the only thing I miss.


I'm down with NY style pizza....but I'd give a kidney for a oyster po-boy from Nawlin's.
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Quoting animalrsq:
DC mayor just said on CNN he expects 2-4 inches of rain. What???!!!!!


They will receive more than that amount before midnight tonight...Reagan Airport has already received 1.64 inches and the worst of her rain and wind is yet to come for the area. The D.C./Baltimore area could get 6-8 inches in some locations.
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Quoting atmosweather:


Deep convection has been waning all night and all day and the pressure didn't budge more than a millibar...she will not weaken much, if at all. The shear and dry air is not enough with the type of weather system Irene has become and with her incredible size and sprawled out convective energy.


It won't strengthen, water temps are in the upper 70s, and drop to the mid 70s off New Jersey. Atmospheric pressure is low everywhere...this is a HUGE system. 1008 mb in Nashville!

Going to get windy in NYC may see gust to 60+ at JFK...maybe 70.


Member Since: January 30, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 750
Quoting ncstorm:


Bertha..then Fran..deja vu..


That "F" word is not allowed in NC ;-)
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Quoting barbamz:

So just the people who a really interesting in the power of nature are left? At least those with power (grids). - This place Roanoke should be very much inland? Or am I wrong? It looks to be right on the seaside.
http://www.hurricanetrack.com/


Personally, I'm following this one closely in part because I'm in Nova Scotia and it's a threat, and in part because I'm interested in storms. I've also followed nearly all the storms of the past 6 years that were a threat to others, because they were a threat to others and because I'm interested in storms. Too much time on my hands, I guess. ;-)
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1203. ncstorm
Quoting tpabarb:


Good to hear that you're fine and your power is back! I think mine is still out according to the outage map. I'm coming back tomorrow power or not, unless I can expense the hotel bill to my job for wanting me to work on a sunday though we had a hurricane


yeah, the utility companies are over the area along with the tree companies trying to restore power..my hats off to them!
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Lowell area here.


Woods Hole here
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I know alot of people cant see the images but the 18z GFS shows a tropical storm developing in the Bay of Campeche and making landfall as a hurricane in lousiana
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Quoting Levi32:
Look at the red echos flaring up NNW of the center already as soon as it gets over water.



optical illusion or did she take a turn to the NE?
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1199. barbamz
Quoting PcolaDan:


So it seems. A shame.

That cam is near Roanoke Sound North Carolina. I think you are looking at Roanoke Virginia.

I did for sure. This Irene is a lesson in US geography for me, lol. Thanks.
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Progress Energy Outage Map
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1197. Levi32
Look at the red echos flaring up NNW of the center already as soon as it gets over water.

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Quoting FLdewey:
JFK like you've never sen before...



$10 say security is playing field hockey with golf carts and broom sticks inside the terminal.


Ok, Dewey, you've made me laugh a heck of a lot over the years, but this one just put a great image in my mind. Nice!
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Quoting atmosweather:


Or if he/she is like Irene, a lower end Category 3 storm lol.


Maybe, if this wave actually does develop into a major hurricane, it will be a normal one that can be predicted fairly easily. :P
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1194. tpabarb
Quoting ncstorm:


We did fine..lost power here, got it back about 30 minutes ago..in all 62000 people lost power in Wilmington from Irene..about 25000 are still without power..


Good to hear that you're fine and your power is back! I think mine is still out according to the outage map. I'm coming back tomorrow power or not, unless I can expense the hotel bill to my job for wanting me to work on a sunday though we had a hurricane
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1193. ncstorm
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I feel freak if we have another hurricane, stronger too.


Bertha..then Fran..deja vu..
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


I'm preparing a care package for you.....Beer, cheetos, slimjims, and beer.
If he's in NYC have a reciprocal exchange. He/she can ship you some pizza, bagels, whatever. Most of it really is better in NYC area, the food is the only thing I miss.
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Quoting Trouper415:
Her pressure is still 950 mbs?


Big storm... and there will be flooding at high tide northward including NYC with the extra factor of the MOON...
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1190. hahaguy
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I feel freak if we have another hurricane, stronger too.


Like in 2004 down here with frances and jeanne.
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1188. ncstorm
Stay Safe P451!
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1187. IMA
Quoting txag91met:

107F here in Houston, tied the 2nd highest temp...it may have gotten to 108F...all-time high is 109F in Sept 2000.

Good riddance to this heat later this week!

I sure hope you're right, this heat (San Antonio for me) is kickin' my rear.
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Quoting ncstorm:


It was on the 00Z run too..:(..


I feel freak if we have another hurricane, stronger too.
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Quoting Methurricanes:
they are using all of the airports as shelters.


huh, I would have thought that with Laguardia and Kennedy both being on the water, they would be evacuation zones.. not shelters.
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Quoting 1million:
6 people have died so far...
everyone wants to be a storm chaser nowadays sign me up
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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.