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 1million:
6 people have died so far...
everyone wants to be a storm chaser nowadays sign me up
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


A strong Category 4 hurricane.


Or if he/she is like Irene, a lower end Category 3 storm lol.
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DC mayor just said on CNN he expects 2-4 inches of rain. What???!!!!!
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Hottest temp ever today in Austin Tx for August of 110, goodbye soon to the stinking high pressure, major weather changes coming to Texas soon. Why were so many people driving around in a hurricane though, it puzzles me, when I have gone thru Hurricanes or Tropical Storms, I did not got anywhere until it was safe.

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!
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1180. ncstorm
Quoting tpabarb:


NCstorm, how'd you make out?

I'm told the house is fine, but there's no power.


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..
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Quoting txag91met:

Water temps don't support it either...now it is entraining some dry air, it is clearly weakening on satellite...should see the pressure go up soon.


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.
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Quoting P451:


LOL!

Perfect.



I'm in SC almost to the GA border and it's 999.7 here
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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.
they are using all of the airports as shelters.
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Quoting P451:


lol!


So some reports from "home" in central NJ is heavy rain and some decent wind gusts starting to take shape.

Seems like the major stuff is down in MD/VA right now.

Taking it's sweet time heading north.


A long night awaits you I'm afraid.
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1175. ncstorm
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


A strong Category 4 hurricane.


It was on the 00Z run too..:(..
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6 people have died so far...
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Buoy east of Va Beach. 23.6' waves.


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1172. tpabarb
Quoting ncstorm:
um what is this coming at the SE??

12z ECMWF
Link


NCstorm, how'd you make out?

I'm told the house is fine, but there's no power.
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Quoting ncstorm:
um what is this coming at the SE??

12z ECMWF


A strong Category 4 hurricane.
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Quoting atmosweather:


Near 0% chance...her cloud pattern and inner core dynamics are no longer characteristic of a typical intense hurricane that you see in the deep tropics. She is being influenced more and more by the stalled surface front just inland from the coastal mid-Atlantic and northeast and the approaching mid latitude system in southern Canada. However this does not mean she cannot maintain her strength, because this type of a setup is indicative of a storm that is using the baroclinic energy provided by the frontal boundary and approaching trough to her advantage.

Water temps don't support it either...now it is entraining some dry air, it is clearly weakening on satellite...should see the pressure go up soon.
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Remember that the "sustained winds" of a storm aren't necessarily what you experience at a typical house. Your surroundings definitely affect the actual wind speed that affects you and your home or auto.

Just because a Hurricane has sustained winds of 100 mph, for example... you would only experience those winds and higher gusts in open fields, at higher elevations (generally above tree top level) and in open areas. You could get even higher wind gusts due to funnel effects between buildings.

However, a normal residential home is surrounded by other homes. They help break the wind. Trees, highway overpasses, etc... all help reduce the wind at ground level. In that same 100 mph sustained wind hurricane... a typical house may not experience more than 80 mph sustained at worst because there is a LOT of obstructions at normal house level that helps break the wind.
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Quoting Hibiscus07:
Any other Massachusetts-ites on tonight?
I'm in Littleton. We'll be east of the center, so I wonder what we'll see for rain and wind...
Lowell area here.
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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/


So it seems. A shame.

That cam is near Roanoke Sound North Carolina. I think you are looking at Roanoke Virginia.
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P451... I wish you and your family a smooth ride.. Stay safe and keep the kin safe.
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Naragansett RI, Waves already hitting the seawall, high tied around 8:30pm.
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Any other Massachusetts-ites on tonight?
I'm in Littleton. We'll be east of the center, so I wonder what we'll see for rain and wind...
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1162. ncstorm
Quoting Weather130:

What kind of idiot does that? These guys must been extremely stupid, suicidal or both.

In more relevant news the very most outter rain bands from Irene have reached the State College, PA area. No real wind here just some light rain at the moment.


I think it was a whole lotta of Budweiser and little commonsense..
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1161. aimetti
lol TWC giving us 1-2 inches of rain for se ct now. Probably got more than that in the rain this morning. Probably get some decent winds since on east side tho.
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Va beach webcam... wave action is INTENSE!

http://www.goldkeyvacations.com/blog/live/obc3.as p
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Her pressure is still 950 mbs?
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Quoting HuracanTaino:
yes, there is life beyond Florida and the Gulf Coast.


Not true, I have been watching on the blog and television. Just havent chimed in much because I didnt want to overcrowd the blog .
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Quoting ncstorm:
We did however had three men in Castle Hayne this morning around 1am go swimming at the cape fear river ...one of the guys is missing and they arent able to look for the body until Irene winds come down..

What kind of idiot does that? These guys must been extremely stupid, suicidal or both.

In more relevant news the very most outter rain bands from Irene have reached the State College, PA area. No real wind here just some light rain at the moment.
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1155. ncstorm
um what is this coming at the SE??

12z ECMWF
Link
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1153. owntime
Just saw a gal on TWC that was having a hard time standing in 20mph winds, I guess she was just tired.
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Quoting Patrap:
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery



"Goodnight, goodnight, Irene.
Irene, goodnight.
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene,
I'll see you in my (very unpleasant) dreams."
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press if you're here
now's your chance ;)

@wunderground
Weather Underground
Alright, @WunderAngela here relieving @WunderShaun from Twitter duties.
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Good luck to all you in the path! I am very curious to see how NY City does after Irene. Don't underestimate this storm you all up that way. I have seen damage from tropical storms do terrible damage. This being a cat 1 is nothing to ignore. My prayers are with you and be safe up there!
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...IRENE RE-EMERGES OVER THE ATLANTIC OCEAN...WATER LEVELS RISING IN THE VIRGINIA TIDEWATER REGION...

7:00 PM EDT Sat Aug 27
Location: 36.5°N 75.8°W
Max sustained: 80 mph
Moving: NNE at 16 mph
Min pressure: 950 mb

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


If the eye passed east of you (left), then that means you were on the northeastern side of the storm. In this case, that is Irene's weak side.


I know that, but even on the Carolina side while the eye was still on land , which is within this viewing area, there were no hurricane level wind gusts.

Carova, Corolla, Duck, and Kitty Hawk area did not have sustained hurricane winds according to the local weather stations here.
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


Nope, no new quakes on the USGS map


Yeah, it takes them a few minutes to update with a new quake, but not this long. I'm not all that far away from Fairfax. So, it could have been something localized. But, still, wth?

I guess I'll check the seismographs for the state when the online data updates in a few minutes just to be sure.

In other news, our favorite little bugger has a precipitation ring around a small clear center on radar again.
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1146. barbamz
Quoting PcolaDan:

In theory nobody is here because it's not affecting New Orleans, Texas or Florida. ANd I guess the people up north don't think it is very serious. At least that's what people were saying earlier today. ~~shrug~~

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/
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Quoting P451:


Because the tropics are quiet and there are no storms to track... duh.

Remember, Irene doesn't count, it's not affecting the important places of WU lore.

yes, there is life beyond Florida and the Gulf Coast.
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Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Any chance Irene forms an eye wall now that she is back over open ocean?
Looks like that might happen a little.What are water temps...
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Quoting twincomanche:
Repositioning all of the stuff necessary would probably cost more than having the planes fly a little farther. I'm sure they are on contract for fuel flying out of Biloxi and in times like this airports near storms have a tendency to jack prices. Go figure.

I'm with ya. I don't imagine they run sorties to the NE to often. I just figured if they can position in St. Croix and Biloxi, they could send a package.
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Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Any chance Irene forms an eye wall now that she is back over open ocean?


Unilkely, very unlikely - Irene doesn't have a lot of characteristics that a hurricane has, and it is entering colder and colder waters. However, Irene is still a hurricane, and it packs a punch.
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Irene

This is all I've gotta say to Irene being from Raleigh ;)
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Quoting Losttsol:
I'm in Virginia Beach. Over the last half hour, the eye is basically passing us just on the right. I realize that we are on the "good" side of the eyewall, but nowhere has had even a gust over 60mph lately. I'd be really surprised if this isn't downgraded to a tropical storm before morning EST.


If the eye passed west of you (left), then that means you were on the northeastern side of the storm. In this case, that is Irene's weak side.
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Quoting TropicalGenesis:
Any chance Irene forms an eye wall now that she is back over open ocean?


Near 0% chance...her cloud pattern and inner core dynamics are no longer characteristic of a typical intense hurricane that you see in the deep tropics. She is being influenced more and more by the stalled surface front just inland from the coastal mid-Atlantic and northeast and the approaching mid latitude system in southern Canada. However this does not mean she cannot maintain her strength, because this type of a setup is indicative of a storm that is using the baroclinic energy provided by the frontal boundary and approaching trough to her advantage.
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Quoting P451:


Because the tropics are quiet and there are no storms to track... duh.

Remember, Irene doesn't count, it's not affecting the important places of WU lore.



After many years of research regular people who know geography have found the how wunderground trolls see the world.

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1137. j2008
Quoting Losttsol:
I'm in Virginia Beach. Over the last half hour, the eye is basically passing us just on the left. I realize that we are on the "good" side of the eyewall, but nowhere has had even a gust over 60mph lately. I'd be really surprised if this isn't downgraded to a tropical storm before morning EST.

The "bad" side still has 80-90MPH winds so, consider yourselves a little luckyer.
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edit
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I'm in Virginia Beach. Over the last half hour, the eye is basically passing us just on the right. I realize that we are on the "good" side of the eyewall, but nowhere has had even a gust over 60mph lately. I'd be really surprised if this isn't downgraded to a tropical storm before morning EST.
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Some of these webcams are showing a lot of flooding. Thanks for the person who posted the Hurricane Track webcam, I had lost that one.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3710

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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.

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