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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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.
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Any chance Irene forms an eye wall now that she is back over open ocean?
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Quoting barbamz:


Hi, Dan! At least one sort of car I can recognize! - And it's really amazing how calm this blog is during a hurricane riding along east cost! Cannot believe it.

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~~
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1130. ncstorm
Quoting bohonkweatherman:
So glad you are ok.


Thanks!
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Quoting unruly:
She is supposed to be moving faster when she gets here (fingers crossed)


I'm preparing a care package for you.....Beer, cheetos, slimjims, and beer.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Very, very cool stuff.

This is an AquaDam - used to keep water out of the tunnels.



Sweet.


Scientists and Engineers are stupid and always wrong....don't you read this blog at all?
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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..


Yeah, I heard about that.

idiots.
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Quoting CrazyDuke:
Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...


If you are here, maybe so.

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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.
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Personally I don't pay attention to the models for invests... well that's a lie... I look at them out of being curious, however 80% of the time their intensity forecast is way off in one direction or the other, which inevitably throws their projected tracks way off. It's close to fiction until they develop into a depression... then I start taking a little more notice, particularly if there is a well defined circulation, since the models only perform better once that happens.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Power restored..finally..Goodbye Irene!!
So glad you are ok.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Rocky Point, NC, or roughly 220 miles SW of Irene's 5PM center fix.


Wow, that is quite low pressure in your area then. I see your getting gusts over TS force still. So it looks like you got a few more hours left, but you don't have long till you are free.
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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:
why are people posting computer models of invests 240 hours out? Those models won't even be correct for 40 hours out nevermind 240 hours. Computer models and simple invests/weak tropical depressions don't mix.

Remember.... the first ever computer model projections of Irene had it being a fish well east of Bermuda.



My only comment to that is the models have been consistently developing something.... Where it goes, nobody knows....yet.
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1118. barbamz
Quoting PcolaDan:


Hi Barb, and yes it is.


Hi, Dan! At least one sort of car I can recognize! - And it's really amazing how calm this blog is during a hurricane riding along east cost! Cannot believe it.
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1116. Patrap
2km Storm Relative IR Imagery with BD Enhancement Curve


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1115. Patrap
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:
why are people posting computer models of invests 240 hours out? Those models won't even be correct for 40 hours out nevermind 240 hours. Computer models and simple invests/weak tropical depressions don't mix.

Remember.... the first ever computer model projections of Irene had it being a fish well east of Bermuda.


Why not? I never said to trust the specifics.. In fact I said I would do the opposite in my later post.

It's very likely that the exact situation portrayed by that one model run 10 days out won't come to fruition. But to observe the general pattern shown in the future is important. Completely disregarding models because they might not be exactly accurate is just as bad as solely relying on them IMO.
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Quoting CrazyDuke:
Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...
Quoting CrazyDuke:
Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...


Nothing on USGS site...
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Quoting Methurricanes:
or it was thunder or a tree falling.


I heard it too in Fairfax.
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1111. Patrap


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1110. ncstorm
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


YW. You're right, Cat 1 winds are nothing to take lightly for sure. Humberto sounded horrible! In the night too of course.


going through a hurricane at night is not easy..
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1109. Patrap
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Quoting twincomanche:
Crew changes maintenance and axillary equipment I bet.

I guess my point is that a C130 can be maintained at a number of locations and crews could be positioned at more centralized location for this particular storm. I saw the Fox news clip talking about budget cuts. No sense giving someone ammunition for clipping their wings.
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On my way back home. Irene was pretty intense. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of power trucks on the way up. Been watching them pass me all day..
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Quoting ncstorm:


Thanks!!


YW. You're right, Cat 1 winds are nothing to take lightly for sure. Humberto sounded horrible! In the night too of course.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 252
1105. 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..
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Quoting CrazyDuke:
Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...


Where are you?
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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.




Don't worry P451.. Irene will give you a ride.. and we never forget you.. You will forever be burned in the important places of WU lore.
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Quoting CrazyDuke:
Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...
or it was thunder or a tree falling.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
1101. unruly
Quoting violet312s:


Like all of us, Irene really likes NC. Refuses to go away.
She is supposed to be moving faster when she gets here (fingers crossed)
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All boarded up in NY awaiting Irene's arrival
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Quoting FLdewey:
Very, very cool stuff.

This is an AquaDam - used to keep water out of the tunnels.



Sweet.


Water out of the tunnels? Don't tell CycloneBuster!
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1098. ncstorm
Quoting oceanbug:
So glad you came through it safely.
Remember that person who was on last night, saying she felt betrayed or something like that, and was sorry she'd stocked up on supplies? I think she was in your area. Wonder how she feels now?


LOL..CarolinaHurricanes..yeah, I'm sure around 2am, he/she was recanting her statements..
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Err...Did we just have another aftershock? That was a rather loud rumble and didn't sound like thunder...
Member Since: February 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 140
Quoting Joshfsu123:
Pressure is now 998mb in DC

Winds at times have been sustained between 20/25 mph - highest gust in my area has been 39mph. Expect the winds to go up later tonight... gusts between 60/70 to be expected.
I hope my family is safe while I'm down here in N.C.In my part of D.C where I lived when Isabel came through.We lost power for two weeks.I hope when I come back up there I won't run into that same problem.What part of the region are you from.
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Quoting twincomanche:
Crew changes maintenance and axillary equipment I bet.


BINGO
You don't just repark a plane like that without a whole lotta support.
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:

its about 45min from NYC and an 1 hour and a half from philly
So 20ish Miles NNW of Boston in Lowell ill probably see that band in 2 hours, boston an Hour 40 minutes.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
Quoting ncstorm:


We did good..thank goodness Wilmington was in a drought..we got over 7.8 inches of rain..but I will say, after 2am, Irene became a beast..the wind was no joke!
So glad you came through it safely.
Remember that person who was on last night, saying she felt betrayed or something like that, and was sorry she'd stocked up on supplies? I think she was in your area. Wonder how she feels now?
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Quoting unruly:
Bob did a little damage but, these folks don't take this sort of thin seriously. Most up here werent around in '38 or for Donna. (They all live in Florida now )


We moved to Florida from Hawaii, just in time for Donna. She brushed by us at between a Cat 4/3. I was a kid. My dad thought it would be neat to go down to the beach to watch the waves. Yeah. No. Damn near got washed out.
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Quoting barbamz:
http://www.hurricanetrack.com/
Is this a beetle captured by flooding?
Edit: Cam is moving around.


Hi Barb, and yes it is.
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Pressure is now 998mb in DC

Winds at times have been sustained between 20/25 mph - highest gust in my area has been 39mph. Expect the winds to go up later tonight... gusts between 60/70 to be expected.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 580
Quoting Matt1989:

That's def. not true. The first computer projections had irene crashing into south florida and or going into the gulf of mexico.


Nope.... that was actually several days after Irene was initially classified as an invest. It was declassified for a day or two. People just didn't pay it any attention until it looked like a Florida storm
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Quoting FLdewey:
Roanoke sound surge is live on Hurricane Track... coming up fast.


Thanks for reminding me to watch FlDewey..my SIL is in the Navy and he and my dau used to live in Norfolk..pretty interesting to watch.
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Quoting Methurricanes:
Where is that in NJ, CLoser to Philly or NYC?

its about 45min from NYC and an 1 hour and a half from philly
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Quoting ElConando:


Where do you live again?


Rocky Point, NC, or roughly 220 miles SW of Irene's 5PM center fix.
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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.