Irene sends 4.5 foot storm surge up Chesapeake Bay

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:45 AM GMT on August 28, 2011

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The eye of Hurricane Irene is back over water, after the hurricane completed a 11-hour crossing of eastern North Carolina. Irene came ashore over Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 7:30 am EDT this morning as a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds. The Cedar Island Ferry Terminal measured sustained winds of 90 mph, gusting to 115 mph at 7:19am, as measured by a Department of Transportation official. I suspect this measurement came when a thunderstorm near Irene's center collapsed, sending a powerful downburst to the surface. A trained spotter on Atlantic Beach, NC 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. However, no regular weather station or buoy has measured sustained hurricane force winds in Irene, with the highest winds being 67 mph at the Cape Lookout, North Carolina buoy as Irene made landfall. Winds have peaked along the coast of Virginia, where sustained winds of 61 mph were observed at 6 pm EDT at Chesapeake Bay Light. Irene's passage over land weakened the storm slightly, and satellite loops show more dry air has wrapped into the storm. The radar presentation of Irene visible on the Norfolk, VA radar is still very impressive--Irene is dropping torrential rains over a huge area--but there is much less rain over the storm's southeastern quadrant, over water. Radar-estimated rainfall shows a 50 mile-wide band of 8+ inches of rain has fallen from where Irene made landfall at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, northwards to Dover, Delaware. Some isolated amounts of 15+ inches may have fallen, according to the radar estimates. Bunyan, NC has received 14.00" so far, and the towns of Washington, New Bern, Grifton, Newport-Croatan, Wonona, NC, all received more than ten inches. Norfolk, Virginia had received 7.73" as of 7pm EDT, and Suffolk, Virginia, 8.00".


Figure 1. True-color MODIS image of Hurricane Irene over North Carolina taken at 11:35 am EDT August 27, 2011. At the time, Irene was a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph. Image credit: NASA.

Storm surge damage from Irene
The storm surge and wave action from Irene is likely to cause the storm's greatest damage. High tide is near 7 - 8 pm EDT tonight, meaning that the storm surges occurring now will be some of Irene's most damaging. The highest surges measured at any of NOAA's regular tide gauges at 8 pm were 4.5 feet at Sewells Point in Norfolk Virginia and Oregon Inlet, NC. Higher surges are occurring father inland where narrow inlets funnel the storm surge to higher elevations. It remains unclear if the ocean will overtop Manhattan's sea wall at The Battery Sunday morning during the 8 am high tide. Latest storm surge forecasts from SUNY Stony Brook predict a peak water level of 2.4 meters above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) at 7:15 am Sunday, which would put the ocean right at the top of the sea wall. Presumably, waves from the hurricane's winds would then push some water over the top of the wall, but it is uncertain whether or not this would cause significant flooding. The storm surge was already 1 foot at 8 pm tonight. Storm surge flooding continues to be a major concern all along the coast of Long Island Sound; I recommend the SUNY Stony Brook storm surge page for those interested in looking at observed and predicted storm surge levels along coast New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.


Figure 2. Storm surge at Sewell's Point in Norfolk, Virginia as of 8 pm EDT Saturday August 27, 2011. The green line is the storm surge, which is the difference between the observed water level (red line) and what the water level should have been without the hurricane (blue line). At 8 pm, the storm surge was 4.5 feet. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.


Figure 3. Distribution of Irene's wind field at 6:30 pm 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 shrinking hurricane-force winds (yellow and orange colors.) Tropical storm-force winds (heavy black like bounding the light blue area) extended out 290 miles from the center of Irene over water, but very few areas of land were receiving tropical storm force winds. Image credit: NOAA/AOML/HRD.

Wind damage
The emergence of Irene's eye over water will slow the storm's rate of weakening, but the storm is under too much wind shear to allow it to intensify. 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, and also the large majority of the tropical storm-force winds. 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 50 - 60 mph. Coastal areas of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and the New York CIty area will mostly see top winds in the 40 - 55 mph range, since they will be on the weaker left side of the storm. Winds on the upper floors of skyscrapers will be up to 30% higher, but I expect there will be only isolated problems with New York City skyscrapers suffering blown out windows. The winds from Irene in New York City will be no worse than those experienced during some of the city's major Nor'easter winter storms of the past twenty years.

Tornadoes
Four tornadoes have been spawned by Irene, two in coastal North Carolina last night, and two in coastal Virginia today. At least two homes have been destroyed, and ten others damaged by the tornadoes. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch for all of coastal Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Links
Our Weather Historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England.

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

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Quoting txag91met:

WRONG---competition would allow the best to move forward. I work as a private meteorologist, and I compete with other private companies as well as the NWS. I consistently beat the NWS with their forecasts.

My proposal: NWS does severe weather forecasting only, and keeps the data flow. Let private weather companies do the daily weather forecasts, temperature forecasts, etc. And the best would make more money in the long term.

I am not sure how having a NWS hampers private companies? Private mets with excellent records in forecasting should not have any problem marketing their skills to private corporations with wide flung interests. It would just make good business sense. (Naturally, this info would "trickle down" to the rest of us.
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1637. cmahan
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
A little situation in the NYC harbor, a boat cut loose. Under control now.


That's actually in Massachusetts, New Bedford if I remember correctly. They're trying to get it tied down before the surge gets worse, which will be later today.
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Quoting cloudburst2011:



you really funny i thought the almighty had me on ignore well you must enjoy reading my posts because you always come out your hole and respond to them...not blaming you i know you need the education ...i hope you are getting a tad smarter reading my posts...


No, I took you off my ignore list because a friend here said you had some decent insights and seemed to know what you were talking about...first thing I see is your adolescent rant on someone else whose comment made sense (not sure what he/she might have said prior to that, I didn'yt go back that far).

Back to the list with you...enjoy your day
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We now return you to our regularly scheduled program "As The Blog Turns" already in progress...

Hundreds of thousands w/o power and so many affected by flooding and it's more important to argue over who has info control? Nice to see things back in order around here. :)

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Quoting Jax82:
Sheppard on FOXNEWS is painful to watch. They just showed a reporter on Long beach, NY and I think they are using a cell phone camera to report, with a reporter with an english accent showing some flooding in a parking lot. Meanwhile there are people walking around, sitting on benches, etc. I cant watch anymore, they are trying too hard.

Michelle Kosinski is still the all-time champ when it comes to trying too hard, this will be hard to beat.
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Does anybody have a link to the most current pressure maps of the US?
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Quoting TerraNova:
Satellite comparison between Irene (left) and Gloria (right)





Wow that is amazing! Gloria's winds were stronger than Irene's wasn't it? Plus it hit NYC at low tide.
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Half a foot of rain (and more) has fallen over an area covering tens of thousands of square miles. All that water has to go somewhere; look for much damage as the drainage ramps up...
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NECN Boston Live Stream
78mph wind gust in RI, flooding problems picking up.
Link
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92l looks like an interesting storm. Florida and the East Coast needs to watch it over the coming days. It's also forecast in intensity to become a hurricane in the coming days as well.
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Quoting TerraNova:
Satellite comparison between Irene (left) and Gloria (right)




Eerily similar...
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
It may be a bust for NYC but I just checked the WX stations closest to my boss at W. Islip (99 sustained) and West Babylon (100 sustained) on Long Island. The Wundermap radar makes it look like they're in the SE quadrant and getting some serious wind although the rain appears to have passed to the north of them now. Need to go back and try to find a radar loop I can step through but if NYC thinks it was not much the center must have been close to right on track across Long Island. Must have been a long night for people unused to hurricanes.
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1626. TX2FL
Quoting Tazmanian:
Irene was olny a TEST for the E coast the next one could be a lot stronger


I think you are right. The next one may not get infiltrated with dry air like Irene did.
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Quoting TerraNova:
Satellite comparison between Irene (left) and Gloria (right)





Awesome, thanks!
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Did anyone else notice that the Director of the National Hurricane Center was rarely seen during this event? I'm a news junkie and I only saw him once and heard a reference to him once.

It was very unusual. Janet must have put the muzzle on him so she could be in the limelight.
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A little situation in New Bedford, a boat cut loose. Under control now.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
Quoting vortextrance:



This is just wrong. The NHC gives probabilities, and the odds were not high for the winds you speak of coming ashore. They were not predicting 55-75. Dr. Masters explained this well in this blog, that you repeatedly criticized for downplaying the storm.


you are correct, however NWS did forecast winds of those numbers. My local forecast at weather.gov said sustained winds of 55 - 75MPH sustained. Right now it's about 45 sustained with gusts to 60. I'm satisfied. And I think for many in southern New England this was not really a bust.... especially since many of us experienced constant transformer explosions and sounds of falling trees and limbs all night. Some of those cells that came in were scary, too.
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Satellite comparison between Irene (left) and Gloria (right)



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Quoting P451:


Yup. Jose looks no different than Cindy, Franklin, Gert when they were declared...

They never declared I think it was 94L far north of Bermuda but it had the same presentation as the others. I still think they should have.


It was 96L. 94L was Gert. :P
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1618. Mucinex
First the statistical models go wonky with 92L's direction yesterday. The LBAR is still drunk. Now, GFS also with a short track of backwards motion. I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting storm.
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1613. Grothar
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Quoting P451:


Not too far from the city itself is plenty of damage to trees and power infrastructure. River and stream flooding is severe.

The winds were never going to directly impact structures.

The primary threat was always flooding. But the wind threat was real because 60-80mph winds will cause widespread tree damage in these regions.

Thankfully most everyone maxed out in the 50s or 60s. You're talking the upper limits for the trees in the region. If the wind was just 10mph higher across the board you'd be seeing an entirely different picture today.

Since you don't a lot of people are saying "so what" about the storm now.

The thing is, 11 dead, millions without power, severe river flooding, and reports still coming in says a whole lot different.

New England flooding is going to be catastrophic as the day wears on.

By days end the "it's nothing" attitude will disappear entirely.


Hopefully that attitude will just stop. A multi-billion dollar damage hurricane that killed over a dozen is something to respect and pray doesn't happen again. I joke around, but it's just cheer people up.

Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
FOX news just said that initial estimates are 200-400million $ from insurance losses in the Carolinas and that the governor of NJ estimated up to 10billion $. Don't know how valid that is... it's from FOX :/
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1610. Gearsts
Quoting Tazmanian:
this is not good


Hmm let me guess, they will shift west until it gets close to the islands ;)
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Quoting BobinTampa:
Jim Cantore just said he measures wind speed by experience. WTH? TWC can't afford an anemometer?


*licks index finger and raises it above head*

"Yup, 38 kts!" Lol
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Irene was olny a TEST for the E coast the next one could be a lot stronger
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
1607. cmahan
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
While NYC calls this a bust, the rest of New England is getting wrecked.


Yeah, I have people in Boston and I'm keeping an eye on that squall line. I heard they lowered the hurricane barrier in Rhode Island, too.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:


Yes

New York Area Falls Silent as Deadly Irene Unleashes Torrents
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Quoting TampaCat5:
This is the ONLY reason we have Jose (from the NHC' forecast discussion):

GIVEN THE PROXIMITY OF THE CYCLONE TO BERMUDA...THE BERMUDA WEATHER
SERVICE HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR BERMUDA.



no its not the olny reason
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting aislinnpaps:
Despite the hype, people in Sullivan County, from what my sister said, did not do much to prepare for Irene. When she went to the store after my insistance, the shelves were fully stocked.


I wish I could say the same. Could not find a tarp smaller than 30x50 at any of the DYI stores. Gas cans and chain saws all gone. Good for the local economy at least.
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Quoting Jax82:
Sheppard on FOXNEWS is painful to watch. They just showed a reporter on Long beach, NY and I think they are using a cell phone camera to report, with a reporter with an english accent showing some flooding in a parking lot. Meanwhile there are people walking around, sitting on benches, etc. I cant watch anymore, they are trying too hard.


Obviously you weren't paying attention. They were having technical issues. And that reporter is Jonathan Hunt. He's a very respected correspondent who has broadcasted worldwide covering anything from global warming to being one of the first reporters in Fallujah.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Flooding?


Yes
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Quoting P451:
Max sustained/gust:

NEW YORK
N. Queens (LAG): 41mph - 64mph
Islip: 45mph - 62mph
Manhattan (NY): 24mph - 60mph
S. Queens (JFK): 43mph - 58mph


Metars only show 47 mph at LGA.
and 59 mph at JFK.
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Quoting BobinTampa:
Stephanie Abrams is complaining about her hair - it is worse than we thought.


May I invite you to spend the next couple of weeks with some friends who didn't prepare and now are without electric and don't know when it will be back on? The temps are only supposed to be in the eighties, shouldn't be too bad. Good for the diet with no food or good water. Or some who did prepare with food and water, but don't know when they they will have electric again?

Sorry, but the aftermath for many is going to be difficult. Anyone who has been in the aftermath of a hurricane should know that. So Irene was a TS and people consider the storm over-hyped. The reality of Irene is many are going to be in the same boat as they would have been if it HAD been a full blown cat 2.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
this is not good



I hope that southern ensemble member is wrong.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
Quoting weatherh98:


AHHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA nt over thecenter though


That doesn't necessarily matter though. At the time of that estimate, even with the convection displaced, the organization yielded classification.
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This is the ONLY reason we have Jose (from the NHC' forecast discussion):

GIVEN THE PROXIMITY OF THE CYCLONE TO BERMUDA...THE BERMUDA WEATHER
SERVICE HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR BERMUDA.
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this is not good


Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115437
Quoting txag91met:

WRONG---competition would allow the best to move forward. I work as a private meteorologist, and I compete with other private companies as well as the NWS. I consistently beat the NWS with their forecasts.

My proposal: NWS does severe weather forecasting only, and keeps the data flow. Let private weather companies do the daily weather forecasts, temperature forecasts, etc.


You mean, sort of what happens now for the most part?

Competition doesn't produce the best forecasts. SCIENCE produces the best forecasts. If you're consistently "beating" (whatever that means) the NWS then write some papers or something. Come up with your own prediction service and go into business for yourself (people have done this, two of my friends work for companies like this). Better yet, provide a documented peer-reviewed trail of information showing how much better you are.

The NWS and NOAA provide important essential services to everyone in this country. I'm not going to vote to gut them just so you can make an easier buck.
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ECMWF interesting track for Katia, on that run that would hit the East coast as well.
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1589. Seastep
Not sure if you guys saw this one.

"It doesn't taste great," he said.

Link
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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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