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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This image says it all, we"re in for a rough September.
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Quoting KrazyKaneLove:
I am hitting the rack too. CNN just verified as well about the water going OVER the dam and not an actual BREAK, so thats good news. Gnite all and stay safe if u are in Irenes path.
I live where there are a lot of earth-work dams (60's flood control) over flowing is a serious situation as they are engineered to erode at the spillway and gradually release more and more water to prevent a sudden failure. However if the event goes on long enough the dam will eventually give way due to the erosion. Either way you wind up with a major flood event down stream the damn is no longer serving to contain or slow the flow and if it does give way it is a major disaster, just delayed. If there are other impoundments on the river below the one which fails it could set off a domino effect which would be catastrophic. We had a good scare with one in the mountains to the west during Floyd if I am recalling the correct storm. Took a ride out to look at it after-word. As one of the good ol' boys who turned up said "D--- a man could loose a couple of trailer trucks in that gash."

How much longer till the rains are to stop?
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stay safe new york


i leve you with this


TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 AM EDT SUN AUG 28 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON HURRICANE
IRENE...LOCATED ABOUT 15 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF OCEAN CITY
MARYLAND.

A TROPICAL WAVE CENTERED A FEW HUNDRED MILES SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE
VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR CONDUCIVE FOR
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS WAVE DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT MOVES
WESTWARD AT 10 MPH. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30
PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.



i wish evere one in new york good luck
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Quoting Krycek1984:


No one here is saying it won't be bad. Or that it is insignificant.

But most of us aren't on here trying to tell everyone that this is the equivalent of a Cat 3. Or that it's going to be the most historic thing ever! That's the problem with our society nowadays. People think almost everything is historic or unprecedented. The boring truth is that it's usually not.

And BTW it may technically be a hurricane but I am about 99% certain no one from this point on will experience sustained hurricane winds...people barely did in NC, let alone NYC. I am worried about the surge in the NYC/NJ area...I hope that everyone will be OK.

My suspicion at this point is that deaths will come from trees falling and freshwater/river/creek flooding inland.

It will be interesting to see if long-timers in NC/VA think Fran/Isabel were worse or not.

I am eagerly awaiting some measurements in the coming days of surge...I haven't been able to locate any actual measurements of surge in NC & VA.


Dr. Masters is right, and I agree with you too. There is no way Irene will produce sustained hurricane force winds in the New York City area. There are no longer reports of gusts over hurricane force anymore either.

I'm not saying Irene isn't dangerous, but in a way, you almost downplay what sustained hurricane force winds at category 1 is really like when you say tropical storm force winds is a hurricane.

Tropical storm strength winds are dangerous, more then people give them credit, hurricane force winds are very destructive and dangerous, yes I mean category 1 too.


Obviously Irene is still packing a punch and is dangerous, but I believe the winds and surge will fall short of NYC doom, just a wee bit.


I'm not saying the NHC hyped anything, they did a great job by warning the potential threat, thankfully though Irene isn't going to be as bad for the area as it could have been, however it is still dangerous and destructive obviously.

The flooding produced from intense rain I believe, will come out to be the most destructive part of Irene, as it usually is with hurricanes, as well as surge if you live on the coast. I don't think surge will be quite as bad in NYC as it could have been though. Imagine if Irene actually had gotten stronger again and slammed into as a 125 mph category 3, oh boy.


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Quoting iahishome:
Hmmm, this actually doesn't bode well for morning in Battery Park, Manhattan, New York, New York:

Battery Park Water Level
Yep. The earlier high tide was only 1.5 feet below the moderate line, which is when the water would start going over the wall, and there were no winds yet. Not goooood.
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Quoting help4u:
Terrible blog tonight.No info.


Agreed! I keep hoping to see posts of surge heights, wind gusts, sustained winds, etc. I don't have those websites and I usually depend on others for that info...maybe I should be more self-sufficient...

Then again, laying here cuddling with the dogs is nice too.
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Terrible blog tonight.No info.
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Hmmm, this actually doesn't bode well for morning in Battery Park, Manhattan, New York, New York:

Battery Park Water Level
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CNN does a way better job in reporting than TWC. I love there horror music for the hurricane. It hasn't changed since Katrina
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I guess no matter how you say it, the dam can't hold all the water... not good. Just not good. Off to watch CNN for a bit.
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Quoting Seawall:
Overflow, would be the same as overtopping the dam, I'm presuming....


Tonato/tomaatto.
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Quoting Seawall:
Overflow, would be the same as overtopping the dam, I'm presuming....


yup
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Overflow, would be the same as overtopping the dam, I'm presuming....
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
To bad, I was hoping for a fishing trip.

Shrimp?
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Quoting IFuSAYso:


Not what your looking for brah.
To bad, I was hoping for a fishing trip.
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I am hitting the rack too. CNN just verified as well about the water going OVER the dam and not an actual BREAK, so thats good news. Gnite all and stay safe if u are in Irenes path.
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Okay I'm going to catch a couple hours of sleep so I can get up for the second landfall.. Goodnight and stay safe.
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
You picked a good neighborhood.


lol..yeah it was pretty funny actually..saw the lights flashing and thought it was EMS..in a way it was LOL
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
What you got to offer?


Not what your looking for brah.
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Quoting JLPR2:
This is the only LLC that the ASCAT managed to catch. 91L:
Just an increase in convection and we have Jose. Obviously that would be extremely difficult to accomplish when you're under 30-40 knots of northerly shear.
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Quoting KrazyKaneLove:
Haha..during Wilma the only flashing lights i saw were the redneck neighbors on a golf cart during the eye passing out beers out of an ice chest
You picked a good neighborhood.
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867. Oct8
Quoting weatherman321:
About the Dam they were now clarifying on Fox that it is not a dam break they are concern about but instead a dam overflow. So that's not as bad as the dam itself giving..


I am on google maps. St Marys River Watershed Number 1 Dam, 2, Valley Lee, St. Mary's, Maryland 20620. It is a thick earthen dam. So it would be tough to collapse. But I am not from the area. I am just looking at it from afar ;-)
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Quoting IFuSAYso:

and?
What you got to offer?
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Haha..during Wilma the only flashing lights i saw were the redneck neighbors on a golf cart during the eye passing out beers out of an ice chest
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Quoting KrazyKaneLove:


hehe..that is a funny mental picture but probably accurate
Good chance a door to door by EMS personal with offer of a ride in the Humvee, time permitting.
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Quoting KrazyKaneLove:


hehe..that is a funny mental picture but probably accurate


My problem is, I'd be sticking my head out the door going "WHAT??" since I can't understand folks over a loudspeaker with my hearing (or rather, lack thereof.)
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About the Dam they were now clarifying on Fox that it is not a dam break they are concern about but instead a dam overflow. So that's not as bad as the dam itself giving..
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Quoting Torgen:


I'd think "dam bursting" would get the old "police car slowing rolling down the street with the cop on the PA system, warning people" treatment.


hehe..that is a funny mental picture but probably accurate
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
What's tax exempt got to do with the multi-millions I'm about to win? I'm joining the Tea-Party and keeping it all for me. Well I might give Press a bit if he'll take me sailing and Dr Jeff some if he'll get me a ride in a Hurricane Hunter.

and?
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859. JLPR2
This is the only LLC that the ASCAT managed to catch. 91L:
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Quoting weatherman321:
They reported on CNN that they still had power in the area so I'm hopefull they got word..


I'd think "dam bursting" would get the old "police car slowing rolling down the street with the cop on the PA system, warning people" treatment.
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Reportedly, earthen dam may overflow in MD.
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Quoting IFuSAYso:
501C is not a free ride.
What's tax exempt got to do with the multi-millions I'm about to win? I'm joining the Tea-Party and keeping it all for me. Well I might give Press a bit if he'll take me sailing and Dr Jeff some if he'll get me a ride in a Hurricane Hunter.
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Quoting weatherman321:
They reported on CNN that they still had power in the area so I'm hopefull they got word..


KK..that is good news
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Quoting KrazyKaneLove:
I hope those people are listening to their radios or TVs in St. Marys county. Praying that dam doesnt break..and they received proper warning.
They reported on CNN that they still had power in the area so I'm hopefull they got word..
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Well, we should get to see who's right soon, when it gets near and then past Ocean City.

It's a moot point, too many people are concerned with their forecasts on here.
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I hope those people are listening to their radios or TVs in St. Marys county. Praying that dam doesnt break..and they received proper warning.
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Quoting lottotexas:
00Z GFS shows no BOC development and NO La. storm. changes run to run

The 9 day runs have an average 700 mile error. You're looking at a 12 1/2 day run. Yes, it's interesting in terms of potential for development, but it's all moot until we get under 7 days out.
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Quoting vince1:
What's with all the screaming on the Times Square Cam? Irene arrival celebrations?
Looks like alot more police cars with lights flashing rain and people runningLinksee cam one...
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849. Oct8
NJ ~100,000 without electric.
https://www.firstenergycorp.com/outages/outages.d o?state_code=NJ

Screaming in Times Square in anticipation.
http://www.earthcam.com/usa/newyork/timessquare/
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
You and I are reading Dr. Jeff's posts differently. I don't see him as downplaying the storm, rather accurately reporting and interpreting the data at hand. Nowhere have I seen him downplay the danger of this storm. Rather I see him as attempting to cut through the hype and point out where the true dangers lie.


Perfectly said.
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Quoting reedzone:


I know.. It's like Dr. Masters is god or something.. It was wrong for the Doc, while I respect him, to claim that Irene would not be a Hurricane in NYC.. Yet pressure remains under 960 mlb. with winds over Hurricane force. I didn't think he would quickly downplay Irene.
You and I are reading Dr. Jeff's posts differently. I don't see him as downplaying the storm, rather accurately reporting and interpreting the data at hand. Nowhere have I seen him downplay the danger of this storm. Rather I see him as attempting to cut through the hype and point out where the true dangers lie.
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CNN's graphics are showing that the worst off in the NYC area insofar as surge will be right around Perth Amboy/southern shore of Staten Island
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Night everyone. Prayers continue for the NE states.
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Pretty decent hurricane on the 00z NOGAPS made out of 92L. Another tropical cyclone off of the African coast at the end of the run. 180 hours:

Edit: Some cut-off lows off the eastern seaboard as well and a cyclone making landfall into the Yucatan.

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Quoting lottotexas:
00Z GFS shows no BOC development and NO La. storm. changes run to run


Something that is 300+ hours out will most likely not be consistent. Heck, we can't even get models that are consistent past 72-96 hours out.
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G'Nite Irene. G'Nite, not-sleeping people.
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Looks like Dover is getting pounded now as well.
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Quoting redwagon:


The TCFP has been calling for something in purple and blue in the GOM for weeks now. Moisture has been sandblasted out of the gulf to the SW for the last week,
is that coming to an end finally?


Probably so...

The lack of moisture in the Gulf has been influenced by Irene, an upper level low, and the Texas ridge.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


And you'd get it too! Lol.


More than you know.
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One of my worries is that people fled the coast and then will end up in trouble anyway from flooding farther inland on creeks and rivers that are overflowing their banks.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.