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 presslord:
How we take care of the most vulnerable over the next few days will be the ultimate test of all the 'planning' which has gone on since Katrina......I am not optimistic...
Complacency is an extremely tough mindset to overcome without a very recent significant local event for impetus.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting violet312s:


Okay, where do you live?
Look at 122.
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Quoting Appalachiangypsy:

It's not the OVER part that's creepy to me ;)

Did the close that one? The Bay bridge is closed here.


I have been over the bridge and thru the tunnel several times and didn't bother me..of course we have TWO tunnels here in Mobile and a looong bridge across the bay..lol
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Quoting rkay1:
Irene will go down for the most hyped CAT1 hurricane in recent history.  I don't care what tweets TWC reads, what flashing/strobing background CNN/Foxnews has or what huge size they have "HURRICANE IRENE" on the bottom of the screen.  This is just a huge rain storm.


We really need to wait until the storm is over for everyone and all the damage reports come in before deciding what's overhyped and what isn't... it's disrespectful to the people who have lost life or property to call it just a rainstorm. And just speaking for myself, I know I'd much rather have overhype than underwarning.
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Quoting MrsBoomerNC:


Voracious appetite, that Fran. But,she didn't eat my roof, she settled for 17 trees - and our elec/cable/phone for 14 days :) How we escaped all those falling trees with just a nick in a rain gutter is something we'll always marvel at.


We were quite grateful for Bertha clearing the deadwood out earlier ~ who would have thunk it? Can't imagine what a nightmare it would have been otherwise.

We were in Jacksonville and had power back in three days both times. Bertha was lovely afterward ~ relatively cool and breezy. Fran not so much ~ muggy from the get go and you can KEEP that coming in at NIGHT! ~ but we DID have a trickle of city water running, so that made it bearable. If you can rinse off, you feel like you can stand it.
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One has to be on one's toes with the nado warnings...a wx radio about the only way.

They tend to only last 5 - 10 minutes in a hurricane, then the cell moves on. they only show on a radar for one frame or two.

(Note: This image will update upon a refresh for the next ~18 hours. Click to open in new tab.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
How we take care of the most vulnerable over the next few days will be the ultimate test of all the 'planning' which has gone on since Katrina......I am not optimistic...
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CAT 1 Winds

ime: 01:03:00Z
Coordinates: 36.85N 73.3167W
Acft. Static Air Press: 696.7 mb (~ 20.57 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 3,000 meters (~ 9,843 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 165° at 76 knots (From the SSE at ~ 87.4 mph)
Air Temp: 6.4°C* (~ 43.5°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 79 knots (~ 90.8 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 66 knots (~ 75.9 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 25 mm/hr (~ 0.98 in/hr)
(*) Denotes suspect data
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There is talk of Irene is turning into a Hybrid Storm. Water Vapor and all readings would support that. If this is true this could be a VERY BAD situation for NYC and New England. That would mean an intensifying system along with and expanding wind field. Far words then a weakening Cat 1.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
How do you see a tornadic cell in this mess?



click on storms and either slow down the frames or stop it altogether
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Quoting presslord:



Ever been over that thing? Creeps me out...

It's not the OVER part that's creepy to me ;)

Did they close that one? The Bay bridge is closed here.
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Quoting rkay1:
Irene will go down for the most hyped CAT1 hurricane in recent history.  I don't care what tweets TWC reads, what flashing/strobing background CNN/Foxnews has or what huge size they have "HURRICANE IRENE" on the bottom of the screen.  This is just a huge rain storm.


Okay, where do you live?
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 886
#115 - obviously a troll. Ignore.
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How do you see a tornadic cell in this mess?

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Roughly 300-400 miles away.



ok so they have a long way too go wish sould they really be in for it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115252
Quoting Tazmanian:
here are the mode runs for 92L and its vary far S and the mode runs take this thing W but how far W dos it get


Not liking that track.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i was wanting too no how far a way this storm is from this cam


Link


Roughly 300-400 miles away.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32338
Quoting MrsBoomerNC:


Voracious appetite, that Fran. But,she didn't eat my roof, she settled for 17 trees - and our elec/cable/phone for 14 days :) How we escaped all those falling trees with just a nick in a rain gutter is something we'll always marvel at.


Seriously lucky. But we had power back in 6 days.
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Hurricane party behind Eric Fisher in Virginia Beach.
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Quoting P451:


Yes, quoting myself, to add in the comment from Dr. M to compare it against the official NWS forecasts:




So, nothing of note is on the west side of the storm. What of the Richmond VA blogger talking about 60mph sustained winds? NC and VA residents saying beware this was very strong? Widespread reports of trees down and over a million without power?

Sounds like strong widespread winds to me.

Majority of winds on the east side of the eye?

Then why...

Philadelphia 630pm updated forecast:

NORTHEAST
WINDS 30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH...INCREASING TO 40 TO
50 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 65 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Sussex County, NJ (North West corner of NJ)
NORTHEAST
WINDS 45 TO 55 MPH...BECOMING NORTHWEST 40 TO 50 MPH IN THE
AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP TO 60 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON.

Northern Westchester County, NY: (Peekskill)

EAST WINDS 45 TO
65 MPH...BECOMING NORTHWEST 50 TO 70 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP
TO 80 MPH.

============================

Seems to be a rather wide difference here doesn't there?

I'll personally find out as tomorrow morning arrives, and those numbers are incredible and hard not to be skeptical of, but it'd be nice to know why exactly Dr. M's figures seem so much lower and downplayed than any reports we've already read about and the present most updated forecasts all through the future path of Irene.


If you're going to downplay the winds in such an extreme event, and your blog entry does not match the warnings and forecasted winds of the NWS and NHC, it'd really be nice to know in detail how this conclusion was drawn.



We're in Charlottesville, 75 miles west of Richmond, and the highest gusts today have been 31 mph; this storm was a non-event for our area despite the fearsome looking satellite images.
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Quoting violet312s:


Top Sail pier just fine per the cam

(oh and I mis-quoted you when trying to poke an idiot above..since edited)

The news guy said the pier is just fine, structurally, but it lost quite a bit of railing. They sure must have sunk those pilings to bedrock.
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Hey all. I'm here in morehead city NC. All power is out and 3G service and cell service is very very limited. I heard someone say there is another possible storm starting to develop and come west. Could someone plz WU mail me some info. My 3G won't last long enough to do anything but load one or two pages at a time soni can't really research anything.

Overall damage in morehead isn't terrible but it's muggy and lots of trees down!

Thanks!
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Quoting uncljbnd:
This storm is extremely dangerous. A pier has been damaged.



yea, not to mention the 8 dead people... funny
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CIMSS is showing a slight uptick in intensity. However Irene is pulling in dry air from the SE quad.





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Quoting FLdewey:
Get a snorkel...

National Hurricane Center reports the water level at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has peaked near the record that was set during Isabel.



Ever been over that thing? Creeps me out...
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Quoting violet312s:
Quoted wrong person


OK
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i was wanting too no how far a way this storm is from this cam


Link
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115252
This storm is extremely dangerous. A pier has been damaged.

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Quoting treehuggingsister:

We were lucky. She just ate our backyard.


Voracious appetite, that Fran. But,she didn't eat my roof, she settled for 17 trees - and our elec/cable/phone for 14 days :) How we escaped all those falling trees with just a nick in a rain gutter is something we'll always marvel at.
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Haven't heard that Topsail Pier is damaged.


Top Sail pier just fine per the cam

(oh and I mis-quoted you when trying to poke an idiot above..since edited)
Member Since: June 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 886
101. JLPR2
Quoting violet312s:


Gotta love early models. Especially the one that has it recurving back to Africa!


Ha! XD
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100. amd
According to the latest recon, winds approaching and exceeding sustained hurricane force at the surface exist in a small area 150 miles from the center to the east.

Also, this storm in many ways is similar to Hurricane Floyd (1999) at this point in terms of winds, intensity (although Irene's pressure is a little lower), and rainfall. Winds were light west of the storm once the storm cleared North Carolina, but rain was excessive, especially in NJ and SE PA, and I should know since I was living in SE PA at that time, and there was substantial flooding on the Neshaminy Creek (a waterway which separates Philadelphia from the Northern suburbs).



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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


Ah, LBAR has 92L and its 180 degree turn nailed.


It's predicting a center fix to the southeast lol.
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Quoting violet312s:


And where do you live?


Chapel Hill. Lost power for only 3 hrs :-)
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Quoting rkay1:
Did you really stay up until 5am watching a webcam?

I have nothing to do, lol. My sleep schedule is all messed up, and Irene is pretty interesting.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


The wave off Africa.
models show it rehooking back towards africa.. makes no sense at all with the azores high strong this thing will head west to west north west. of course these are the first models and they will change
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THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOUNT HOLLY NJ HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTHWESTERN ATLANTIC COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY...
NORTHEASTERN CAPE MAY COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY...
NORTHEASTERN CUMBERLAND COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...VINELAND...MILLVILLE...

* UNTIL 945 PM EDT

* AT 906 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR ENGLISH
CREEK...OR 13 MILES WEST OF ATLANTIC CITY...MOVING NORTHWEST AT 35
MPH.

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
ESTELL MANOR AND 7 MILES SOUTHWEST OF MAYS LANDING BY 915 PM EDT...
DOROTHY BY 920 PM EDT...
CUMBERLAND AND 6 MILES SOUTHWEST OF MIZPAH BY 930 PM EDT...
SOUTH VINELAND...VINELAND...MILLVILLE AND 6 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
BUENA BY 940 PM EDT...
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26NM SE of Cape May NJ.

Station 44009
NDBC
Location: 38.464N 74.702W
Conditions as of:
Sun, 28 Aug 2011 00:50:00 UTC

Winds: ESE (110°) at 35.0 kt gusting to 42.7 kt
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.07 in and falling rapidly
Air Temperature: 76.3 F
Water Temperature: 70.5 F
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Quoting Beremat:
Hey guys, I was here last night. I'm sitting here in NYC, just logged on to the blog and ready for the storm.

Questions:
1. Did the topsail pier survive last night?
2. Did the JD's gas on Oz's cam topple? I watched until 5AM and fell asleep...


Haven't heard that Topsail Pier is damaged.
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Quoting P451:


Yes, quoting myself, to add in the comment from Dr. M to compare it against the official NWS forecasts:




So, nothing of note is on the west side of the storm. What of the Richmond VA blogger talking about 60mph sustained winds? NC and VA residents saying beware this was very strong? Widespread reports of trees down and over a million without power?

Sounds like strong widespread winds to me.

Majority of winds on the east side of the eye?

Then why...

Philadelphia 630pm updated forecast:

NORTHEAST
WINDS 30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH...INCREASING TO 40 TO
50 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 65 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Sussex County, NJ (North West corner of NJ)
NORTHEAST
WINDS 45 TO 55 MPH...BECOMING NORTHWEST 40 TO 50 MPH IN THE
AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP TO 60 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON.

Northern Westchester County, NY: (Peekskill)

EAST WINDS 45 TO
65 MPH...BECOMING NORTHWEST 50 TO 70 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP
TO 80 MPH.

============================

Seems to be a rather wide difference here doesn't there?

I'll personally find out as tomorrow morning arrives, and those numbers are incredible and hard not to be skeptical of, but it'd be nice to know why exactly Dr. M's figures seem so much lower and downplayed than any reports we've already read about and the present most updated forecasts all through the future path of Irene.


If you're going to downplay the winds in such an extreme event, and your blog entry does not match the warnings and forecasted winds of the NWS and NHC, it'd really be nice to know in detail how this conclusion was drawn.





From observations. There aren't any showing anything close to hurricane force winds.
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Quoting presslord:


laughed because it was good sound obvious advice....cried because it even had to be said...


Ah, I understand now.

---

To the blogger who asked - Yes, the pier survived. :)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32338

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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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