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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Question for folks from Mid Atlantic & New England.

TV coverage is showing quite a few people wading through water. Around here we would need to be wary of snakes, clumps of ants etc. Do you have similar hazards?
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Possibly true. But for every privatization success story, there are a dozen nightmarish cautionary tales. I've said it before, and will say it again: some things are far too important to far too many people to entrust to for-profit entities. Period.



prison management is a great example of this...but I believe there are some areas where privatization could work...meteorology may very well be one of those...I'm not sure I can envision how the profit motive would be served by the dissemination of inaccurate weather information...


and, btw, for those of you watching...THIS is how civil people can disagree without resorting to ugliness...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458
1686. 900MB
Quoting P451:


Oh yeah I agree and if you caught some of my other posts I'm questioning how they set those maximum sustained winds, and why when a storm makes landfall even the maximum reported gusts don't even match the supposed sustained winds in the system.

Max sustained 75 supposedly - and the maximum winds reported by observation stations are in the 60s and those are the gusts.

Now this storm itself was quite an oddity for having a very low pressure but not high winds. So it may be even more of a good case study after the fact.



Yep, the pressure was quite low, but it was also quite large, thereby making it a taller task to ramp up the winds. I know Westchester is a mess with lots of flooding. I am not underestimating the destructive force of a massive tropical storm. But, I think we can all agree that the NHC was reporting current conditions inaccurately.
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Quoting odinslightning:



they may be quoting different things. maybe 200-400 million stands for claims already called in. maybe 10 billion includes state owned assets or the cost of replenishing the beachheads after erosion and/or shifting.


like govt. the devil is in the details.


i would wait for AIR International to make a statement if your looking for estimated damages overall.
I would assume that would also include all the lost revenue from closing every form of travel to the whole area as well...
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something is giving me the feeling that historically we will look back at Irene and point to her for setting up a very active peak season. The dry upper levels were interfering with storm formation, the texas high wouldn't break. the la nina flushing of the water is over......what will other invests do now that they don't have to eat so much dry air when they try to form.
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Quoting odinslightning:



they may be quoting different things. maybe 200-400 million stands for claims already called in. maybe 10 billion includes state owned assets or the cost of replenishing the beachheads after erosion and/or shifting.


like govt. the devil is in the details.


i would wait for AIR International to make a statement if your looking for estimated damages overall.


I've seen a lot of pics from towns like this in NJ:

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Quoting P451:


Yep you are correct it was 96L I could not remember. It was at a very high latitude but it looked far better, twice in fact, than Jose ever has.

They named several systems when they looked this way and it's surprising that one was passed over.




They named them because they threatened land or looked too impressive to ignore. 96L didn't look THAT good, compared to Cindy.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5519
Quoting SeniorPoppy:


They get a bad one about every 15 years or so; a devestating storm, like the LIE in 1938 comes along about every 70, thohg there was one long forgotten that wiped out Hog Island in 1893 (?) which makes the interval there about 45 years.
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by no means do I think every government service can or should be privatized...but in this case, I'm inclined to think it would be workable....here's why: twin is right.....it's already working in marine, aviation, agriculture, etc., applications...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458
Quoting twincomanche:
With all due respect that's a pretty sweeping conclusion. We privatized Flight Service (weather briefings for pilots) from a cumbersome expensive government bureaucracy to Lockheed Martin a few years ago and saved millions per year and got a very much more efficient and easy to use service.

Possibly true. But for every privatization success story, there are a dozen nightmarish cautionary tales. I've said it before, and will say it again: some things are far too important to far too many people to entrust to for-profit entities. Period.
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1675. beell
Quoting P451:


Yes they were. Go back and read all the NWS local zone forecast products. I was posting them all prior to the storm for many locations.

I did not criticize Dr. Masters. I wanted an explanation behind his thinking which he did not supply.

Big difference.



Quoting Dr Masters:

"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"
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Quoting HurrikanEB:
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 :/



they may be quoting different things. maybe 200-400 million stands for claims already called in. maybe 10 billion includes state owned assets or the cost of replenishing the beachheads after erosion and/or shifting.


like govt. the devil is in the details.


i would wait for AIR International to make a statement if your looking for estimated damages overall.
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Quoting cmahan:
TWC is finally catching up to the fact there's serious wind-related damage in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Just 'cause NYC was a convenient spot to stage a gazillion reporters doesn't mean the rest of New England ceased to exist :P
They love the NY vs Boston rivalry...adds to the drama.
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1672. 900MB
Quoting victoriahurricane:


I know this is from a while back, but if you're thankful, then why do you continue to complain they misled you? The NHC forecasted the worst case scenario and luckily for many it didn't pan out. Did you want the entire NY subway system to flood and be out for weeks? Did you want 100's of lives to be lost, DID YOU WANT THE STORM TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE and cause massive damage/loss of life? Be thankful you don't have to pick up the pieces of your livelihood or that you're even alive as many thousands have had to do with past Hurricanes.

Levi and other expert bloggers have mentioned that flight level winds could've mixed down to the surface from the land friction and that's why the NHC wanted to play it safe. Oh and for the record there was a gust to 115 mph sustained at 94 mph in North Carolina from a reliable source, so yes it was a Hurricane when it hit NC.

This blog is ridiculous at times and it's not just you this is aimed at all the "it wasn't so bad" people who would inevitable be complaining if the forecast did turn out and the NHC forecasted a Tropical Storm. NHC can never do any good with anyone it seems *shrug*


All I am saying is, tell me the truth. The storm was nowhere near 65 or 75mph sustained coming into NYC. Forecast what you want, just give me real current conditions. It's not too much to ask!
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1671. snotly
here... lets try this again....

ECMWF @ 240h shows hurricane between Bermuda and Florida headed NW.
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wow i cant believe ppl are actually complaining that the storm wasn't as strong as they taught it was going to be why not say THANK GOD it wasn't as strong as forcasted to be
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Storm totals Taunton MA Radar
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1666. cmahan
TWC is finally catching up to the fact there's serious wind-related damage in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Just 'cause NYC was a convenient spot to stage a gazillion reporters doesn't mean the rest of New England ceased to exist :P
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1665. Ossqss
It was interesting to see a squall line north of tampa late last night that appeared to be at the tip of 1 of the feeder bands to irene? Unfortunately I have no links for digging that imagery out in this Eeepad :(
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Irene & Jose:
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5519
1663. MZT
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
While NYC calls this a bust, the rest of New England is getting wrecked
One thing I remember for Floyd... the first day, there was some relief that the winds were not as bad as expected and that he landed as a CAT2.

The flooding became bigger news over the next few days.

People really need to give the water some time to drain out of the Catskills before calling this a bust...
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Quoting ackee:
HOW does 2011 COMPARE TO 05 interms of name storm


We're 1 name behind, Lee was named on the 31st.

That's incredible, I didn't think it would happen again to have activity (*note, named storm only) on pair with 2005 again.
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Floods 2nd "poof"...should trickle down to perma-poof for cloudburst on a lesser mans list
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Fairfield, CT reporting water half a mile inland... confirmed by local news. Also the all-time record in CT for power outages has been blown away (over 500,000, former record 477,000 in Hurricane Gloria)
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Quoting ackee:
HOW does 2011 COMPARE TO 05 interms of name storm



not sure
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Quoting 900MB:


Yes, it would have been. But, when it is apparent that it is not, they should not hype-cast. Sounds like you are all good up there CTWXGuy. I am very thankful that we ended up with a TS!


I know this is from a while back, but if you're thankful, then why do you continue to complain they misled you? The NHC forecasted the worst case scenario and luckily for many it didn't pan out. Did you want the entire NY subway system to flood and be out for weeks? Did you want 100's of lives to be lost, DID YOU WANT THE STORM TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE and cause massive damage/loss of life? Be thankful you don't have to pick up the pieces of your livelihood or that you're even alive as many thousands have had to do with past Hurricanes.

Levi and other expert bloggers have mentioned that flight level winds could've mixed down to the surface from the land friction and that's why the NHC wanted to play it safe. Oh and for the record there was a gust to 115 mph sustained at 94 mph in North Carolina from a reliable source, so yes it was a Hurricane when it hit NC.

This blog is ridiculous at times and it's not just you this is aimed at all the "it wasn't so bad" people who would inevitable be complaining if the forecast did turn out and the NHC forecasted a Tropical Storm. NHC can never do any good with anyone it seems *shrug*
Member Since: October 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 544
Quoting Tazmanian:
Irene was olny a TEST for the E coast the next one could be a lot stronger<

Odds are stacked against a strong storm barreling into the northeast anyway.
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Quoting BrockBerlin:


He first claimed Irene was going to devastate Florida then he changed his prediction to "Out to Sea" so his forecasts accuracy does not appear to be that good.


Well, we all start somewhere...I just don't have time for anyone being unpleasant but me...LOL

How you been Brock?
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1651. ackee
Quoting Tazmanian:
we now have 6 name storms for AUGS 1 hurricane and one TD
HOW does 2011 COMPARE TO 05 interms of name storm
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Neapolitan "New York City's Hudson and East Rivers have overflowed .
-- River water is flooding into Manhattan's streets.
-- 3 million people are without electricity and FEMA officials say it could be days before power is restored.
-- Parts of outer Philadelphia were flooded as high as street-sign levels.
-- At least 11 have died in five states due to the storm.
"

1505 WeatherNerdPR "Are the Starbucks closed?!"

Yep. Many news outlets emphasized the "NYC Starbucks are closing" to let folks know how seriously the threat of Irene was being taken by the business community
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Quoting Charmeck:


According to the US Coast Guard, there are several sailboats loose in the New Bedford Harbour!

I'll change my posts, being mislead by TWC! lol
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5519
1646. ackee
Quoting shellyweathers:
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.
too soon know where 92L go or even if this will devlop look at IRENE frist going into the carrb then south FL look where it end up going NE us coast
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Quoting cmahan:


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.


According to the US Coast Guard, there are several sailboats loose in the New Bedford Harbour!
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we now have 6 name storms for AUGS 1 hurricane and one TD
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Why is it raining everywhere?! It's SUN-day!

Also, various boats are cutting loose due to rough surf in New Bedford.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5519
Quoting P451:


They predicted 55-75 gusting 85-90 and in some places 100.

Instead:

We got gusts in the 60s and sustained at 50 for about 10 minutes in one squall this morning - primarily it was a 35 sustained gusting 50 event.

Presently gusts in the 50s are common through the region sustained 40s. A number of places reported max gusts in the 60s.

I suspect some areas in NJ got some 60s gusting 70s based on some damage I have heard about.



In the end it did not come as told wind wise.
Rain wise and flooding wise it has.

It's not quite the bust some are trying to make it out to be but those ~20mph discrepancies in forecast versus outcome would have been the difference between isolated damage and widespread damage.


I would say that's a good thing. More wind would of meant more trees blown over, more homes damaged but wind, higher storm surge, The East coast dodged a bullet with Irene. If the upper level wins had of came down to the surface. we would of seen much worse than now from SC to NJ and CT.
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I think the impact from Irene is actually quite a bit more severe than what is being depicted on TV and in other forms of national media. Remember, this was supposed to be a huge NYC event. That is pretty much all the world has tuned in to see. The average Joe doesn't care that some little coastal town in NJ had massive flooding, they want to see NYC get damaged.

You get what you ask for with the news, and that is hype. When the storm clears out, and people take stock of all she did, it will go down as a storm that lived up to the warnings. It will also be retired.
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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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About JeffMasters

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