Irene's 1-in-100 year rains trigger deadly flooding

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:00 PM GMT on August 29, 2011

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Hurricane Irene is gone, but the huge hurricane's torrential rains have unleashed one of the Northeast's greatest flood disasters. Videos of rampaging rivers in Vermont, New York State, New Jersey, and surrounding states attest to the extreme nature of the great deluge Hurricane Irene brought. Numerous rivers and creeks throughout the Northeast crested above their highest flood stages on record over the past 24 hours. The previous records were mostly set during some of the great hurricanes of 50 - 60 years ago--Hazel of 1954, Connie and Diane of 1955, and Donna of 1960. Vermont, where 3 - 7 inches of rain fell in just twelve hours, was particularly hard-hit. Otter Creek in Rutland, Vermont crested at 17.21 feet, 3.81' above its previous record, and more than 9 feet above flood stage. In northern New Jersey and Southeast New York, where soils were already saturated from the region's wettest August on record even before Irene arrived, record flooding was the norm. According to imagery from metstat.com, Irene's rains were a 1-in-100 year event for portions of eight states.


Figure 1. Water levels on Vermont's Otter Creek in Rutland, Vermont crested at 17.21 feet, 3.81' above its previous record, and more than 9 feet above flood stage. Image credit: USGS.

Here are a few of the rivers in the Northeast that set all-time flood height records over the past 24 hours, which I found using our wundermap with the USGS rivers layers turned on:

Mettawee River, Middle Granville, NY
Hoosic River, North Bennington, VT
Saxton River, Saxtons RIver, VT
Schoharie Creek, Gilboa, NY
Esopus Creek, Coldbrook, NY
Passaic River, Millington, NJ
Rockaway River, Boonton, NJ
Pompton River, Pompton Plains, NJ
Millstone RIver, Blackwells Mills, NJ
Assunpink Creek, Trenton, NJ

And here are the unofficial maximum 24-hour rainfall amounts each state received from Irene, as compiled by our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt:

North Carolina: 14.00" Bunyan
Virginia: 12.52" Ft. Eustis
Maryland: 12.96" Plum Point
Delaware: 8.50" Federalsburg
Pennsylvania: 8.00" Goldsboro
New Jersey: 10.20" Wayne
New York: 11.48" Tuxedo Park
Connecticut: 8.70" Burlington
Massachusetts: 9.10" Savoy
Vermont: 7.60" Walden
New Hampshire: 6.09" 5SE Sandwich
Rhode Island: 5.37" Warren
Maine: 6.11" Phillips

Newark, NJ broke its all-time 24-hour precip record with a total of 8.92" (8/27-28)--old record 7.84" on 8/27-28/1971. Also, New York City, Philadelphia, and Newark now have August 2011 as their rainiest month in recorded history. Overall damages from Irene could range from $5 billion to $10 billion, according to Kinetic Analysis, a risk assessment firm that specializes in natural disaster impact. This would put Irene between 13th and 24th place on the list of the most damaging hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. Irene is very likely to have its name retired. The multi-billion dollar price tag from Irene puts the year 2011 in first place for the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in one year, ten. The previous record was nine such disasters, set in 2008.

Irene cuts though barrier island, isolates North Carolina's Outer Banks
Irene's large surge surge and pounding waves breached North Carolina's Pea Island in two places Sunday, cutting U.S. Highway 12 and isolating the Outer Banks from the rest of the world. According to Dr. Rob Young of Western Carolina University, Irene did little damage to the ocean-front homes along North Carolina's Outer Banks, but there was significant soundside flooding impacting many areas of Duck, Kitty Hawk, Collington Village, and Roanoke Island. The $30-plus million dollar beach nourishment project at Nags Head survived the storm, although there has been some loss of sand along the beach.


Figure 2. Hurricane Irene's storm surge and winds carved two new channels through Pea Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks. This cut, near the town of Rodanthe, is the smaller of the two cuts. Highway 12 connecting the Outer Banks to the mainland will need to be re-built across these two cuts. Image credit: Western Carolina University.

Tropical Depression 12
Tropical Depression Twelve formed this morning from a strong tropical wave that had moved off the coast of Africa. TD 12 is undergoing some moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots due to strong easterly winds, which is keeping most of the storm's heavy thunderstorm activity limited to the west aide. This shear should relax as TD 12 pulls away from Africa, and allow the storm to become Tropical Storm Katia. Ironically, today is the 6-year anniversary Hurricane Katrina's landfall on the Gulf Coast, and Katia is the name that was selected to replace Katrina after that name was retired. Forecast tracks from the long-range GFS and ECMWF models suggest that Bermuda and Canada might be the only land area threatened by TD 12, but it is too early to be confident of this.


Figure 3. Tropical Depression Twelve at 8:10 am EDT August 29, 2011, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA.

A break in Texas' drought coming
One other area we need to watch later this week is the Gulf of Mexico. A significant shift in the atmospheric circulation is predicted for the region, with the ridge of high pressure that has brought Texas its record heat and drought predicted to shift eastwards and allow a flow of moist, tropical air into the state. A low pressure region is forecast to develop in the Gulf near the coast of Texas on Wednesday or Thursday, and this low will need to be watched for tropical development. The shift in the large scale weather pattern does not signal a permanent end to the Texas drought, but it should bring welcome rains and cooler temperatures to the Lone Star state beginning on Thursday. This will be a relief to the residents of Austin, where the temperature topped out at 112°F yesterday--the hottest day in Austin's recorded history, tied with September 5, 2000. By Labor Day, hot and dry weather will settle back in over the state, but the new ridge of high pressure will be weaker, and temperatures will not be as hot as this week's.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


At home u guys mite get rain for almost a week starting thursday
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Quoting cccidojr1:
hey there athome!! We had a beautiful storm the other day here in Corpus Christi. At first I thought it was just another teaser..Then boom!! Rain, lightning, thunder , severeTStorm Warnings....I had to take my mom to work..My cousin took us and his truck got struck by lightning!!
Wow! Glad for the rain anyway. This EURO run seems to be sitting and spinning for days then moving toward south TX. so far in the run.  Looks like we'll all get some rain and wind off this. The coast anyway.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
I see that Euro is trying to develop a storm in the GOM. Thats not good at all with those SST's looking like the way they are.
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Quoting jonelu:
but isnt that good for TX? Do u have link?

I'll try to link it.
ugh! here's the url

http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models/ecmwf.html

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
hey there athome!! We had a beautiful storm the other day here in Corpus Christi. At first I thought it was just another teaser..Then boom!! Rain, lightning, thunder , severeTStorm Warnings....I had to take my mom to work..My cousin took us and his truck got struck by lightning!!
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Goodnight to the peaceful life of the night crew. how yall been.
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2170. jonelu
Quoting AtHomeInTX:
UH OH. EURO getting serious about our gulf spinner.
but isnt that good for TX? Do u have link?
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:

Ah ok. Well at least ya have a chance of playing dodge ball with them that way. :)


Yeah it's a lot of work to rig these things down for an evacuation.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
UH OH. EURO getting serious about our gulf spinner.


Not Good.
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:


Yeah well we move around quite a bit lol. 6 weeks ago we were around Venice. When we get done drilling and completing this well I believe we will be moving to Pascagoula or Mobile Bay. Who knows.
Ah ok. Well at least ya have a chance of playing dodge ball with them that way. :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
UH OH. EURO getting serious about our gulf spinner.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Quoting AtHomeInTX:




Yeah well we move around quite a bit lol. 6 weeks ago we were around Venice. When we get done drilling and completing this well I believe we will be moving to Pascagoula or Mobile Bay. Who knows. The rigs I've been on over the past several years have stayed between Sabine Pass TX. and Mobile Bay Al.
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Quoting kap333:
Where did you see that info from the GFDL model?



Link
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:


Yeah it'd be bad, if it does become a tropical storm, they'll evacuate the rig. I go home in a couple of days so I'll miss it.

Ah ok. Glad they evacuate for a tropical storm and not wait for worse. Any rig in that area should have evacs down pat by now. GEESH!

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
What in the world? This EURO run at 96hrs has td12, what looks like another hurricane moving away from the east coast and then a low in the gulf.

http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models/euro/00zeu rotropical850mbVortSLP_loop.html

Dang it can't link it.


Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Quoting traumaboyy:


LOL....I HOPE you are right about LSU.....aren't they missin a quarterback??


Oh man that's a bad subject around Baton Rouge LOL. Jarrett Lee can come in and handle it, if not we have a JU.CO. transfer Zach Mettenberger that can do it. Last year after the first few games everyone was wanting Miles to start Lee anyway. We'll see how it goes, but the tigah's have plenty of talent to get it done. I also wanna see Georgia bounce Boise plum out of the BCS talk early. That's another game I'll be highly interested in this weekend.
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2160. kap333
Where did you see that info from the GFDL model?

Quoting CaribBoy:
00Z GFDL puts Katia just below 20N at 62W as a Cat 4 storm.... Dangerously close to the Northern lesser Antilles.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:

I imagine!  If  what they're sayin comes about and we do get a storm sitting and spinning off our coast for days that would be bad on y'all. Let's hope it's just a rain maker.


Yeah it'd be bad, if it does become a tropical storm, they'll evacuate the rig. I go home in a couple of days so I'll miss it.
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:


WHO DAT!!!! They looked good fo sho last night!!! I can't wait for saturday myself, to see LSU pluck the ducks feathers LOL. Geaux Tigers!


LOL....I HOPE you are right about LSU.....aren't they missin a quarterback??
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Man the blog is very slow tonight. Everyone must be resting after Irene and taking a break until we get the storm who must not be named.
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:


Yeah I am. We are drilling about 75 miles south of Cameron, La. right now. The floor hands and roustabouts get it bad.
I imagine!  If  what they're sayin comes about and we do get a storm sitting and spinning off our coast for days that would be bad on y'all. Let's hope it's just a rain maker.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245

Quoting floridaT:
my wife is from tyler and all her family is there. they have convened to us how grueling this year has been
 Oh it's been just brutal up that way! As bad as it is here we have the gulf usually keeping us sometimes 10 degrees cooler than up there. And it hasn't been below the mid 90's here in months.
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00Z GFDL puts Katia just below 20N at 62W as a Cat 4 storm.... Dangerously close to the Northern lesser Antilles.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:

Are you on a rig? I can't imagine the kinda heat y'all heat y'all have to deal with. Talk about no escape from the blazing sun.


Yeah I am. We are drilling about 75 miles south of Cameron, La. right now. The floor hands and roustabouts get it bad.
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Lol. I swear I'm not typing double. WU has been all out of whack for me today. Can't modify my comments either.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:

No. A blogger from Dallas-Fort Worth got some good showers said he/she? was sendin 'em down my way.  Alas they met the same demise as poor Don. The dry air assassins took them out before they got within a hundred miles of me. But some wetter weather is on the way! I hope. I  hope... :)
my wife is from tyler and all her family is there. they have convened to us how grueling this year has been
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Where would I go to find a good run-down an this storm's impact on Canada? US media act like the world begins and ends at the borders. It's no wonder the average person in "The States" is so provincial in their world view.
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:
Man it's a hot calm night out here in the GOM tonight. It has been for the past 12 nights. It's been absolutely brutal out here for the guys working days.
Are you on a rig? I can't imagine the kinda heat y'all heat y'all have to deal with. Talk about no escape from the blazing sun.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
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Quoting floridaT:
hey at home i saw some rain fell there today ya get any?
No. A blogger from Dallas-Fort Worth got some good showers said he/she? was sendin 'em down my way.  Alas they met the same demise as poor Don. The dry air assassins took them out before they got within a hundred miles of me. But some wetter weather is on the way! I hope. I  hope... :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Man it's a hot calm night out here in the GOM tonight. It has been for the past 12 nights. It's been absolutely brutal out here for the guys working days.
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Pitiful excuse!! Maybe you should start praying for snow!! Looks like the rain prayers have received a resounding NO!!


LOL! Ya reckon?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Quoting traumaboyy:


Whodat Brees!!


WHO DAT!!!! They looked good fo sho last night!!! I can't wait for saturday myself, to see LSU pluck the ducks feathers LOL. Geaux Tigers!
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Quoting atmosweather:


Yes but that won't make a real difference to the integrity of the run. A 1008 mb low is pretty much just as shallow.


Thanks
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:
ECMWF initialized at 1014 isn't the pressure 1008?


Yes but that won't make a real difference to the integrity of the run. A 1008 mb low is pretty much just as shallow.
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ECMWF initialized at 1014 isn't the pressure 1008?
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hey at home i saw some rain fell there today ya get any?
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:




Pitiful excuse!! Maybe you should start praying for snow!! Looks like the rain prayers have received a resounding NO!!
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2137. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting traumaboyy:


lol....You guys were pretty mean to poor Don!!

It wasn't all of us. You know those crazy guys in Brownsville. Sigh. :( Guilt by association.

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
2135. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting stillwaiting:
omega block type pattern possible ,that could cause a severe outbreak no?


Atmosphere is too moist in the mid levels with the GFS/NAM runs for a major outbreak.
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nite all..check back in tomorrow. Hopefully there will still be some good rains headed our way.
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting AtHomeInTX:
I've lost my ability to quote again! Sigh.

Anyway Trauma I prefer the term "Texascaster" thank you very much! But after Don no one would take me seriously. Sigh, you annihilate one tropical storm and you're branded a rain repellant for life! Lol.


lol....You guys were pretty mean to poor Don!!
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:
What's up night crew? How ya'll doirn? I thought I read on here earlier that TD12 had been named Katia. I guess not. Ah well it will be soon I believe.


Only a matter of time and with no land anywhere near it the exact intensity is not important and based purely on satellite presentation/T-numbers anyway.
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Quoting reedzone:


The NHC to be honest did an excellent job with tracking Irene.. Was very impressed.
,i dont think we could have asked for a better 3 day,they nailed it imo
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:
What's up night crew? How ya'll doirn? I thought I read on here earlier that TD12 had been named Katia. I guess not. Ah well it will be soon I believe.


Whodat Brees!!
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:



The "storm who must not be named" is headed to visit the middle of the North Atlantic, well she would if she were to follow my wishcast.
I'm with you on that one. :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
omega block type pattern possible ,that could cause a severe outbreak no?
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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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