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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This year may be 96 or 99 all over again. I myself affected by Irene certainly don't need a 1-2 punch. If it were to pan out like 96 or 99 then the second storm would be a bit stronger than Irene....ugh!
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Quoting JLPR2:
TD 12 riding the models nicely.


I know many did not thing the GFS did a good job with Irene........but you look at its performance 3-4 days out......it was nearly right on i believe the best i recall!
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Quoting KoritheMan:


I disagree. These unfortunate mishaps can occur anytime, anywhere. Moving will not solve the problem.
Yes Kori, I agree we need to come together as a society to put a stop to this and be aware of our surroundings at all time, stay vigilante my friends.
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Quoting Gorty:


But I really wanted it to be in June for something
What we want has no bearing on what actually happens. :P
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Quoting TampaSpin:
If its possible to be pissed at this world.....i currently am!!! Three young thugs......held my daughter up a gun point today just to take $40.00 dollars from her in a Food store parking lot. If only i could have 10minutes with each one of these thugs. Don't know when the poor kid will sleep peacefully again.......If your a female......LOOK at the conditions and environment you are in no matter the time of the day.....


Too bad...

I always remember my wife and daughter to:
Always look around when you're going into your car in a mall parking..... dont go directly to the car if you see someone strange aproaching...

Make a show, call someone distant make believe like you know that person and yell "Where is the car?" / wait for me or something like that. Or get the phone out and say something like "You just drove me by, turn back". Any show that would make the guys believe that you are not alone and that someone is near...

Also when I get to a mall, I always tell my wife, after looking around and selecting a "safe" parking area, to be aware of the surroundings.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9896
1971. Gorty
Quoting KoritheMan:


No it's not. The National Hurricane Center uses Zulu (UTC) time. Going by that, Alex made landfall on July 1.


But I really wanted it to be in June for something, I forgot what it was.

And to them, it made landfall in June not July.

So it should be June for that record thing or whatever it was and because to them he made landfall in June.
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Quoting scooster67:
You are right. A gun would cause more trouble than it would protect. Just feeling your pain. I have had that gun to my face twice.


YOu got mail.
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Quoting thelmores:


Irene WAS an epic storm, with monetary claims likely to to exceed 10-15 billion dollars, kid "at least" 25 people, caused "record" flood levels in many places, and let "millions" of people with running water and power.

Irene will likely cost more than Tornado season....... but due to the severity, will likely be close......

Are you upset than Irene "was" an Epic storm?


Not to downplay Irene's significance, but don't most hurricanes do this? Does that make them "epic" also?

Again, not trying to negate the very tangible impact Irene had on New England -- they are simply not accustomed to dealing with hurricanes. I'm just saying, going by your definition, we should consider the majority of hurricanes "epic", which of course I don't agree with.
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1968. MTWX
Quoting TampaSpin:


they already got the license plate # and everything on film......they got the entire incident on video. The owner of the red camry will be caught.

Awesome! Hopefully she can recover from this. Best wishes.
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Quoting Gorty:
It's still up to debate if 2010's Alex made landfall as a hurricane in June or July.


No it's not. The National Hurricane Center uses Zulu (UTC) time. Going by that, Alex made landfall on July 1.
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I hope this new wave turns north and goes out to see.

I just got my power back. I have been without power for three days now.

I had very little damage, but I had neighbors who had damage and lost alot of trees. I spent all of yesterday and today helping neighbors clean up.

There are alot of homes that were on the sound that were completely lost.

Im done with the tropics for awhile. If NC gets this next system it would be Floyd flooding all over again.
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1965. JLPR2
TD 12 riding the models nicely.
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Quoting jascott1967:


50 people died in the Tuscaloosa tornado this year. Add up the damage (monetary, casuality) of the tornados of this year, compare it to Irene and get back with me.

You want to make Irene an epic storm, go for it.


Irene WAS an epic storm, with monetary claims likely to to exceed 10-15 billion dollars, killed "at least" 25 people, caused "record" flood levels in many places, and let "millions" of people with running water and power.

Irene will likely cost more than Tornado season....... but due to the severity of Tornado season, will likely be close......

Are you upset than Irene "was" an Epic storm?
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Quoting TampaSpin:


they already got the license plate # and everything on film......they got the entire incident on video. The owner of the red camry will be caught.
Sorry to hear about the incident Tampaspin, Trust in the police to apprehend and charge the fools involved.
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Quoting xcool:
TampaSpin:
i think time too move ...


I disagree. These unfortunate mishaps can occur anytime, anywhere. Moving will not solve the problem.
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1961. Gorty
It's still up to debate if 2010's Alex made landfall as a hurricane in June or July.
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TD12 is looking like Katia........very soon!
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Does not help much when a gun is involved which was what they did to her.....that is what she is so upset about...they flashed a gun at her too.
You are right. A gun would cause more trouble than it would protect. Just feeling your pain. I have had that gun to my face twice.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Does not help much when a gun is involved which was what they did to her.....that is what she is so upset about...they flashed a gun at her too.
Yep nothing you can do when a gun is pointed to your head, except hand over the cash, unless you got some kind of quick reflexes to knock out there hand before they pull the trigger...
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Quoting redwagon:


You could also go meet the Manager of that food store and tell him you are having the police come over and check out his security cameras as your daughter was attacked and robbed outside their door. If you don't get instant cooperation, by both the store and the police, then just call your local news station with your story.

Then call your county sheriff a day later. After a few days of patrol cars parked outside, that store will be a little safer.


they already got the license plate # and everything on film......they got the entire incident on video. The owner of the red camry will be caught.
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


They DID name Jose when it had 1 thunderstorm. And let us not forget Tropical ThunderFart Bonnie!


there was a few questionable storms at the end of 2005 as well. Some of those greek named storms weren't even thunderstorms, I remember one clearly that was just a swirl of cirrus clouds. But 95% of the time I agree with NHC naming storms.
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Quoting redwagon:


You could also go meet the Manager of that food store and tell him you are having the police come over and check out his security cameras as your daughter was attacked and robbed outside their door. If you don't get instant cooperation, by both the store and the police, then just call your local news station with your story.

Then call your county sheriff a day later. After a few days of patrol cars parked outside, that store will be a little safer.


+1. I'd definitely do that.
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1953. Grothar
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Quoting TampaSpin:
If its possible to be pissed at this world.....i currently am!!! Three young thugs......held my daughter up a gun point today just to take $40.00 dollars from her in a Food store parking lot. If only i could have 10minutes with each one of these thugs. Don't know when the poor kid will sleep peacefully again.......If your a female......LOOK at the conditions and environment you are in no matter the time of the day.....
Man I'm sorry to hear about that, hope your daughter is ok & has a safe & healthy recovery soon, She must be shook up over this. I can't imagine these jerk bags who would want to do something like this, it makes me mad, since the same thing happened to my Uncle last yr. they followed him all the way home after he made a withdrawal to pay his workers including my cousin who works with him.
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1951. xcool
TampaSpin:
i think time too move ...
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Sorry to lay this out on you all.......,but PLEASE tell all females the dangers out there. If you are a female by yourself....the crazy stuff can happen. Tell every female "young and old" that if you are by yourself to look over your shoulder and just don't take unnecessary chances. Think every time you walk out a store by yourself and if you don't feel comfortable about the environment your in....wait for others to walk out with you! Its really that simple.


You could also go meet the Manager of that food store and tell him you are having the police come over and check out his security cameras as your daughter was attacked and robbed outside their door. If you don't get instant cooperation, by both the store and the police, then just call your local news station with your story.

Then call your county sheriff a day later. After a few days of patrol cars parked outside, that store will be a little safer.
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Quoting scooster67:


That's it. The little one is getting Karate lessons or some kind of self defense classes. Maybe a weapons permit.


Does not help much when a gun is involved which was what they did to her.....that is what she is so upset about...they flashed a gun at her too.
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1948. MTWX
Quoting TampaSpin:
Sorry to lay this out on you all.......,but PLEASE tell all females the dangers out there. If you are a female by yourself....the crazy stuff can happen. Tell every female "young and old" that if you are by yourself to look over your shoulder and just don't take unnecessary chances. Think every time you walk out a store by yourself and if you don't feel comfortable about the environment your in....wait for others to walk out with you! Its really that simple.

Amen! Just keep reassuring her that she did the right thing. I have heard of too many people standing up for the change in there pockets just to wind up a statistic. I agree with summerland that the self defense course is a good idea for recovery from an tramatic experience like that too.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Sorry to lay this out on you all.......,but PLEASE tell all females the dangers out there. If you are a female by yourself....the crazy stuff can happen. Tell every female "young and old" that if you are by yourself to look over your shoulder and just don't take unnecessary chances. Think every time you walk out a store by yourself and if you don't feel comfortable about the environment your in....wait for others to walk out with you! Its really that simple.


That's it. The little one is getting Karate lessons or some kind of self defense classes. Maybe a weapons permit.
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Enough about my private life now......


Looks like in about 3 days well will have a better idea as where TD12 will be going. Don't get all caught up what the models are showing now. They could very well be off 1000 miles to the north or south at this point in the end.
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Katia......... pronounced Cu ( as in Cup) Tea Ah.
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


And why would they not retire 11+ billion in damages? I cant think of any way she is back.
Oh yeah I'm not questioning whether or not Irene should be retired since I think it should, but if Igor was retired why not Emily? since it caused more damage than Igor a billion vs. 200 million & killed more people too 17-4. And just think how many records she broke, lowest pressure for a July storm & is still the only storm to reach Cat. 5 in July.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Sorry to lay this out on you all.......,but PLEASE tell all females the dangers out there. If you are a female by yourself....the crazy stuff can happen. Tell every female "young and old" that if you are by yourself to look over your shoulder and just don't take unnecessary chances. Think every time you walk out a store by yourself and if you don't feel comfortable about the environment your in....wait for others to walk out with you! Its really that simple.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:
If its possible to be pissed at this world.....i currently am!!! Three young thugs......held my daughter up a gun point today just to take $40.00 dollars from her in a Food store parking lot. If only i could have 10minutes with each one of these thugs. Don't know when the poor kid will sleep peacefully again.......If your a female......LOOK at the conditions and environment you are in no matter the time of the day.....


Wow! That sucks T. I hope and pray she is ok and not too traumatized from it.
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Sorry to hear about that ordeal, TampaSpin!
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5318
TD 12 is looking better
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5093 Comments: 115939
1938. GetReal


Even the CIMSS jumped the gun and designated TD #12 as the latest TS!

Sorry to hear that Tampa regarding your daughter.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
If its possible to be pissed at this world.....i currently am!!! Three young thugs......held my daughter up a gun point today just to take $40.00 dollars from her in a Food store parking lot. If only i could have 10minutes with each one of these thugs. Don't know when the poor kid will sleep peacefully again.......


This world is going down the drain, with all these thugs walking around. Time to get a piece and start packing Hope she is doing OK!
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1936. hahaguy
Quoting TampaSpin:


What is really crazy.....it happened to my wife about this same time last year....Speechless!!!

I'm sorry by they deserve to get hurt (wink wink).
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Quoting TampaSpin:
She was so upset she just told us "her parents" this evening. Her boyfriend called us and told us as she has been curled up in a ball all day. I am sick at my stomach myself. Driving over there tomorrow.


Lordy Tampa, I am so sorry....it is a sickening feeling, I'm sure.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
If its possible to be pissed at this world.....i currently am!!! Three young thugs......held my daughter up a gun point today just to take $40.00 dollars from her in a Food store parking lot. If only i could have 10minutes with each one of these thugs. Don't know when the poor kid will sleep peacefully again.......If your a female......LOOK at the conditions and environment you are in no matter the time of the day.....

It may be too soon even to suggest this, but you might see if she'd be willing to take a six week self-defense course -- not because it's any use against guns, that's not what I'm saying. It CAN be a great tool for helping young women recover their sense of personal power after losing their sense of safety like this. Regardless, good luck.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


What is really crazy.....it happened to my wife about this same time last year....Speechless!!!



That is some bad luck. I bet you are furious!
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1932. MTWX
Quoting hahaguy:


I would join you for those 10 mins.

Count me in!
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Quoting hahaguy:


That is crazy.


What is really crazy.....it happened to my wife about this same time last year....Speechless!!!
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Quoting MZT:
I have some gutter upgrades scheduled at one of my rentals for Sept 15. If I find that I'm "staring down the cone" this weekend, then I may ask the contractor to squeeze that in sooner... would not want my job backed up into all the other work requests that would roll in after a landfall.
then do it yourself
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Bro it was 9am in the morning in Orlando.......UNREAL
I hope they get caught before they kill someone. Did they have a weapon?
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Bro it was 9am in the morning in Orlando.......UNREAL


That's just beyond wrong. Idiots.
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She was so upset she just told us "her parents" this evening. Her boyfriend called us and told us as she has been curled up in a ball all day. I am sick at my stomach myself. Driving over there tomorrow.
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1926. hahaguy
Quoting TampaSpin:


Bro it was 9am in the morning in Orlando.......UNREAL


That is crazy.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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