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 CaribBoy:


so let's see what happens next few days.



yup
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5096 Comments: 116578
1424. Drakoen
Such tightly clustered models with now Tropical Storm Katia. The NHC really has only had to extend the track to the WNW since TD 12 formed.
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Quoting Hhunter:


for accuracy sake. western gulf still dry by this sat pic...


True... but we are expected to see some change.... We'll see...
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testing testing 123 this is just a test do not be alarmed just checking to see if this is even showing up on the blog

Thanks
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Not Katia yet but could still be tonight. As of 04500 UTC:

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Where do y'all see that 12 has been upgraded?
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1418. Gorty
Quoting Skyepony:
I hate to say this but Windsat looks down at the moment..

Fresh ASCAT.. Partial Katia


Which is better to use, ascat or windsat?
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Quoting aislinnpaps:


There's a lot of wood workers, carvers, crafters, etc., there. I'm sure a good bit of it will be used. They're also practical, it'll be used in fireplaces. If you've never been there, go up in late September or October. The mountains in fall color are spectacular. I love Louisiana, hence why I live here, but I do miss my mountains.

I was there once, about 50 years ago. Not one of the places I remember, but what do you expect from an 8 year old. Trees and that boring stuff wasn't near as cool as the gun displays and reenactments. :)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting PensacolaDoug:



She didn't joke about the 38 people who died in the storm. You always twist everything when it comes to politics. You're downright deceitful.
Its amazing how divided this country has become, It is spilling over into everything. cant even talk about the weather without the discourse. I remember when weather was always a safe subject.
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1415. hahaguy
Quoting Delsol:


Wunderground and NHC still show TD12 not Katia.

Why are folks saying it's named?


NHC doesn't update till 11pm
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Quoting Tazmanian:



and it drop 2mb from last update


Definitely strengthening, slowly but surely.
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k ah t ee ah, Kat-e-ya or Hungarian for Cot - Tee - Yah, which one folks?
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628

Quoting Hhunter:


for accuracy sake. western gulf still dry by this sat pic...
Naturally. ;)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 435
My family and I will be leaving on a three day cruise from Miami to Nassau leaving this Friday and returning on Monday.

Anyone that lives in the Nassau area can maybe answer this for me: How did Nassau fare after Irene? What can we expect? Also, we are planning on taking my 4 yr old twin girls to Ardastra Gardens and I wanted to know how they fared as well.

Secondly, any thoughts on soon to be Katia affecting us in that area?

TIA!

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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



She didn't joke about the 38 people who died in the storm. You always twist everything when it comes to politics. You're downright deceitful.

How did I twist it? Either she was serious--in which case what she said was reprehensible--or she was joking--in which case she what she said was callous and in poor taste.

Anyway, Katia's here. Let's hope she stays out to sea so in two weeks we don't have to hear any further "jokes" about that storm being divine retribution for Washington's budget problems.
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1404. Delsol
Quoting all4hurricanes:
what told us that td12 is now Katia? I presume a satellite just measured the winds or dvorak intensity right?


Wunderground and NHC still show TD12 not Katia.

Why are folks saying it's named?
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Agreed. It was one reason why I supported that short-lived NHC director's bid for QUIKscat to be replaced. It wasn't that I felt NHC couldn't forecast without it, but I did - and do - believe a higher quality scatterometer would be invaluable in EARLY forecasting of storm formation and therefore of track / intensity. NHC's problem with Irene early on was partially one of lack of knowledge, and more / better remote sensing tools would go a long way in improving track forecast accuracy.

Now intensity, that's another matter...


I always thought Proenza was a cool guy , obviously as usual politics "usually" win! sad!
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 8499
Quoting Tazmanian:




its way too soon too call on that has mode runs will chang many many of times


so let's see what happens next few days.
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1400. Skyepony (Mod)
I hate to say this but Windsat looks down at the moment..

Fresh ASCAT.. Partial Katia
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 308 Comments: 41395
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what told us that td12 is now Katia? I presume a satellite just measured the winds or dvorak intensity right?
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Quoting BethanyWoowoo:


That's funny, typically the more education you have the more liberal you tend to be. So wouldn't it be accurate to say that the more conservative you are, the dumber you are?


It seems to me, the more education people have, the less common sense have they.
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1396. Hhunter
Quoting sunlinepr:
Big amount of WV starting to concentrate in the GOM...



for accuracy sake. western gulf still dry by this sat pic...
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Quoting violet312s:


Our expert met here (Greg Fishel WRAL) said that while the NHC's ability to pinpoint tracks has come a very long way, their tools to forecast intensity haven't improved in 30 years.

Let's hope some new tools get developed to better predict intensity, but alas Mother Nature is a fickle lady.
pluss you have to remember it is a "forecast" and i agree they need more tools . When these storms damage runs into the billions whats a couple million spent on forcast tools
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funny how when ppl say that thisshould be dwngraded and others poof them.. it getsupgraded and then poof, katia
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Quoting CaribBoy:
Katia looks like 2009 Bill.... All Caribbean island should be spared imo.




its way too soon too call on that has mode runs will chang many many of times
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5096 Comments: 116578
1392. Delsol
Quoting Skyepony:
Odd nothing shows up on the historical Maps on WU for TD12. No August tracks within 2º of TD12 since 1851?


I wish we could spend more time discussing this excellent question instead of the red v blue hoohah.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


I'm liking that place more and more. :)
Sounds like the kind of people that if they hadn't been beat up by Irene so bad, would have gone and cut all the downed trees to make lumber out of it. I mean, that's some good wood that's probably going to end up in the city dump.


There's a lot of wood workers, carvers, crafters, etc., there. I'm sure a good bit of it will be used. They're also practical, it'll be used in fireplaces. If you've never been there, go up in late September or October. The mountains in fall color are spectacular. I love Louisiana, hence why I live here, but I do miss my mountains.
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Quoting Skyepony:


This is a product that I've never seen not work..This TD is really far east & south. Made me think of Ike & the others that year but they didn't happen til Sept or later.
what about Donna 1960 ?
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1389. Vero1
.
Member Since: July 21, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 2233
Quoting SLU:
KATIA is here.

We are now only 1 storm behind 2005 at the same date. If TD #10 became a tropical storm, we would be tied with 2005. Remarkable.



TD 10 is way gone but it may be upgrade later at post season
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5096 Comments: 116578
Katia looks like 2009 Bill.... All Caribbean island should be spared imo.
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Quoting P451:



One thing I noticed is when Irene drew near to the US we went into overdrive sampling the storm and the environment all around. Once that data was collected the models all tightened up to a very narrow path which Irene ultimately followed.

So I wonder if our ability is there but the observations needed to make it frequently successful are not.



Agreed. It was one reason why I supported that short-lived NHC director's bid for QUIKscat to be replaced. It wasn't that I felt NHC couldn't forecast without it, but I did - and do - believe a higher quality scatterometer would be invaluable in EARLY forecasting of storm formation and therefore of track / intensity. NHC's problem with Irene early on was partially one of lack of knowledge, and more / better remote sensing tools would go a long way in improving track forecast accuracy.

Now intensity, that's another matter...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 23882
What is with everybody saying katia? Renumber or somthing?
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Quot



POOF you go

That is feeding the trolls. But then again, you all know this, yet claim that you can't stand the trolls. I believe that you "poof" troll after troll after troll knowing that this is a badge of honor to them, and you know that this just baits them. You are not fooling me, or anyone else with any common sense, you enjoy baiting the trolls so that you can seem superior or something when you "poof" them. You know it, I know it, most of the readers know it. I find it incredibly trollish to do this, it takes up blog space, and ends up being something I don't want to read on a weather blog. I am sure that this will earn me a "poof" too, you can't help yourselves, which is too bad. With you guys baiting the trolls, not only do we have deal with the original trollish remark, we have to deal with your "superiorness to trolls" remark and any remark the troll has to make to your comment.
I tried to remove the name of the blogger who's "poof" I quoted, because I don't want to point anyone in particular out, but you know who you all are. Doesn't matter if you been here 20 years, it's still a trollish way to deal with trolls. Best to ignore and move on, like you all say after you announce your "superior to the troll" trollish "poof".
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Funny; that's exactly what some people would say of a Presidential candidate who jokes about 38 people dying in a storm.



She didn't joke about the 38 people who died in the storm. You always twist everything when it comes to politics. You're downright deceitful.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 802
Katia looks like its starting too get its act too geter has wind shear is droping all so mb has drop 2mb from last update
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5096 Comments: 116578
1379. hahaguy
Quoting caneswatch:
Welcome Katia. My body is ready for whatever mother nature throws at me.


Umm....... ok.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Ahhh so he came back as a girl this time.

I got some nastygrams from "BethanyWoowoo" in my wundermail as have many others.

Good one for the ignore list.

That was quick. You should post them (edited). :)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
1377. Gorty
Quoting aislinnpaps:
Gorty's not a troll. He's merely expressing his thoughts from what he sees.


Yes, exactly.

And to add, a troll is someone who goes offtopic and be mean to people and try to atagonise (cant spell it) and get into pointless arguments (I think)

To those who thinks I am a troll, look up what it means, then you will see I am no troll.

I stayed on-topic, did not be mean to anyone nor did I try to hurt anyone. Like what he said, I was expressing what I was seeing which is on topic.
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Taz you going to keep us udated with Storm postions?

good job dude

Link
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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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