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

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

Share this Blog
30
+

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

Tuttletown Gristmill (dragonfly88)
Tuttltown Gristmill looking South down the Plattekill.
Tuttletown Gristmill
Bad Break (LarryT)
Closeup
Bad Break

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 326 - 276

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54Blog Index

326. jpsb
Quoting Rainwalker:
What is going on south of Jamaica somebody please tell me. Torrential downpours in Kingston and some gusts every now and again.
I asked about that earlier, was told it would not develop into anything serious. Just a little persistent convection getting sheared by 25-30knts.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Quoting NoVaForecaster:


Does it have any model support?


Looks to me like NoGaps is the only one that develops it.
Member Since: August 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 128
Back from school... what the models are suggusting about TD12/Katia and other storms behind it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Fotograffa:


Please, no...tell me this will go anywhere but up the east coast...seriously..it would be the last thing we need..


Well, you sure as heck don't want it in the Gulf of Mexico..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Haiti didn't so much have greed as short-sightedness and lack of birth control. Most trees were, and are, cut down for fuel. Early on, they were cleared for farming, but the soil was overworked and rapidly eroded. Haiti is the poster child for how to have an Easter Island future.


There are other countries that sell their trees to international loggers who care not a whit for the local people or countryside.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAstorms:

None of them are any good. State Farm is 4% and I don't live anywhere near the water and am in the highest part of Virginia Beach. Even a Cat 5 wouldn't flood us.


I am in Chas, SC...our elevation (in particular at my house) keeps us out of the flood zone. Charleston has zones for insurance...we are lucky...and that %age depends on the cost of your home...most vehicle insurance ends up being more than 4% if you compare the cost of a car to a home...average deductable for cars is 5-10% and more...for most people, even if your home is destroyed, you still have the land to rebuild on...if a car is totalled, you have nothing... i am close enough to the coast to make it easy to go to the beach when i want to and far enough away to remain relatively safe in the event of a storm (structure wise for my house). I do not ever want to see another Hugo by any means mind you, but compartively speaking of all the places i have lived and all the things i have weathered...tropical storms seem to skirt more than strike here...no matter where we choose to live though does have some type of phenominoms that wreak havoc devestation wise...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAstorms:


I think Matthews got hit hard again like in Isabel.


Richmond saw the worst damage since Isabel. Being in Irene brought back memories of Isabel.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ncstorm:
back to back strikes..almost north of the islands for Bertha and def north of the islands for Fran--could be a similar set up with Irene and TD12
Bertha


Fran


Please, no...tell me this will go anywhere but up the east coast...seriously..it would be the last thing we need..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:
I always liked DJ's humor. If you don't care for it, there's always that "Ignore" button.
Ban does not take up bandwidth on the blog. Ignore still does.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
So the 12z ECMWF does not look good for the east coast...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weatherwart:


May I just say I unequivocally despise our current governor and most of our legislators in Florida.
+1
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Why does it need to be 80 mph? Why not like 35-40 mph?


Organized system provides a steady organized rain shield unlike a weak system where someone gets all the rain and just down the coast gets nothing
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The next wave to come off already looks huge and has some structure? Over land???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
I see. I used to live, technically, in Yorktown, but very near Poqouson. I knew they flooded with every Nor'easter, Isabel, basically anytime a strong east wind comes up...

(The commute to NASA-LaRC was a 4-minute one.)


Ah yes, Langely I heard did better this time (no dolphins on the runway) but the area was still popped pretty hard. I left for isabel stayed for irene, winds only got 50mph sustained and it was still a little dicey here and there with big trees around the house. The area is so lucky she decided to weaken and not intensify on approach.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Rainwalker:
What is going on south of Jamaica somebody please tell me. Torrential downpours in Kingston and some gusts every now and again.

I think it's an ULL low that is enhancing convection over Jamaica.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NoVaForecaster:
Wow look at that HUGE wave behind TD12! Its giant and it has obvious spin!



Many of the larger waves like that one, over land they are monsters but when the hit the water they fizzle out for some reason.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NoVaForecaster:
Wow look at that HUGE wave behind TD12! Its giant and it has obvious spin!


it certainly is, only thing that looks bad about it is all the convection appears to be pretty far away from the center of spin. but the circulation is certainly looking pretty impressive
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


A little better, still have heard some pretty bad damage reports though. Most places are still without power and some power estimates are up to 2 weeks due to the damage to the power lines.
I see. I used to live, technically, in Yorktown, but very near Poqouson. I knew they flooded with every Nor'easter, Isabel, basically anytime a strong east wind comes up...

(The commute to NASA-LaRC was a 4-minute one. Miss having that short of a daily drive...now ~20 minutes.)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
Umm, I enjoy being a fly on the wall on a listserv populated by, umm, you know. A PhD doesn't help predict one much at predicting a center relocation, either.
;-)


Hopefully one day there will be paper(s) on predicting center relocation (causes and its affects on intensity and track) while observing the process of a developing storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What is going on south of Jamaica somebody please tell me. Torrential downpours in Kingston and some gusts every now and again.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NoVaForecaster:
Wow look at that HUGE wave behind TD12! Its giant and it has obvious spin!


Yea, we could be tracking multiple storms over next couple of days.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Why does it need to be 80 mph? Why not like 35-40 mph?


40 mph t-storm can be pretty useless rain maker, just take jose as an example.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Irene looks to keep going westbound toward the GOM. This storm is still going west?!


Africa just keep spitting out these storms...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:
It looks like we will have two named storms within the coming week as the ECMWF and GFS show BOC/GOM action. 2011 continues to be relentless in terms of named storms.


Opinions on TD #12?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
299. jpsb
I was thinking of doing a WU weather station here in San Leon Tx, only 2 here at the moment and one of them appears to be faultly (temps readings are to low) Ambient Weather WS-2080 is in my price range what do yall think is it an OK instrument? tia
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Dr. Master's forecast for rain to come in on the Texas coast is music to my ears. Here in Houston, we're talking about WANTING a tropical storm. It's critically dry here, with trees dying, water lines breaking and people's foundations getting damaged due to the ground's changes from being so dry. I think I'll go down to Galveston and do a rain dance, just to be sure we get a little moisture. :-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



I am just north of Hobby, here. 70 degrees!, in the server room. Some days, it pays to be in IT!
Lol. Mine's 67.

Nice to have the regulated humidity, too.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AtHomeInTX:

Yep. The NAM has been bullish with this FWIW of course. But from what I'm reading doesn't sound impossible. Key words here rain and SE TX. Lol.
Looks likes a small portion of Southeast Texas and La. will get relief, they are forecasting a scattered shower or 2 here? We need a system to come thru the heart of Texas and go West so the entire state gets more than a scattered shower.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the ECMWF is showing the GOM storm as well..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We are getting quite a bit of rain in eastern Jamaica, due to that ULL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TBird78:


290/43rd...I'm working on getting a weather station (just for shits and giggles) but haven't found one that I like yet.


Garden Oaks?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
How did Poqouson fare?


A little better, still have heard some pretty bad damage reports though. Most places are still without power and some power estimates are up to 2 weeks due to the damage to the power lines.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


I thought the NHC did a great job. The main reason that the track shifted away from Florida was center relocation which cannot readily be predicted (unless you have PhD papers to show me lol).
Umm, I enjoy being a fly on the wall on a listserv populated by, umm, you know. A PhD doesn't help one much at predicting a center relocation, either.
;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



I am just north of Hobby, here. 70 degrees!, in the server room. Some days, it pays to be in IT!


I used to work for Universal Wx at Hobby in another life
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It looks like we will have two named storms within the coming week as the ECMWF and GFS show BOC/GOM action. 2011 continues to be relentless in terms of named storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Dennis8:


Heights..where are you? 103 degrees in the shade right now


290/43rd...I'm working on getting a weather station (just for shits and giggles) but haven't found one that I like yet.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting gulfbreeze:
You must not live in Florida.


May I just say I unequivocally despise our current governor and most of our legislators in Florida.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DVSmith:


It's eerie how similar Irene's track was to Bertha.

Let's hope TD12 isn't similar to Fran.

(I weathered Arthur and Bertha on Oak Island, and Fran in Durham; I really don't want to relive the good ol' days of 1996.)



Yeah, with Bertha soaking the ground and loosening the trees for fran, it was not something I want to experience again..good thing NC was in a drought for Irene or it would have been much worse..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
So anyone else hear that route 12 is washed out in duck? Corolla is shut off so no one can get in or out. Dandy a small town near Yorktown got hammered with flooding supposedly worse than Isabel. Power keeps going on and off, so does the internet. Hope everyone in the area stay safe!


I think Matthews got hit hard again like in Isabel.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
For all of the percieved shortcomings and/or successes in Irene's forecasting, either way, it wasn't for a lack of data.

All aircraft observations for Irene in one plot:


I thought the NHC did a great job. The main reason that the track shifted away from Florida was center relocation which cannot readily be predicted (unless you have PhD papers to show me lol).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


No! No!


I dont know I dont like how the models are showing a slow curve.






Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tiggeriffic:


mine is either 2 or 4%

None of them are any good. State Farm is 4% and I don't live anywhere near the water and am in the highest part of Virginia Beach. Even a Cat 5 wouldn't flood us.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ncstorm:
back to back strikes..almost north of the islands for Bertha and def north of the islands for Fran--could be a similar set up with Irene and TD12
Bertha


Fran


It's eerie how similar Irene's track was to Bertha.

Let's hope TD12 isn't similar to Fran.

(I weathered Arthur and Bertha on Oak Island, and Fran in Durham; I really don't want to relive the good ol' days of 1996.)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:
I always liked DJ's humor. If you don't care for it, there's always that "Ignore" button.


Yes, same for me. Without a little humor mixed in with imfo....would be a boring blog :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
For all of the percieved shortcomings and/or successes in Irene's forecasting, either way, it wasn't for a lack of data.

All aircraft observations for Irene in one plot:


Neat!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Dennis8:


Heights..where are you? 103 degrees in the shade right now



I am just north of Hobby, here. 70 degrees!, in the server room. Some days, it pays to be in IT!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
So anyone else here that route 12 is washed out in duck? Corolla is shut off so no one can get in or out. Dandy a small town near Yorktown got hammered with flooding supposedly worse than Isabel. Power keeps going on and off, so does the internet. Hope everyone in the area stay safe!
How did Poqouson fare?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 326 - 276

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
68 °F
Mostly Cloudy