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Irene hits New Jersey and New York; Jose threating Bermuda; 92L forms

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:45 PM GMT on August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey ten miles north of Atlantic City at 5:30 am EDT, as a minimum-strength Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Irene is only the second hurricane since 1851 to hit New Jersey. At 9 am EDT, Irene made a third U.S. landfall over Long Island, NY, and New York City, as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Top wind gusts measured in New York City were 60 mph at Central Park at 3:58 am; 67 mph at La Guardia at 4:10 am; and 59 mph at JFK Airport at 1:33 am. A 91 mph gust was recorded in Sayville, NY on the Central Long Island coast, at 7:02 am. Emergency managers reported that the nearby town of Lindenhurst (population 28,000), on the south side of Long Island, was mostly under water due to a storm surge. The storm surge at The Battery on the southern shore of Manhattan reached 4.0 feet, overtopping the sea wall in several locations. Fresh water run-off from Irene's torrential rains, riding on top of a 3 to 4-foot storm surge, allowed the swollen East and Hudson Rivers to overflow at the edges of Manhattan. Irene's rains have now ended in New York City, after accumulating to 7.60" at Central Park. This brings total rainfall for the month of August in New York City to 19.68", making it the wettest month in the city since record keeping began in 1869. The previous record was 16.85", set in September 1882. Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ have also set all-time wettest month records, thanks to Irene's rains. The 19.40" of rain that has fallen in Philadelphia this August is probably the most rain any major city in the Northeast, U.S. has received since 22.43" fell in Newark, NJ in August 1843, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt.

Figure 1. Storm surge at The Battery on the south end of New York City's Manhattan Island as of noon EDT Sunday, August 28, 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 4:45 am, the storm surge peaked at 4.0 feet. The surge declined to about 3 feet during the high tide cycle, then rose again to near 3.9 feet as the tide started going out. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.

Figure 2. Total rainfall over the past 30 days along the mid-Atlantic coast and New England has topped 15 inches (purple colors) in many areas, making August the wettest month in recorded history for the cities of Philadelphia, Newark, and New York City. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

Irene's rains bringing significant river flooding
Irene brought more than eight inches of rain to a long stretch of the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to New York. NOAA's Significant River Flood Outlook is showing that significant river flooding is already occurring along coastal regions of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, and is expected to spread to Eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, Western Massachusetts, and most of Vermont and New Hampshire.

The 1903 Vagabond Hurricane
The only other hurricane to hit New Jersey since 1851 was the 1903 Category 1 Vagabond Hurricane. According to Wikipedia, the Vagabond Hurricane caused heavy damage along the New Jersey coast ($180 million in 2006 dollars.) The hurricane killed 57 people, and endangered the life of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was sailing on a yacht near Long Island, NY, when the hurricane hit. New Jersey only rarely gets hit by hurricanes because it lies in an portion of the coast that doesn't stick out much and is too far north.

Figure 3. The path of the 1903 Vagabond Hurricane, the only other hurricane to hit New Jersey since 1851.

Tropical Storm Jose forms
Tropical Storm Jose formed this morning in surprise fashion, managing to maintain enough heavy thunderstorms in the face of very high wind shear of 40 - 55 knots to become the season's tenth named storm. Jose does not have long to live, due to the strong upper-level winds from Hurricane Irene that are creating the shear. Jose will likely bring strong winds near tropical storm force later today when it passes just west of Bermuda. Satellite loops show that there is very little heavy thunderstorm activity associated with Jose, and Bermuda will see much less rain than is usual for a tropical storm passing so close.

Elsewhere in the tropics: Invest 92L forms
A strong tropical wave located off the coast of Africa, about 200 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands, is moving west at 10 mph, and has been designated Invest 92L by NHC this morning. This system has a large amount of heavy thunderstorm activity and moderate amount of spin, and appears likely to develop into a tropical storm later this week, as all of the computer models are developing it. NHC is giving 92L a 40% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday. This storm will be moving more slowly across the Atlantic than Irene did, and will take at least 6 days to reach the Lesser Antilles Islands. Forecast tracks from the long-range GFS and ECMWF models suggest that Bermuda might be the only land area threatened by 92L, but it is too early to be confident of this.

Hottest day in Houston's history
The mercury hit 109°F (42.8°C) yesterday at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, tying September 4, 2000 as the hottest day in the city's history. Yesterday was the also the hottest August day on record in Houston, besting the 108°F reading of August 18, 1909. This year, Houston has set its record for all-time hottest temperature, most 100° days in a year (36, old record was 32, and 4 is normal), and most consecutive 100° days (24, old record was 14.) Weather records in Houston go back to 1889. Houston needs 20.18" of rain to get to normal levels of rainfall for the year. Today's high is predicted to be 107°F in Houston, so yesterday's record may be in danger of being broken today. By the end of the week, Houston is expected to cool down below 100°, and a weather pattern conducive for bringing summer rains will move in.

I'll have a new post Monday morning.

Jeff Masters
Tree puzzle, after Irene
Tree puzzle, after Irene
Irene Aftermath 15
Irene Aftermath 15


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.