Thursday, August 25, 2011

8/25 - 4:15pm - Hurricane Irene's Fever Pitch

Hurricane Irene is certainly causing some drama both over the airwaves and along the East Coast where thousands are preparing for what could be that area's first hurricane strike in a while. This will also be the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Ike in 2008. States of emergency have been declared by the governors of North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York as the storm takes aim at the region. Areas from Wilmington, North Carolina to Cape Hatteras to Norfolk, Virginia will likely take the brunt of Irene as it makes landfall as a Category 2 or 3 storm on Saturday. A Hurricane Warning has been issued for the entire North Carolina coast and a Hurricane Watch is in effect from Virginia to New Jersey. On the satellite image to the top left you'll notice that Irene does not have a very apparent eye. This is because the storm has just completed an eyewall replacement cycle, which temporarily limits both the strength of the storm and the appearance of an eye. The eye will likely become much easier to see over the next 24 hours and the intensity of the storm will correspondingly increase.

The National Hurricane Center's 5pm EDT outlook for Hurricane Irene has the storm at Category 3 status with winds of 115 mph. For Tuesday and most of yesterday, it looked like Irene was going to miss much of the East Coast and curve back out to sea, but last night's and today's computer model runs have adjusted the storm's track quite a bit westward. This means hurricane force winds will be felt across a much larger portion of the North Carolina, Virginia coasts and even through to the Northeast and Delmarva Peninsula. To the right is a "spaghetti chart" showing all the computer model forecast tracks for Irene. There's a strong possibility that Irene may still be a Category 1 hurricane packing winds in excess of 75 mph and a storm surge up to 15 feet when it hits the New Jersey Shore, New York City, and Long Island areas on Sunday. While hurricanes that affect the Northeast aren't all that rare, the particular track of Irene and the intensity possible as it hits the area are causing great concern, especially about flooding. Folks from North Carolina to New England really need to pay attention to this storm this weekend and evacuate when instructed.

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