Irene's eyewall collapses; further intensification unlikely

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 15:14 GMT le 26 août 2011

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Satellite data and measurements from the Hurricane Hunters show that Irene is weakening. A 9:21 am EDT center fix by an Air Force Reserve aircraft found that Irene's eyewall had collapsed, and the central pressure had risen to 946 mb from a low of 942 mb this morning. The highest winds measured at their flight level of 10,000 feet were 125 mph, which would normally support classifying Irene as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. However, these winds were not mixing down to the surface in the way we typically see with hurricanes, and the strongest surface winds seen by the aircraft with their SFMR instrument were just 90 mph in the storm's northeast eyewall. Assuming the aircraft missed sampling the strongest winds of the hurricane, it's a good guess that Irene is a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds. Satellite imagery shows a distinctly lopsided appearance to Irene's cloud pattern, with not much heavy thunderstorm activity on the southwest side. This is due to moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots due to upper-level winds out of the southwest. This shear is disrupting Irene's circulation and has cut off upper-level outflow along the south side of the hurricane. No eye is visible in satellite loops, but the storm's size is certainly impressive. Long range radar out of Wlimington, North Carolina, shows that the outermost spiral bands from Irene are now beginning to come ashore along the South Carolina/North Carolina border. Winds at buoy 41004 100 miles offshore from Charleston, SC increased to 36 mph as of 10 am, with significant wave heights of 18 feet.


Figure 1. Distribution of Irene's wind field at 9:30 am EDT Friday August 26, 2011, as observed by the Hurricane Hunters and buoys. The right front quadrant of the hurricane had about 90% of the storm's hurricane-force winds (yellow and warmer colors, bounded by the heavy black line between the "50" and "60" knot thin black lines.) Tropical storm-force winds (heavy black like bounding the light blue area) extended out 290 miles from the center of Irene. Image credit: NOAA/AOML/HRD.

Forecast and storm surge potential for Irene
With its eyewall collapsed and just 24 more hours over water before landfall, it is unlikely Irene will have time to build a new eyewall and intensify. The storm is too large to weaken quickly, and the best forecast is that Irene will be a Category 2 hurricane at landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, and a rapidly weakening Category 1 hurricane at its second landfall in New England on Sunday. However, since Irene is such a huge storm--tropical storm force winds extend out up to 290 miles from the center--it has set a massive amount of the ocean's surface in motion, which will cause a much larger storm surge than the winds would suggest. At 9:30am EDT this morning, a wind analysis from NOAA/HRD (Figure 1) indicated that the potential storm surge damage from Irene rated a 5.1 on a scale of 0 to 6. This is equivalent to the storm surge a typical Category 4 hurricane would have. While this damage potential should gradually decline as Irene moves northwards and weakens, we can still expect a storm surge one full Saffir-Simpson Category higher than Irene's winds. Since tides are at their highest levels of the month this weekend due to the new moon, storm surge flooding will be at a maximum during the high tidal cycles that will occur at 8 pm Saturday night and 8 am Sunday morning. Wherever Irene happens to be at those times the storm surge damage potential will be maximized. A surge rivaling that experienced during Hurricane Isabel in 2003 is likely in northern NC, southern Maryland, and up Chesapeake Bay on Saturday night. Coastal New England from New York City to Massachusetts may also see storm surges characteristic of a Category 1 hurricane during Sunday morning's high tide, even if Irene has weakened to a tropical storm. I continue to give a 20% chance that a storm surge high enough to over-top the Manhattan flood walls and swamp the New York City subway system will occur on Sunday.

Wind damage
I don't think Irene is going to do a lot of wind damage to the mid-Atlantic states, since the eye of the storm will be just offshore, and the I-95 corridor from Virginia to New Jersey will be on the weak (left) side of the hurricane. The current wind distribution of Irene (Figure 1) shows almost all of the hurricane's winds are on the right side of the storm, and by the time the storm reaches Virginia, there will be likely be no hurricane-force winds on the left side of Irene. Sustained winds should stay below 74 mph (hurricane force), and wind damage will be similar to that wrought be some of the strongest Nor'easters of the past 20 years, from Virginia northwards to New York City. Since Irene will be steadily weakening as it approaches its second landfall on Long Island, I give a 50% chance that no mainland U.S. surface station in New England will record sustained hurricane-force winds. I do think it likely that one or more of the offshore islands--Block Island, Nantucket, and Marthas Vinyard--will get Category 1 hurricane winds. Though the wind damage to buildings will be similar to what the Northeast has seen during some of the more severe nor'easters of the past 20 years, tree damage will be much worse. The trees are in full leaf during hurricane season, and catch the wind much more readily than during the winter. Tree damage will very heavy, and we can expect trees in regions with saturated soils will fall over in high winds onto power lines. Irene is likely to cause one of the top-five most widespread power outages in American history from a storm. The record power outage from a Northeast storm was probably the ten million people that lost power during the great Blizzard of 1993. I don't think Irene's power outages will be quite that extensive, but several million people will likely lose power.

Irene likely to bring destructive fresh water flooding
In addition to storm surge, flash flooding and river flooding from Irene's torrential rains are the main threats. The hurricane is expected to bring rains in excess of 8" to a 100-mile-wide swath from Eastern North Carolina northwards along the coast, through New York City. The danger of fresh water flooding is greatest in northern New Jersey, Southeast Pennsylvania, and Southeast New York, where the soils are saturated from heavy August rains that were among the heaviest on record. New Jersey has had its 6th wettest August on record, with most of that rain falling in the past two weeks. Expect major river flooding throughout New Jersey the Delmarva Peninsula, and regions near New York City, as Irene's rains run off the saturated soils directly into the rivers. In general, the heaviest rains will fall along the west side of the hurricane's track, and the greatest wind damage will occur on the east side. I don't think flooding from heavy rains will be a huge concern in North Carolina, which is under moderate to severe drought. Irene's rains are likely to do some good in Southeast Virginia, where a fire triggered by lightning from a thunderstorm on August 4 sparked a fire in the Dismal Swamp that is burning out of control. Right now, it does not appear that tornadoes will be a major concern, but there will probably be a few weak tornadoes. Hurricane Bob of 1991, the last hurricane to affect New England, spawned six tornadoes, most of them weak F-0 and F-1 twisters.


Figure 2. Predicted rainfall for the 5-day period ending at 8 am EDT Wednesday August 31, as issued by NOAA/HPC.

Links
For those of you wanting to know your odds of receiving hurricane force or tropical storm force winds, I recommend the NHC wind probability product.

Wunderground has detailed storm surge maps for the U.S. coast.

The National Hurricane Center's Interactive Storm Surge RIsk Map, which allows one to pick a particular Category hurricane and zoom in, is a good source of storm surge risk information.

Wunderblogger Mike Theiss is in Nassau, documenting the storm's impact on the Bahamas.

Internet radio show on Irene at 4:30pm EDT
Wunderground meteorologists will be discussing Hurricane Irene on a special edition of our Internet radio show, the Daily Downpour, today (Friday) at 4:30pm EDT. Shaun Tanner , Tim Roche, Angela Fritz, and Rob Carver will there, and I will be available if my schedule permits. Listeners can email in or call in questions. The email address to ask questions is broadcast@wunderground.com.

Portlight mobilizes for Irene
The Bahamas have been hit hard by Irene, and unfortunately, it appears that the Northeast U.S. may have its share of hurricane victims before Irene finally dissipates. My favorite disaster relief charity, Portlight.org, is mobilizing to help, and has sent out their relief trailer and crew to North Carolina. Check out this blog to see what they're up to; donations are always needed.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Irene's Wrath ! (MikeTheiss)
A shot of the Palm Trees at Nassau, Bahamas being thrashed by high winds during Irene's closest approach !
Hurricane Irene's Wrath !
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas (ktbahamas)
Utility pole with street light snapped in half by Irene's winds on a busy street in New Providence.
Aftremath of Hurricane Irene in Nassau, Bahamas
Irene Response (presslord)
Portlight deploying to North Carolina
Irene Response

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Due to the dry stable air in the mid levels one can see the waves in the atmosphere emanating from Irene.

http://aviationweather.gov/adds/satellite/display Sat.php?region=ALB&isingle=mult_big&itype=vis

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting spud358:
While so many of you are taking up blog space debating the media's hype of the storm some of us are directly in the path and trying to monitor the latest developments.   Frankly, we don't need you to tell us whether it's over hyped or not right now, we need you to save the politics for after landfall.


when people downplay...some of us who have the experience comment...my post talked about the raw sewage that can be in the streets and yards...has your local news told you this is a possibity? i post things like, turn your fridge and freezer to coldest setting and cover with blankets when you loose power as it will insulate it...did your locals tell you that? it isnt about updates...those are done every 3 hours...11, 2, 5, & 8...that is it...many of us on here have enuf experience with these storms that we know the tricks to make life easier that are not in the hurricane guides...the media wont tell you about them...etc...you have to weed thru and pick the ones you WANT to listen to ignore what you dont
Member Since: 16 septembre 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
Quoting ILwthrfan:


Isn't this the trough that is to provide an jolt of energy to her as well in terms of ventilation?


potential jolt, and yes...
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Quoting mcluvincane:


Reed, looking at the visible loop, it looks like Irene jogged west and looks like a nnw movement. Looks like she will miss the next forecast point to the west. What are your thoughts on a landfall location?


A brush on the NC coastline and then a landfall on Long Island.
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about 20 minutes old. Buoy is about 40 miles ESE of Charleston.

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Quoting hswiseman:
Link

Nothing here to support further baratropic intensification.


How so?

Though factors are agianst right now, it still does have that chance to bump itself up. Both Levi and Reed pointed this out with the Gulf Stream being able to give it a extra boost...possibly. It also has been going through Dinurnal Minumum, so tonight will be her last chance to do anything that is for certain. Weather it doesn it or not remains to be seen.
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Quoting P451:
Coastal Monmouth County, NJ Forecast. Immediate Marine Waters.

SAT NIGHT
E WINDS 35 TO 45 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 55 KT...
INCREASING TO 45 TO 65 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 80 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT.
SEAS 8 TO 13 FT...BUILDING TO 11 TO 16 FT AFTER MIDNIGHT. PERIODS
OF RAIN AND SCATTERED TSTMS. VSBY 1 NM OR LESS.

SUN
N WINDS 55 TO 75 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 90 KT... BECOMING W
45 TO 55 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 70 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. SEAS 13 TO
18 FT. PERIODS OF RAIN AND SCATTERED TSTMS. VSBY 1 NM OR LESS.

SUN NIGHT
NW WINDS 20 TO 25 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 KT...
DIMINISHING TO 10 TO 15 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 20 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT.
SEAS 11 TO 16 FT...SUBSIDING TO 8 TO 11 FT AFTER MIDNIGHT.
SHOWERS LIKELY IN THE EVENING WITH VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.




Do you live in Monmouth County?
Member Since: 13 août 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
A few rain bands have come thru Wilmington but not much so far. Interested to see how high the surge at wrightsville is... I've heard 2-4 and 8-10 so idk what to believe. Stocked up and ready to go though, just waiting at this point.
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Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:


and that would not be the NHC's fault at all that people don't consider 100MPH to be that serious.

I've always thought meteorology should stick to science and let the officials do the life saving. If the Hurricane has 100MPH maximum winds, then that is what should be reported. None of this "we're going to SAY it's got stronger winds, just to protect people from themselves."

People have to learn to protect themselves by themselves.


VERY good post!
Member Since: 29 juin 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
Convection in core still small after 30 min, and buoy winds are not continuing to increase at 41004.



Buoy 41004
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting reedzone:
I believe Irene is re-organizing, structure has improved and convection, while light, is not as ragged as earlier. I still can see Irene putting a small strengthening phase before it hits NC, probably to 110-115 mph.


Reed, looking at the visible loop, it looks like Irene jogged west and looks like a nnw movement. Looks like she will miss the next forecast point to the west. What are your thoughts on a landfall location?
Member Since: 2 juin 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1404
Quoting DavidHOUTX:


The main reason Katrina was so destructive for NOLA (even though NOLA didn't take half of the force that Mississipi/Alabama did by being on the strong side) was due to the aging levees. Studies on the levees were done and there were multiple conclusions that were saying the levees would fail with a weak Cat 2 hurricane. Did Louisiana/Corp of Engineers do anything about it? No. Then a pretty strong hurricane shows up and the levees break and all of a sudden the bowl that NOLA is in filled up with water. Everyone saw this coming, it just takes something like that to happen in order to fix something.

Not to disrespect Louisiana but they do not spend any money on infrastructure. The roads are horrible. If anyone has ever taken I-10 through LA you know what I am talking about. It isn't the peoples fault, it is their government. Nagin was the worst person to have in office of NOLA during a catastrophe.


LA/TX border (Sulphur, LA) and you are ABSOLUTELY correct on everything you said the then some. Just saying people don't discount the energy that a storm surge has even with weakened levees. The water was going over the top of many it was so high. NYC levees may not be able to keep it from breaching height wise.
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567. 7544
wheres the trofs when u need them
Member Since: 6 mai 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
Quoting ConnecticutWXGuy:


and that would not be the NHC's fault at all that people don't consider 100MPH to be that serious.

I've always thought meteorology should stick to science and let the officials do the life saving. If the Hurricane has 100MPH maximum winds, then that is what should be reported. None of this "we're going to SAY it's got stronger winds, just to protect people from themselves."

People have to learn to protect themselves by themselves.



AMEN!!!!!
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Link

Nothing here to support further baratropic intensification.
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:
im very angry the NHC is lowering the wind speed for irene. people wont take this storm seriously if they do this....


and that would not be the NHC's fault at all that people don't consider 100MPH to be that serious.

I've always thought meteorology should stick to science and let the officials do the life saving. If the Hurricane has 100MPH maximum winds, then that is what should be reported. None of this "we're going to SAY it's got stronger winds, just to protect people from themselves."

People have to learn to protect themselves by themselves.
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Quoting hamla:
WHERE IS PATRAP WHEN U NEED SOME GOOD INFO ON HERE


lmao. Wait, you're serious? Are you clamoring for radar passes of new orleans and scans from non-active areas of the tropics?
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NAM valid 12ZAUG26

Link

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My friend in Mastic Beach, NY has told me they have issued Voluntary Evacuations for Long Islands south shore.
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i see irene getting to about 110 mph before landfall in north carolina
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While so many of you are taking up blog space debating the media's hype of the storm some of us are directly in the path and trying to monitor the latest developments.   Frankly, we don't need you to tell us whether it's over hyped or not right now, we need you to save the politics for after landfall.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting P451:


It's no longer a threat to:

The Lesser Antilles
The Cayman Islands
South Florida
NOLA
The deforested mountains of Haiti


When this occurs this place goes dead. Those folks aren't weather fanatics they are doom wishers for their location only.

Once the threat ceases for their location or the other (for whatever reason they have become) favored locations to scream (OH NO! Not ____! That would be terrible!) the place dies.

Sad but true. Nobody thinks to point out that the threat of lowland flooding has been greatly increased by our own deforestation and packing of people into inappropriate places. We just call it agriculture and development. If poor countries do it it is stupid, if we do it is progress and economic development.
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mandatory evac for ocean city MD as well...
Member Since: 16 septembre 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
I believe Irene is re-organizing, structure has improved and convection, while light, is not as ragged as earlier. I still can see Irene putting a small strengthening phase before it hits NC, probably to 110-115 mph.
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NYC's Mayor Bloomberg orders subways to shut down at noon on Saturday.
Link
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Update
*All graphics can be magnified by clicking on them (they can also be further magnified in the new window by clicking on the graphic)






Member Since: 29 juin 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
Hello everyone even though irene has weakened to 100mph it is still a dangerous storm
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550. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


You're right - Its just a gapping hole where the center of Irene is, where the air is sinking and the winds are calm.

But don't worry, it isn't an eye.

Sarcasm: FLAG


Irene hasn't had an eye most of the day. She's had a uniform Central Dense Overcast most the time with an Embedded Center on occasion.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I still think Irene will strengthen again...Structure continues to improve.
im very angry the NHC is lowering the wind speed for irene. people wont take this storm seriously if they do this....
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Quoting sullivanweather:
Irene's 'kicker' is now diving into Minnesota and moving east quickly.



Isn't this the trough that is to provide an jolt of energy to her as well in terms of ventilation?
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Quoting SWLACajun:


REALLY??? Just how long did the blackout last? Days or weeks filled with storm debris and destruction? Hardly inappropriate from a sensible and analytical perspective. Just realistic especially coming from someone who went through Rita and Ike. Our blackout lasted 12 days and worst was the absolute destruction and rebuilding that is still going on long after power was back on. No comparison.


and don't forget the sewers flowing in the streets and the raw sewage contaminating everything it touches...last i heard a blackout doesnt do those things...you still have a roof, dry bed, dry clothes, etc...
Member Since: 16 septembre 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3666
Quoting franck:


If the cloud tops were cooling again, then the storm would be reintensifying. So long as the cloud tops are continuing to warm, as has been the case since the moment the eyewall collapsed, the storm is dying.


I am glad you aren't my local meteorologist. Glad this is just your thoughts, even though they are wrong. Irene appears to be just like Hurricane Ike. Very large, pressures in the high 3 lower 4 cat storm range with winds in the cat 2 range, and the potential to bring massive destruction.
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I still think Irene will strengthen again...Structure continues to improve.
Member Since: 6 juillet 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32806
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


You're right - Its just a gapping hole where the center of Irene is, where the air is sinking and the winds are calm.

But don't worry, it isn't an eye.

Sarcasm: FLAG


There is virtually nothing left of the eyewall, which makes me reluctant to call it an eye. Irene will still be one heck of a transitional cyclone for the New England coast.
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Member Since: 2 août 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting DavidHOUTX:


The main reason Katrina was so destructive for NOLA (even though NOLA didn't take half of the force that Mississipi/Alabama did by being on the strong side) was due to the aging levees. Studies on the levees were done and there were multiple conclusions that were saying the levees would fail with a weak Cat 2 hurricane. Did Louisiana/Corp of Engineers do anything about it? No. Then a pretty strong hurricane shows up and the levees break and all of a sudden the bowl that NOLA is in filled up with water. Everyone saw this coming, it just takes something like that to happen in order to fix something.

Not to disrespect Louisiana but they do not spend any money on infrastructure. The roads are horrible. If anyone has ever taken I-10 through LA you know what I am talking about. It isn't the peoples fault, it is their government. Nagin was the worst person to have in office of NOLA during a catastrophe.



HEY, I LIVE IN BATON ROUGE and you are !))% CORRECT!!!! LOL
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IRENE IS A LARGE TROPICAL CYCLONE. HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND
OUTWARD UP TO 90 MILES
...150 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL
STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 290 MILES...465 KM. A
COASTAL MARINE OBSERVING SITE AT FOLLY ISLAND SOUTH CAROLINA
RECENTLY MEASURED A WIND GUST TO 55 MPH...89 KM/H.
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Just a thought:

If the storm does hit NYC as advertised (storm surge) won't the water flooding the subways test the theory that "tunnels" in the storm's path weaken the storm?

Where's the tunnels guy when you need him?
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Quoting P451:


It's no longer a threat to:

The Lesser Antilles
The Cayman Islands
South Florida
NOLA
The deforested mountains of Haiti


When this occurs this place goes dead. Those folks aren't weather fanatics they are doom wishers for their location only.

Once the threat ceases for their location or the other (for whatever reason they have become) favored locations to scream (OH NO! Not ____! That would be terrible!) the place dies.



I guess so. Interesting.
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too much moisture there for Irene not to re-strengthen, imo, even with the dry air entrainment.
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Quoting gulfbreeze:
NO was on the west side not a direct hit or strong side.


The main reason Katrina was so destructive for NOLA (even though NOLA didn't take half of the force that Mississipi/Alabama did by being on the strong side) was due to the aging levees. Studies on the levees were done and there were multiple conclusions that were saying the levees would fail with a weak Cat 2 hurricane. Did Louisiana/Corp of Engineers do anything about it? No. Then a pretty strong hurricane shows up and the levees break and all of a sudden the bowl that NOLA is in filled up with water. Everyone saw this coming, it just takes something like that to happen in order to fix something.

Not to disrespect Louisiana but they do not spend any money on infrastructure. The roads are horrible. If anyone has ever taken I-10 through LA you know what I am talking about. It isn't the peoples fault, it is their government. Nagin was the worst person to have in office of NOLA during a catastrophe.
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Quoting gulfbreeze:
NO was on the west side not a direct hit or strong side.


Correct
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Irene's 'kicker' is now diving into Minnesota and moving east quickly.

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532. 996tt
Quoting quakeman55:

Ike was about the strength Irene is now, and Irene is even larger than Ike was. But I hardly think Ike was overhyped after what happened...

Just a little food for thought.


Ike storm surge moved a lot of water. The height of the storm surge in Pensacola, Florida for Ike was comparable to Katrina and Ivan (storms which came much closer). Then consider the areas with the most damage in Galviston were narrow beachy areas that were just barely above sea level where the homes were built. Surge just went unabated over the land and into the bay or sound. Storm surge here should get pretty disrupted with an OBX hit and OBX has probably had much worse over the years.

I can say first hand that the surge and wave action along Florida East Coast are not near what other storms have produced in the past. Waves at Cocoa are probably just solid 8 foot wind chopped swells. I was expecting double over head. After many jelly fish or sea lice stings and some denial, I am heading back out to try it again around 4.
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531. hamla
FOR THOSE WHO FORGOT OR DONT KNOW
when the surge from KATRINA hit I-10 going over lake pontachtrain ie: da twinspan it took those setions of concrete and planted them in the lake and katrina was not a cat 5
so dont fool with mother nature u will loose
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Quoting zoomiami:


New York City survived the largest blackout in history with zero problems. This post in completely inappropriate.


REALLY??? Just how long did the blackout last? Days or weeks filled with storm debris and destruction? Hardly inappropriate from a sensible and analytical perspective. Just realistic especially coming from someone who went through Rita and Ike. Our blackout lasted 12 days and worst was the absolute destruction and rebuilding that is still going on long after power was back on. No comparison.
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Hi Everyone...

Seems like Irene has reached her peak and not likely to reintensify. (from what I gathered from Dr. Masters.

That is good news! Hopefully it will move quickly and get in and out.

Stay safe all in Irene path!!

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

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