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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Here is a local news station for you LeviLink streaming available.
Member Since: 24 juin 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1437
Based on current location of HH over JAX I'm doubtful they'll be able to make a center fix / pressure estimate before the 5pm full. Think they'll delay the update until it gets the first vortex update?
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Quoting AllStar17:
Irene appears like it wants to turn NNE in short order.


Doubt it, look at the long satellite loop...Due north.

Link

(Turn on tropical points)
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The reason why Category 3 landfall can't be ruled out is because of Gulf Stream... but the storm is getting weaker so I have no clue.
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Quoting kaiden:


We know who the real Taz is, just leave the phony alone.



i no you guys no that am the real me but do the admins no
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Charleston Air Force Base
Lat: 32.91 Lon: -80.03 Elev: 59
Last Update on Aug 26, 2:56 pm EDT


Light Rain

75 F
(24 C) Humidity: 96 %
Wind Speed: N 20 G 25 MPH
Barometer: 29.66" (1004.2 mb)
Dewpoint: 74 F (23 C)
Visibility: 8.00 mi.
More Local Wx: 3 Day History:


Not to bad inland a little bit.
Member Since: 29 août 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5236
Quoting stormchaserDAZ:
irene is dead look at lasted vis sattilite http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/tracking/at20 1109_sat.html


You're an idiot, seriously. Irene is far from dead, and saying something like that could seriously endanger people.
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1070. Levi32
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I don't know about you, but this has been one of the most interesting storms I have ever tracked.


Probably because it's been aimed at your house :P

But yes, it has been an interesting storm.
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Quoting seafarer459:


Hey Taz! Happy to see the real deal. #4, on ignore!



hi how are you
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1068. kaiden
Quoting Tazmanian:
hi guys i sure hop you this is the real me by looking at my join date


We know who the real Taz is, just leave the phony alone.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Dr. Masters, NHC, and Weather Channel are all saying the highest tide of the month. Is it the lowest or the highest tide of the month, anyone?


this is the new moon high tide for next 2 days... average is 2 feet above normal high
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Quoting Levi32:


We'll probably know in 12 hours whether it's going to tighten up or not. I'm still keeping it at 115mph at landfall. We'll see how it goes. These finer details in strengthening/weakening trends are difficult to forecast.


I don't know about you, but this has been one of the most interesting storms I have ever tracked.
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Reporting that the winds is getting stronger with that tiny cell coming closer. It's blowing from east to west.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
hi guys i sure hop you this is the real me by looking at my join date


Hey Taz! Happy to see the real deal. #4, on ignore!
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Irene appears like it wants to turn NNE in short order.
Member Since: 29 juin 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5238
1060. cutgr
Quoting MyrtleCanes:
Headed back out to the pier here in Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, SC, was well overhead this morning should be nuts now


cherry grove nice place.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
irene is dead look at lasted vis sattilite http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/tracking/at20 1109_sat.html
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Quoting NoVaForecaster:


EPIC SUPER ULTRA POOFAGE TIME FOR YOU!!!!!
lol...reminds me of the campfire scene in BLAZING SADDLES.
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1053. Levi32
Quoting wunderweatherman123:
alright and i know ive asked you this but are you still keeping your forecast as a cat 3 making landfall in NC or will you change it?


We'll probably know in 12 hours whether it's going to tighten up or not. I'm still keeping it at 115mph at landfall. We'll see how it goes. These finer details in strengthening/weakening trends are difficult to forecast.
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Quoting Thaale:

The glass-half-full side of spring tide is that for the area (around NYC it looks like) where the highest storm surge comes during low tide, it will be the lowest low tide of the month.
Dr. Masters, NHC, and Weather Channel are all saying the highest tide of the month. Is it the lowest or the highest tide of the month, anyone?
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


Good to see the real incarnation of Taz has returned.



i was at work this got in home



all so if am gone during the day and some one like this comes on when am gone its not me
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Quoting 900MB:
Back to the computer. Been away for a couple hours...

Anyone have some recon? Looks like weakening has stabilized.

P.S. NYC is shutting down.


An HH plane is on it's way, currently over east Florida.
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Based on MIMIC and IR I wouldn't rule out if Irene makes landfall as a gigantic cat 1 in NC.
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Headed back out to the pier here in Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, SC, was well overhead this morning should be nuts now
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Something tells me that many (most? all?) of those accusing various authorities of "fear-mongering" and "over-hyping" for taking precautions to ensure that damage to life and property is minimized are probably the exact same people who were first online after Katrina or the Japanase tsunami to accuse authorities of malfeasance for failing to do enough to warn and protect their citizens.

Armchair quarterbacking is a famous American sport, but it sure does get tedious to listen to...


Well said.
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Quoting Levi32:


I think catastrophic would be if Irene was a Cat 4 or Cat 5, not that damage won't be severe there.


NC does have a lot of barrier islands to protect the big cities (i.e. Texas). There will still be destruction, enormous erosion problems, and a lot of wild life killed but this will not be a tsunami!
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1040. Speeky
All the birds in New York are gone. Its dead silent out here in Westchester county. Also why hasn't anyone boarded up their windows?
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1038. tkeith
Quoting Tazmanian:
hi guys i sure hop you this is the real me by looking at my join date
everyone knows it's not you Taz.

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Quoting tiggeriffic:


can u find me one for the Chas area...press just called, still no power, wants updates...last i got on my phone was conditions for us to be worst from 3pm - 8pm tonight...tia and press thanks you too...already told him you were posting winds for us :)


Folly Island

Member Since: 29 août 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5236
1036. 900MB
Back to the computer. Been away for a couple hours...

Anyone have some recon? Looks like weakening has stabilized.

P.S. NYC is shutting down.
Member Since: 11 juin 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 643
Quoting Tazmanian:
hi guys i sure hop you this is the real me by looking at my join date


Good to see the real incarnation of Taz has returned.
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Quoting tiggeriffic:


can u find me one for the Chas area...press just called, still no power, wants updates...last i got on my phone was conditions for us to be worst from 3pm - 8pm tonight...tia and press thanks you too...already told him you were posting winds for us :)


Link
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1032. Dennis8
..HURRICANE WATCH IN EFFECT
NEW YORK CITY-MANHATTAN
...FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM SATURDAY EVENING THROUGH LATE SUNDAY
NIGHT...

TONIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR THIS EVENING
THEN MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A
SLIGHT CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOWS IN
THE LOWER 70S. SOUTHEAST WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH. CHANCE OF RAIN
20 PERCENT.
SATURDAY
SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. HUMID WITH HIGHS IN THE LOWER
80S. SOUTHEAST WINDS AROUND 5 MPH...INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 MPH WITH
GUSTS UP TO 20 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. CHANCE OF RAIN 90 PERCENT.
SATURDAY NIGHT
TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS POSSIBLE WITH HURRICANE
CONDITIONS ALSO POSSIBLE. RAIN. RAIN MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES. HUMID
WITH LOWS IN THE UPPER 60S. EAST WINDS 30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO
45 MPH...INCREASING TO 40 TO 50 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 60 MPH AFTER
MIDNIGHT. CHANCE OF RAIN NEAR 100 PERCENT.
SUNDAY
HURRICANE CONDITIONS POSSIBLE. RAIN. RAIN MAY BE HEAVY AT
TIMES. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 70S. NORTHEAST WINDS 55 TO 70 MPH...
BECOMING NORTHWEST 55 TO 65 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. GUSTS UP TO
85 MPH...DECREASING TO 80 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON.
CHANCE OF RAIN NEAR
100 PERCENT.
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If you live in a well-built home or building a bit inland or at a higher elevation (20-ft above sea level or more)... think about calling your friend's family that lives near the beach or in a low-lying area near the river. Invite them to spend Saturday night and Sunday with YOUR family.

Some people won't evacuate simply because they can't afford it. Others just don't want to inconvenience anybody. Still others aren't aware that they have anyplace else to go. In some of those cases, people are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.

Your phone call and offer might just save their lives. It may be a BIG relief to them. If you have a fenced back yard... invite them to bring their dog. Cats or birds will likely not be that big of a deal for 1 day. Some people won't evac without their pets. Tell them to bring their cars, boat or RV. Some people won't leave without "stuff".

If you are going to call... do it today. Give people a chance to pack and leave. Give them a safe place to go. One day won't hurt... and the chance to evac safely may be the biggest gift you ever gave them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Something tells me that many (most? all?) of those accusing various authorities of "fear-mongering" and "over-hyping" for taking precautions to ensure that damage to life and property is minimized are probably the exact same people who were first online after Katrina or the Japanase tsunami to accuse authorities of malfeasance for failing to do enough to warn and protect their citizens.

Armchair quarterbacking is a famous American sport, but it sure does get tedious to listen to...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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