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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene slams into North Carolina

Radar Image courtesy of Weather Underground

Hurricane Irene came ashore near Cape Hatteras this morning around 7:35 am according to The Weather Channel. The storm came ashore with 85 MPH winds as a strong Category 1 hurricane. Irene's intensity was significantly reduced compared to just a day earlier when the storm was a Category 3 in the early morning and a Cat 2 throughout much of the afternoon and night.

Hurricane Irene makes landfall in N.C.; may hit Washington area Saturday night (Washington Post)


The brunt of the storm was moving north from Cape Hatteras and was expected to arrive in the Washington area late Saturday and into Sunday morning before heading toward New York and New England.

Hurricane-force winds battered the North Carolina coast, knocking out power in places.

--snip--

The storm was on a track that experts have feared for decades as they watched the rapid expansion of coastal resorts and housing developments in the lowlands behind them. They have worried that a storm tracking along the shore line, renewing its force over the warm Atlantic and then ripping with each rotation like a circular saw into coastal areas, could produce unprecedented devastation.

“It looks like the track of Irene is going to have a major impact along the East Coast starting in the Carolinas all the way up through Maine,” said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Irene's weakening averted a worst case scenario but no one should assume that this means that there is no danger. Tropical Storm warnings extend very far inland and both a strong cat 1 hurricane as well as tropical storm winds can be very dangerous.

Additionally, the storm surge built up when Irene was a Cat 3 storm. As we have seen in the past, when a hurricane reaches high intensity and then decreases, the storm surge does not necessarily settle down and certainly not as quickly as the winds do. This will be a major concern as the hurricane progresses up the coast towards New York City and New Jersey. The coast in this region forms a right angle which will act as a funnel collecting the high surge of water and funnelling it up into New York Harbor thratening lower Manhatten, Queens, Long Island and the Jersey shore with dangerous surf.

Hurricane Evacuation Orders Ignored By Many (NBC News)

As Hurricane Irene spins toward New York and New Jersey, more than 1 million tri-staters in vulnerable coastal areas are under evacuation orders -- and many say they won't leave.

In Belmar, N.J. on Saturday morning, about a dozen surfers were ignoring warnings and taking advantage of the rough seas.

Nearby, resident Ava Nardelli was taking her morning walk and said her plan was to stay put.

"We're going to ride it out," she said.

--snip--

In New Jersey, mandatory evacuations were ordered for Cape May County, coastal Atlantic County, Long Beach Island and a growing list of Monmouth County shore communities.

New York City's primary evacuation zone includes Battery Park City, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway and Midland Beach and South Beach in Staten Island. See the zone in orange on this map.

"There's no way in hell that we are leaving home," said Pat Jones, a resident of New York's Rockaways for 30 years. "This is my home, and I'm staying here and protecting my home. Wouldn't you?"

Mayor Bloomberg said Saturday that ignoring evacuation orders "isn't cute."

“Heed these warnings and get yourself to safety before the bad weather hits,” he said.

New York City will be suspending operation of mass transit in the affected areas by noon today (Saturday) and people need to understand that once the storm starts to hit the area, there are no longer any options to leave. If you live in a flood prone region that has been identified as an evacuation zone, the best situation is to leave if ordered or requested to do so.

Remember the adage - "Run from the water, Hide form the wind". Most deaths during tropical weath are due to drownings in floods, not from wind. So if your area is prone to flood, get out. A Cat 1 hurricane could bring 3 - 5 feet of water ashore above what the rain and normal tides are bringing.

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