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Aug 25 2011

Irene could rival the great New England storm of 1938

If you watch hurricanes a lot, you might notice they often turn more than initially forecast. Systems moving west curve more north than expected, north moving storms curve more east. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens alot. When the tropical depression that gave birth to Irene first formed, many storm trackers assumed or hoped this system would follow suit and spare the US east coast. For now, that does not appear to be the case. Via Jeff Masters at the WeatherUnderground:

Hurricane Irene 2 PM EDT 25 Aug 2011 via the National Hurricane Center. Click image for latest storm forecast

Irene will likely hit Eastern North Carolina, but the storm is going northwards after that, and may deliver an extremely destructive blow to the mid-Atlantic and New England states. I am most concerned about the storm surge danger to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and the rest of the New England coast. Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 – 15 feet of water, to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded. I strongly recommend that all residents of the mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk. … [See] the NHC’s Interactive Storm Surge Risk Map.

Of particular interest will be the effect of high winds should Irene roll over Manhattan or other large cities. The juxtaposition of tall buildings, narrow streets, and whipping wind could result in regions of difficult to predict dampening and amplification working chaotically on acres of siding, glass windows and concrete statues and other structures hundreds of feet off the ground. The streets of the Big Apple could become zones of jagged flying debris, an urban artillery range with glass and metal shrapnel ripping in all directions, punctuated by boulder-sized chunks of concrete raining down. Even a relatively modest Category 1 storm would be a potential killer for anyone who pokes their head outside. In addition the subways could flood, some taking days or weeks to repair, inconvenient for commuters, fatal for uncounted thousands of homeless underground dwellers.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    The Lorax

    Massachusetts here. We haven’t had a bad storm since Hurricane Bob, and that was about two decades ago. Most storms lose their oomph before hitting us, and if it’s hitting as far south as North Carolina, well we’ll get some wind and rain sure, maybe a dropped limb or two, but that’s about it.

    We’ve had storms hit the Carolina’s and came up this way, and I didn’t even know they were hurricanes. Besides which, weathermen up here have a tendency to make things sound a lot worse than they are. Sensationalism, I suppose.

    I’m sure some people could point out that I might not be taking this seriously.. well, the odds are that there simply won’t be any serious destruction. And those are very good odds.

  2. 2
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    If you’re away from the coast and rivers/creeks, and in a solidly built storm rated structure, I would say there’s very little risk. Not sure how narrowly built, traditional wood frame new England homes will fare though. Some could suffer major roof damage and a few might even partially collapse.

  3. 3
    muzakbox

    I feel like we always get a lot of hype but no real storms. I live north of Hartford in the Connecticut River Valley and I actually feel like no matter how much a storm gets hyped I usually just get a bunch of rain and nothing else.

  4. 4
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    I feel the same way about snow down here in the south :)

  5. 5
    GenghisFaun

    I guess it’s probably too much to hope that Irene will wipe out Pat Robertson – and Pat Robertson only – before changing it’s course due East and dying off. Of course, if that did happen, I’d probably have to start believing there is a god. ;^P

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