Friday, August 26, 2011
IRENE: WATCH, WARNING
Hurricane Irene is now on a path that could take it dangerously close to, if not over, the mid-Atlantic coastline and New York City on Sunday, posing a serious danger to millions of people.
Irene could be "once-in-50-year" hurricane for the Northeast.
The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center is confident that Irene will strike the Outer Banks of North Carolina Saturday evening as a strong Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane.
Beyond that point, latest indications put Irene on a path extremely close to or over the mid-Atlantic coast and New York City before plowing into western New England. This could mean the worst effects from a hurricane in the region in 50 years.
Irene is expected to track near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva coast Saturday night, then could pass within 30 miles of New York City Sunday evening as a weakening Category 2 hurricane.
Such a path would lead to severe impacts that could prompt officials to force evacuations. All residents and visitors in the path of Irene should heed these orders if issued and prepare homes and businesses for Irene's onslaught in the meantime.
Strong Winds, Coastal Impacts Along and East of Irene's Eye
On its current forecast path, Irene would spread destructive hurricane-force winds (gusts between 80 to 100 mph) across the Delmarva coast, eastern New Jersey, New York City, western Long Island and southwestern New England.
A track directly over Atlantic City, N.J., and New York City would bring these intense winds westward to Philadelphia.
The strongest and most sustained hurricane-force winds will be measured in the immediate vicinity of Irene's center.
Widespread tree damage, major power outages and structural damage to buildings and homes would ensue. Glass windows could shatter along the sides of New York City skyscrapers.
Damaging tropical storm-force winds (winds between 40 and 70 mph) will extend 150 miles westward and nearly 250 miles eastward from Irene's center.
These winds will likely reach Richmond, Va., Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., Albany, N.Y., and nearly all of New England, threatening to cause significant tree damage and power outages.
The winds will have no trouble downing trees where recent flooding and record rainfall has saturated the ground in areas such as Philadelphia and New York City.
Irene will also cause extremely rough surf to pound the entire mid-Atlantic and New England coastline with severe beach erosion and significant coastal flooding an almost certain guarantee.
A flooding storm surge will further inundate the coastline.
Yachts and boats docked along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts should be moved to higher ground if possible.
The worst case scenario in terms of flooding storm surge for New York City and the mid-Atlantic coast would be Irene tracking directly overhead or slightly to the west.
Serious Flooding Rain From Irene's Center Westward
Places along and west of the center will be subject to Irene's heaviest rain.
The current path of Irene puts places from eastern North Carolina to eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York and western New England at risk to receive 4 to 8 inches of rainfall with locally higher totals.
That rain alone will trigger widespread flooding issues, but AccuWeather.com is extremely concerned for serious flood problems where recent heavy rain has already saturated the ground.
The drainage systems in Philadelphia and New York City are sure to get overwhelmed.
Track Not Set in Stone
"Since a small jog to the west or east would lead to a huge difference in impacts, [AccuWeather.com meteorologists] suggest monitoring this situation closely," cautioned AccuWeather.com Hurricane and Tropical Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski to all residents and visitors in the mid-Atlantic and New England.
If Irene tracks more to the west than currently expected, more of the mid-Atlantic and New York State will be subject to its severe impacts.
It is not totally out of the question that Irene tracks farther eastward than currently forecast. Such a track would shift the zone of flooding rain farther eastward and cause eastern New England to endure the brunt of Irene's destructive winds and coastal flooding.