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August 26, 2011 / Dave Gorham

East Coast Braces for Irene…65 Million People Are Either Ready or Not

Hurricane Irene is currently located about 300 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It’s currently moving northward at 14 mph with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph and higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 290 miles from the eye with tropical storm conditions expected by this afternoon along the Carolina coast. Some strengthening is possible with Irene peaking as a category 3 hurricane; however, the potential for strengthening now appears to be decreasing.

Irene’s making big news for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the further north it travels along the East Coast, the less prepared for tropical storms the general population tends to be.  YourWeatherBlog constantly praises the value of preparedness and while it may be a little late in the game for many to get prepared, here are a couple of carefully selected links that will help:

If you’re evacuating:  What’s In Your Go Bag?

If you’re staying put:  NOAA Hurricane Supply Checklist

VERY IMPORTANT:  Flood Safety Awareness Fact Sheet

ImpactReadySM Online Resources

Irene is currently a 24 out of 50 on the Hurricane Severity Index with 15 points for size and 9 for intensity.  ImpactWeather currently predicts a max HSI for Irene of 30 – a significantly powerful and potentially devastating storm.

Irene continues moving northward this morning but is expected to take a turn to the north-northeast after making landfall tomorrow near Cape Lookout around midday. Slow weakening is expected as it moves up the East Coast. However, Irene will still be a rather large category 1 hurricane at landfall on Long Island on Sunday, which puts it near the city of New York around 1 PM eastern time, a little earlier than previously anticipated. Significant power outages will be likely along the East Coast as several metro areas and tens of millions could be affected by the storm. Hurricane watches and warnings are currently in place from North Carolina to Massachusetts. 

 Forecast track of Hurricane Irene. Image: ImpactWeather TropicsWatch

The outer squalls from Irene are currently moving over coastal areas of the Carolinas and will continue moving ashore through late Saturday. The squalls will likely reach coastal counties of Virginia and Maryland later today and continue through Sunday afternoon. Heavy squalls will be possible beginning Saturday morning through late Sunday across coastal counties of both Delaware and New Jersey. Saturday afternoon into the early evening, squalls will move onshore Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island with the strongest squalls expected Sunday afternoon. Squalls will move over Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southern Maine early Sunday and continue into Monday. Irene is expected to weaken to a tropical storm over Maine on Monday and then become an extra-tropical system late Monday or Tuesday.

 Excessive rainfall expected from Hurricane Irene along the East Coast. Image: ImpactWeather

If Irene strengthens to a category 3 hurricane prior to making landfall around Cape Lookout tomorrow, this will be the first major hurricane to strike the U.S. coast since Wilma back in 2005 and the first hurricane at all to strike the U.S. since Ike in 2008. Wilma made landfall in southwestern Florida as a category 3 hurricane.

As with any storm, our thoughts are with those along the East Coast who will be impacted by the storm.

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