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Tracking Irene’s Impact Using Historical Tracks

posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011 at 7:35 pm
Irene Infrared Imagery, Image: NOAA

Irene Infrared Imagery, Image: NOAA

To track Irene, go to MWL’s hurricane tracking page. Latest track available from National Hurricane Center. You can check out expert weather bloggers on the links to your left. I’ll have more analysis of Hurricane Irene later in this post.

I’ve been researching land falling hurricanes close to the track of Irene and it appears Hurricane Floyd (1999) may be the storm with the closest track and intensity to estimate the damage residents along the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast can expect.

Hurricane Floyd 1999 Track

Hurricane Floyd 1999 Track

Hurricane Floyd 1999

Hurricane Floyd 1999, Image: NOAA

Floyd made it’s first US landfall in Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 16th as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. (Hurricane Irene currently has maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour. It is 265 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.)

With maximum sustained wind of 105 miles per hour, storm surge along the southeastern portion of the state was 9 – 10 feet. This caused significant destruction along coastal communities. Most of the damage from Hurricane Floyd occurred as a result of inland flooding. Rainfall totals from 15-20″ of rain fell across portions of the state. River levels were high as a result of Hurricane Dennis passing through North Carolina weeks earlier, dumping 15″ of rain. (Coincidentally, another Hurricane Irene passed by North Carolina weeks after Floyd, dumping even more rain on the state.)

Hurricane Floyd Track and Rainfall Accumulations

Hurricane Floyd Track and Rainfall Accumulations, Image: NOAA

Floyd continued to move north toward Virginia, crossing the Delmarva Peninsula, briefly entering the Atlantic Ocean once again before making another landfall as a tropical storm in Long Island, New York. Torrential rainfall was reported in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and other portions of the Northeast and New England. Floyd produced a storm surge of 2.8 feet in Philadelphia. The greatest threat from Floyd was widespread power outages ( close to 1.3 million people in three states) due to strong winds and heavy rains. Mudslides occurred along bluffs overlooking the Hudson River due to heavy rains.

Irene tracked due north for the past 12-hours, but as of the latest advisory has made turns to the north-northeast.

Dry air is being pulled into the storm from the south and southwest weakening the storm slightly as it makes its way toward the Carolina coast. It is still a powerful storm.

Irene Rainfall Forecast, Image: NOAA

Irene Rainfall Forecast, Image: NOAA

Damage impacts include 10 – 15″ of rainfall.  Storm surge along the North Carolina coastline could be anywhere from 6 – 11′, similar to Hurricane Floyd. The National Hurricane Center is also warning:

"STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH
AS 4 TO 8 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL WITHIN THE 
HURRICANE WARNING AREA FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA 
BORDER NORTHWARD TO CAPE COD
INCLUDING SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND ITS
TRIBUTARIES. NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY
LARGE...DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE-THREATENING WAVES."

Storm surge is dependent on many factors; including the shape of the coastline, the terrain of the earth underwater, the shape of the inland waterways. Storm surge can wash over barrier islands if its higher than the elevation. Persistent winds can drive water up tidal bays and rivers such as Chesapeake Bay and and the Delaware River and cause inland flooding due to rising river levels.

Here are links for coastal flood impacts for the following locations: Virginia, Delmarva Peninsula, New York City and Long Island.

Other storms of note for the New York area with a similar path include the 1821 Long Island/Norfolk Hurricane, the 1893 New York Hurricane, and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane. However, when I looked back at the history and strength of the storms on their path toward North Carolina, the storm that best estimates the possible impacts from Irene is Hurricane Floyd.

My previous post has links to local TV forecasters in the impacted regions.

Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans.

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