Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene downgraded and goes hybrid! No Way Jose forms in the Atlantic!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Well here is a once in a lifetime event you see above. New York City officially had the center of a hurricane make a direct landfall for the first time since 1893 close to 8:30 a.m. But wait! We got a later statement from the National Hurricane Center that the center passed over at 9:00 a.m. with 65 mph winds which made it a tropical storm. I had the center over the Big Apple at 8:32 a.m. when it was still classified as a hurricane. So you decide. The picture above is my evidence. Hmmmmm... Either way, this hurricane actually spared New York City the worst and everybody is breathing a sigh of relief. Now there will still be flooding  and power outage issues but the feared storm surge several feet high never materialized. A surge of only 3.5 feet above normal was reported and power remained on near Battery Park! The wind gusts were also not what you would normally see in a hurricane and the radar above shows why. There is no eye wall and the dry air and wind shear that started working into this hurricane overnight really took its toll.

Wind gusts of 30 mph? Wow and the eye of the hurricane is passing overhead! This is why I think Irene was more of a hybrid hurricane as it moved over the Big Apple. Notice the highest wind gusts were far from the center which is  more typical of an extratropical system. Your peak wind was over the Atlantic and up into New England. My friends in New England will have to hunker down today but it will not be anything they have not seen before. It will be like a strong nor'easter with a 4 to 7 hour period of 40 to 60 mph wind with only isolated higher  gusts along with numerous power outages and downed trees. By New England standards it will not be a huge deal. What will Irene's legacy be? I think it will be historic record crests on the area rivers that will in some cases be higher than Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The rainfall map below tells the story!

Notice the purple and deep blues on the map...those are 10-20 inch rainfall amounts or what some areas would normally see in a 4 to 6 month time frame. You combine this with a wet late summer and the news is not good. So I think Irene's real damage will come in the form of river flooding later this week and next weekend which means the wind may have been downgraded but the problems are just beginning. North Carolina really saw the brunt of this storm along with portions of Virginia where clean-up will take much longer due to its very slow movement over land yesterday. This helped folks farther north but was no help for residents from the Outer Banks to Jacksonville and New Bern where they will remember this storm as a monster.

The good news is my relatives in Maryland are safe and sound and the boardwalk in Ocean City is still standing but not before sustained winds of 60 mph were reported last night with a few gusts to hurricane force. The thing that saved us in this enormous hurricane was there really were never any reports of sustained hurricane force winds. Even when the center of Irene made a second landfall just north of Atlantic City overnight sustained winds only reached 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph. Let's take a look at the water vapor or atmospheric moisture located in the mid-levels for a clue as to what happened.

It does look like while this system was large there was enough dry air that was entrained into it by time it move north of the Outer Banks by late yesterday so its transition to a hybrid really began at that time and explains why most folks are breathing a sigh of relief in the Northeast. One other thing to remember is Irene lost its inner core on Friday afternoon so you can even say that it could have been a lot worse in North Carolina. It grew too big too quickly over the islands and it could not maintain itself. If it was a smaller storm it may have been a different story.

Now Irene is so huge it is sending us another surge of dry air today bringing us our second consecutive day of record-breaking heat here in Jacksonville. It hit 99 yesterday breaking the record and today we will at least tie the record of 97 set back in 1959. What is interesting about the picture above is look how quiet it is to the west of Irene. Nature like to keep a balance and since we had pressures near 28.11 inches on the East Coast there is plenty of dry air and higher pressure to the West to make up for it. North America has turned into a ghost town on the weather map! But it is still busy in other parts of the tropics....uh oh!!

Do not be spooked! My slogan with this storm is  NO WAY JOSE!! You can thank Irene's wind shear for keeping this system a weak tropical storm. There is a tropical storm warning for Bermuda but I am still trying to figure out if there is more sunshine or clouds with this system. Either way it should be history in a couple days and not make history like Irene. It has been quite a week and now it is time to count all of our blessings that is for sure. We had one of the five largest hurricanes of all-time move northward and it could have been a lot worse. Here in Jacksonville we just had a few minutes of rain and some refreshing breezes. No rain is expected this evening but when could our next threat in the tropics be and we are not talking Jose. I will have that answer and a cool weather question for you to keep you cool with another hot day on the way. See you soon. Have a wonderful day.

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