Monday, August 22, 2011
Irene still expected to miss Florida, but the Carolinas need to stay prepared
Special Irene Update Monday Night, August 22, 2011
I have been showing you the cone of concern or the area where Irene could possibly track but it can be misleading especially if you are looking at the exact track in that cone. Last night the hurricane center had the storm's center tracking right over Jacksonville which I knew was not even close. I like looking at the probability of tropical storm force winds to get a better handle on where these finicky tropical systems are heading. Look at the red and purple shading which show the best chances of sustained wind speeds of 39 mph or higher. Notice Florida is not in the red zone when it comes to the more widespread damaging wind and it is still pointing toward the Carolinas. So while our weather team has not given the official all clear here at home, I do think we can by tomorrow for sure. Make sure to tune in for the latest.
I do think this storm misses Jacksonville by 250 miles. This is important because it means I do think our sustained wind speeds stay between 20-30 mph with isolated gusts at the beaches to 45 mph. As a result I am not expecting bridges to be closed like we saw with Tropical Storm Fay. You need sustained winds of 35 to 40 mph and I do not see that happening.
More good news! Beach erosion will not be as bad with more of an eastward track. There will be some but not nearly as severe. I am leaning more toward a north wind Thursday night into Friday morning rather than a strong northeast wind which will help matters. Surfers should be excited but be careful of those rip currents. Latest surf estimates are still in the 5 to 8 foot range with maybe a few 10 foot sets!
But there is a drawback...no help for our drought. Latest rain estimates from Irene should remain under one inch with some areas west of the river not seeing much more than a few drops.
Now back to our friends farther North. How will our friends in the Carolinas and farther north fare. Well this morning this storm was more on a Floyd type path but with the latest information I think it may be more Bonnie-esque which is a storm I covered in 1998 while doing weather in Myrtle Beach.
Take a look at its track. I do not expect another Bob for New England like we saw in 1991, but maybe history will repeat itself when we had a hurricane make landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina before it heads out to sea. My gut feeling early this evening was this storm could possibly just skirt the Outer Banks but now I am not so sure. I am concerned that Irene is getting so strong so fast that it will have a tougher time making that fortunate turn to the northeast, instead of just making a glancing blow to the Outer Banks. These stronger hurricanes can sometimes create their own atmosphere in some cases and that is why you can never let your guard down. Think of how easy it is to turn a jet ski but Irene is more like a cruise ship so to speak. Those boats take a little more time to turn and if Bonnie starts speeding up, watch out!
Tonight, Irene is cruising along and now has 100 mph wind speeds and is about 15-20 mph stronger than forecasted so this can certainly have an impact on the track. There are two hurricane hunter planes flying around the storm tonight and they will have a whole new set of numbers to feed into the weather models. So by tomorrow morning I do think we will have a much better handle on the track. While I still think we are okay in Florida. I still have to be concerned about South Carolina as well as North Carolina. I do think New England should be spared the worst with a stronger trough in place. Take a look. The big dip in the jet stream is easy to see on this upper-wind chart.
The trough is much stronger than forecasted and I do not see it filling in over the next several days. Another reinforcing disturbance is already being spotted in Minnesota and another one behind that in the Pacific Northwest. So even though we have a monster hurricane it would certainly feel its effects and the big ship should be able to eventually be towed out to sea, hopefully before it creates too much havoc and damage. Another thing to note is the big circle over Texas. That is the high pressure that has brought them relentless heat and even a few heat waves this summer here at home. It is so strong that it is helping the strong trough develop in the East. So thank your friends in Texas. Their historic drought and heat wave is actually our best friends right now. I will keep you posted on Irene and hopefully we can give the official all clear for Florida in the near future! Good night!