Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Irene's first waves washing up on the First Coast

August 24, 2011

The big news today is that Irene has gained strength as expected with wind speeds of 120 mph as it moves northwest at 12 mph. The reports out of the Bahamas is not good with folks saying they have not seen a hurricane like this in decades. Some are comparing it to Andrew on this the anniversary of it making landfall as a category five in South Florida. Although Andrew as a much stronger storm when it went through the Bahamas with wind speeds closer to 140 mph. The eye is 20 nautical miles across. This is an incredible sight to behold. No matter how many hurricanes I have seen I always get goosebumps. You can see the power of nature firsthand.

Here is the good news! This powerful storm is still expected to miss us by at least 250 miles. The bad news is this hurricane is a bit larger than normal. So while we do not have to cancel plans this weekend I still would not go swimming or even boating until at least Sunday. Tropical storm force winds of 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph will be likely only 150 miles east of Jacksonville. Rip currents will be deadly and it is the third leading weather killer in the US over the last 10 years. Enough said.

Here are the main impacts:

1) Offshore boating is off limits

2) Deadly rip currents and beach erosion--while it helps having a north-northwest wind during the peak of our wind gusts, unfortunately this is the time of year for flood tides or high astronomical tides. We are near a new moon phase and the autumn equinox  less than 4 weeks away it exerts more of a pull on our high and low tides. A coastal flood advisory may be needed with tides running about 1 to 2 feet above normal.  The surf of 5 to 8 feet with isolated 10 foot sets will also pound the sand. A high surf advisory will also be needed.

3) Gusty winds will be likely near the beaches which may give us a high wind warning for the eastern portions of the area. While most of us will see wind speeds in the 15 to 25 mph range with gusts to 30 mph. The beaches could see 25-30 mph wind speeds with gusts of 40 mph. Yes, hold onto those kites and even if you do the wind may finish them off.

4) Rainfall still look low impact. I only see a quarter to half inch possible at the beaches and maybe a quarter inch for areas from 1-95 to the river. West of the river I cannot promise you any rain.

You can see the rainfall map and yes it is a little overdone over us but farther north a different story. Speaking of which I do think North Carolina misses a direct landfall by 10.5 miles by my latest calculations, but will see windy conditions. Charlotte will be missed by 330 miles so wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph are possible. Farther north the DELMARVA will have 40 to 50 mph gusts, flooding rain of 4-8 inches, isolated tornadoes, downed trees, and power if you have plans to go North I would cancel them. The major cities should be spared but all bets are off by time you get to Providence, Rhode Island northward where they could see Irene make a beeline north and it would be a stronger hurricane than Bob in 1991 unfortunately. This is one scenario starting to take shape. I will be back this evening to explain why this nightmare could be a reality. Take care and be safe.

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