August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene Spares Haiti, but Threatens the United States

I've been blogging for some years now about the apparently increasing impact of North Atlantic hurricanes, and in particular their effect on one of the poorest nations on the planet, Haiti.  Today Hurricane Irene has left Haiti in its wake, and according to the United Nations this time around:

Hurricane Irene has left impoverished Haiti relatively unscathed, with only isolated damage from flooding and no widespread serious emergencies in a country that is still struggling to recover from last year’s devastating earthquake.

Now Irene is continuing on her path and threatening the United States of America, by most measures the richest nation on the planet, with rather more than just "isolated damage". According to the National Hurricane Center's latest public advisory:

THE HURRICANE WATCH FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA BORDER TO SANDY HOOK NEW JERSEY…INCLUDING DELAWARE BAY AND CHESAPEAKE BAY SOUTH OF SMITH POINT IS CHANGED TO A HURRICANE WARNING.

THE TROPICAL STORM WATCH FOR CHESAPEAKE BAY FROM SMITH POINT NORTHWARD AND THE TIDAL POTOMAC IS CHANGED TO A TROPICAL STORM WARNING.

A HURRICANE WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FROM NORTH OF SANDY HOOK NEW JERSEY TO THE MOUTH OF THE MERRIMACK RIVER…INCLUDING LONG ISLAND…LONG ISLAND SOUND…BLOCK ISLAND…MARTHAS VINEYARD AND NANTUCKET.

In anticipation of Irene's imminent impact on the east coast of the USA, Reuters reports that:

From nuclear plants to pipelines and refineries, energy companies braced on Thursday for a potentially devastating Hurricane Irene that is barreling toward the most populated part of the United States.

Gloria, the last hurricane to slam the eastern seaboard in 1985, left at least 2.2 million people without power along the East Coast, and caused $1.84 billion in damages in today's dollar terms.

and according to the NHC once more:

The same broad region is now "well within" the path of Irene.

As if that wasn't sufficient cause for concern, Reuters also points out that:

While the East Coast region has no major offshore oil and gas production like the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast, the stakes are still daunting. The region has around a dozen nuclear plants, a massive oil delivery hub at New York Harbor, and its pipelines and power networks serve more than 100 million Americans.

According to Progress Energy it is:

Taking safety precautions at its two-unit Brunswick nuclear plant in Southport, North Carolina, where the storm is expected to pass nearby on Saturday. The plant, 22 feet above sea level, is built to withstand winds of 128 miles per hour.

According to NHC director Bill Read:

Irene could blast up the East Coast with Category 2 storm force, packing winds of 96 to 110 mph. Being a large hurricane, tropical storm-force winds will extend far inland.

Let's hope, and pray if you're so inclined, that Bill's forecast is reasonably accurate.

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Comments on Hurricane Irene Spares Haiti, but Threatens the United States »

August 26, 2011

Jim @ 5:48 pm

The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center has downgraded Irene from a "major hurricane" at landfall to a mere "hurricane". This now implies a sustained windspeed of less than 110 mph.

August 27, 2011

Jim @ 7:40 am

Irene has weakened further and is now a category 1 hurricane, with sustained windspeeds of less than 90 mph. It has also kept away from the westernmost edge of yesterday morning's forecast cone, which would have meant landfall very near Progress Energy's Brunswick reactors.

Landfall is now predicted to be at Ocracoke Island later this morning.

Jim @ 12:19 pm

The 8 AM public advisory bulletin from the NHC now reveals that:

THE EYE OF IRENE MADE LANDFALL NEAR CAPE LOOKOUT NORTH CAROLINA AROUND 730 AM EDT…1130 UTC. THE ESTIMATED INTENSITY OF IRENE AT LANDFALL WAS 85 MPH…140 KM/H…CATEGORY ONE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE.

ON THE FORECAST TRACK…THE CENTER OF IRENE WILL MOVE ACROSS EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA TODAY. THE HURRICANE IS FORECAST TO MOVE NEAR OR OVER THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST TONIGHT AND MOVE OVER SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND ON SUNDAY.

SLIGHT WEAKENING IS FORECAST AS IRENE CROSSES EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA…BUT IRENE IS FORECAST TO REMAIN A HURRICANE AS IT MOVES NEAR OR OVER THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES AND NEW ENGLAND.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 90 MILES…150 KM…FROM THE CENTER…AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 260 MILES…415 KM. A SUSTAINED WIND OF 59 MPH WITH A GUST TO 84 MPH WAS RECENTLY MEASURED AT CAPE HATTERAS NORTH CAROLINA.

Kasia @ 8:18 pm

Thanks for the updates. By the way I found your recent post on Google on the fourth place searching for Hurricane Irene.

Jim @ 9:48 pm

Hi Kasia,

Thanks for your comment, which is very interesting, and also astonishing if taken literally. It certainly doesn't work for me on a search for just "Hurricane Irene"! I can only assume that your search must have included the word "Haiti" in there somewhere, in view of the large number of posts on here about "Hurricanes and Haiti".

Jim

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