5 days out there have been several storms in the past 10 or 15 years that looked like possible Connecticut hurricanes. Remember Edouard in 1996? Earl in 2010? We’ve been through this before and since Bob in 1991 we’ve been lucky.
We find ourselves in the same situation with Hurricane Irene. Our computer models (for the most part) bring Irene ashore in North Carolina as a major hurricane and lift her north and northeast toward New England.
There are a couple different outcomes here once the storm makes landfall or brushes by the Carolinas.
- Hurricane tracks NNE back over the ocean and is able to pass far enough east to avoid a direct Southern New England landfall. Heavy rain and flooding is a possibility in this scenario, wind would be minor. I think this is the most likely scenario.
- Hurricane tracks to the north after landfall, remaining over land, and passes west of Connecticut. Gusty winds to tropical storm force and some heavy rain is possible.
- Hurricane tracks NNE along the Mid Atlantic coast from the Outer Banks to Long Island and produce hurricane conditions in Connecticut or somewhere in southern New England. This is the least likely outcome (because it’s hard to do!) and would mean a period of strong, damaging winds and heavy rain. This type of track could produce a Gloria, Belle, or Doria kind of hit.
The developing “setup” is not like the setup for the big ones. 1938, Carol, Donna, Bob, etc all were rocketing north toward southern New England as they got caught up in an anomalous and deep jet stream trough. This increases the storm’s speed and the phase with the jet stream can also help maintain the storm’s intensity as it transitions from a tropical to an extratropical storm. With Irene there is no big trough to help pick up, accelerate, and help maintain Irene. That said a strong tropical storm or category 1 hurricane would be very disruptive and damaging so even though we’re not talking about a worst case hurricane scenario (1821, 1938 or Carol) it’s very important to stay on top of this storm.
One final note the slow speed of Irene once it moves up the coast from North Carolina may help weaken the storm’s winds but may serve to increase the flood threat. Keep this in mind.
As a meteorologist I’m concerned, but we’re so far out (5 days in hurricane time is an eternity) let me do the worrying for now. I’ll let you know when it’s time for everyone to worry.