Irene Forecast Shifts East; Direct Hit More Unlikely

Overnight computer runs have continued their march to the east which has been relentless since this storm formed. It was only a couple days ago that the NHC was forecasting a Miami landfall and now their forecasting a Groton, CT landfall. This morning most of our models that were showing a direct hit have shifted 100 miles or so east and are showing that hit over Cape Cod or southeast Massachusetts.

Here’s the 06z spaghetti plot of tropical models which show the sizable shift east. There are virtually no models showing a North Carolina landfall anymore (maybe an Outer Banks brush) and the models that are way east are some of the lowest performing models we have. That leaves us with a strong consensus track over/near Cape Cod and that consensus track has been generally shifting east over the last few model runs.

The storm itself is becoming much better organized this morning across the Bahamas. It is now a category 3 hurricane with a distinct eye a cold cloud tops surrounding the eye. The pressure has fallen quite rapidly and is down to 957mb. I would not be surprised if this system becomes a category 4 hurricane at some point in its life.

At this point it seems like a direct hit is unlikely but not impossible. We are still, however, 4 days out so a lot can change and it is too early to sound the all clear. Even without a direct hit there can be substantial impacts including flooding which will likely be higher than usual in this storm considering the wet month we’ve had and the slow movement of this system. Depending on how close the track is to Connecticut there could be damaging wind as well. In general the track would have to be between Montauk and Block Island to give Connecticut damaging wind. Anywhere east of there and the threat for wind damage begins to diminish. My gut tells me this storm scrapes Nantucket as a category 1 hurricane which would be enough for damage and significant beach erosion on the outer Cape but the uncertainty is high! I also think this will have a larger impact than Hurricane Earl last year.

Today will be a watch the models day. If we have to start preparing we’ll know by tomorrow morning. I’m still concerned and If the models start jumping left I’ll be more concerned than I am this morning. Thursday will be the day to prepare if we need to. We’ll have several new computer runs and a much better idea of what will happen by 9 a.m. Thursday.

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