Irene is holding her own this evening off the North Carolina coast and may even be slightly strengthening. I have seen a pressure reading to 949mb from the hurricane hunters which is fairly close to Gloria’s pressure at the same latitude. The storm has sucked in quite a bit of dry air but the central core of the system remains in reasonably good shape. Slight strengthening is possible before landfall in the Outer Banks but chances are it remains about as is.
Our computer models are in excellent agreement with the storms track with a direct landfall likely in Connecticut. The exact location could shift 40 miles east of west but my best guess is New Haven as a landfall location. The more time the storm spends over water the slower the storm will lose it’s punch.
The exact impacts in each and every town won’t be carved in stone until we know exactly which track the storm takes. However all of Connecticut should prepare for a hit similar to Hurricane Gloria with a higher storm surge risk.
With a slightly faster storm track than was expected yesterday I am extremely concerned about coastal flooding on the Sound. It’s totally possible that we dodge a bullet if the worst of Irene holds off until 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. but I’m not counting on it. Gloria arrived during low tide and that prevented widespread coastal inundation. Irene may arrive at exactly high tide in western Connecticut which has me very worried that Irene’s surge may rival the 1992 nor’easter.
The wind threat for Irene will be similar to Gloria. It’s possible if the storm weakens enough (or jogs east) over the next 24 hours that the wind threat will be less but you should prepare for widespread tree and power line damage. I’m not expecting structural damage from the winds (unless a tree lands on your house!).
With leaves out on trees and soaked soil and weakened roots the wind from a category 1 hurricane can do tremendous damage in New England unlike other places in the country. Prepare for 1 week without power and hope you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to keep their lights on.
Irene will be a prolific rain producer. Rain will develop Saturday afternoon off and on in squalls and become steady and heavy after midnight Sunday morning. To the left of the storm track 6″-12″ of rain is possible which (on top of a wet month already) could cause serious flooding. If you live in a place that typically flood be ready to seek higher ground.
Be safe, get prepared by Saturday night, and be ready to evacuate if asked to. This is the first time we’ve been under a hurricane warning in 20 years so it’s important to take the threat seriously. It’s possible the worst will miss us but we can’t count on that happening.