The good news this morning is that thought the pressure of Irene dropped to 942mb the winds associated with Irene have yet to respond and in fact have dropped to 110 m.p.h. The storm appears a bit more ragged on satellite but given the lower pressure and the presence of very warm water beneath the storm track Irene may strengthen today.
The forecast track has become a bit more clear with the western outliers shifting east. Most computer models indicate a landfall somewhere along the Connecticut shoreline – though there is a chance the center could pass just east over Rhode Island. It’s important to remember the storm’s impacts will be felt far from the center. The exact impacts (how much rain, wind, and storm surge) will depend on the track. Here are the overnight spaghetti plots which show the significant threat to our state.
Timing: The time table has sped up a tad with Irene from yesterday. Right now I expect heavy rain to develop Saturday night across Connecticut with tropical storm force winds possible as early as 3 a.m. Sunday. Hurricane force winds are possible by 10 a.m. All preparations should be completed by nightfall on Saturday and I would plan on no travel at all after daybreak Sunday.
Wind: If the storm follows the current National Hurricane Center track I expect destructive wind gusts of 75 m.p.h. to 100 m.p.h. along the Connecticut shoreline east of Bridgeport. Elsewhere, 60 m.p.h. to 80 m.p.h. damaging wind gusts are likely. The wind will be of an unusually long duration for a Connecticut hurricane due to the unusually slow expected movement of the storm. This will increase the amount of wind damage potential. There is a chance the storm passes more to the east which would limit the potential for 80+ m.p.h. wind gusts. At this point we should prepare for a direct hit – which is becoming the most likely scenario.
Winds of this magnitude will likely be as strong or stronger than what we experienced during Hurricane Gloria. The wet soil and long duration of winds will make trees very susceptible to either being uprooted or damaged. If a direct hit from a category 1 hurricane occurs the power infrastructure will suffer a devastating blow in many areas with power outages likely lasting for a week or longer.
Storm Surge: Tides are astronomically high on Sunday because of the new moon and in many cases will already be running a foot above normal. With the unusually long duration of winds the tidal piling into the sound will be substantial. We should prepare for a category higher of storm surge than would typically be expected from a cat 1 or 2 due to the aforementioned issues. At this point I am expecting a 5 foot to 8 foot storm surge in Long Island Sound. How destructive that surge is will depend on when the surge arrives. If the worst tidal flooding is at high tide we are in trouble.
Flooding: When hurricanes reach our latitude the distribution of precipitation becomes lopsided and the heaviest rain occurs west of the storm track. I’m expecting 8″-14″ of rain in western Connecticut and portions of New York and New Jersey. 4″-8″ of rain is likely in central Connecticut and less is expected to the east. If you’re in an area on a river or stream that normally floods be prepared to move fast if waters rise.
Evacuations: If you’re asked to move… move! Even if Long Island Sound didn’t flood your neighborhood during Gloria this storm has the potential to produce a much higher surge. Remember that evacuations are for water and not for wind. Most people in the state won’t have to leave but some shoreline residents will. Be smart and use common sense.
Preparations: All preparations (and evacuations) should be completed by nightfall on Saturday. It looks like tropical storm force conditions will begin shortly after midnight early Sunday morning. Hurricane conditions could develop as early as Sunday morning! Prepare to be without power for a week and think of what you’ll eat, how you’ll cook, and what you’ll do during that week. Flashlights, batteries, water, games, etc. are all important things to have. Use common sense and discuss a plan with your family so you can take steps now to prepare.