Hurricane Irene ingested enough dry air last night to cause some weakening and overall deterioration in the radar and satellite presentation. The storm remains a dangerous hurricane as it nears the Outer Banks this morning and is expected to make landfall as a hurricane tomorrow morning in Connecticut at a strength similar or slightly less than hurricane Gloria. Because of the overnight weakening the overall threat has diminished a bit but this still remains the most serious storm threat in 26 years and can’t be taken lightly.
Comparisons to Gloria
The current pressure of Irene is 951mb while Gloria’s was lower, about 942mb, when at the same position. However, when Gloria emerged off the Outer Banks her pressure had risen to 952mb. I am interested to see how similar the pressures are once the storm leaves North Carolina. May give us a better indication of what to expect. That said, I think the winds in this storm may be slightly less than Gloria, but the damage may be similar.
In Gloria the wind was pretty much the only problem. The rain nearly completely missed Connecticut (it was a dry hurricane here) with only 0.62″ of rain reported in Bridgeport! Most of the state had less than an inch of rain. This storm is will be completely different in that regard with the potential for major flooding in western Connecticut.
In addition the duration of Gloria’s winds was very short. Bridgeport picked up the worst of that storm and only had >30 m.p.h. winds last for 5 hours while wind gusts >50 m.p.h. lasted 3.5 hours. The combination of wet soil and a longer duration of max winds could make less wind just as damaging as Gloria’s wind.
The long duration of wind also creates storm surge problems. Gloria made landfall at low tide and with a short duration of tidal piling the storm surge flooding was unimpressive… nothing worse than a typical nor’easter. Irene appears ready to make landfall during on the highest tides of the month and with a longer duration of strong winds the tidal piling will be more significant. Major coastal flooding is likely on Long Island Sound, potentially rivaling the December 1992 nor’easter.
Overall I’m just as concerned about Irene as I was yesterday. The threat is very significant, the biggest we’ve seen in 26 years, and today is the time to rush all preparations. The combination of fresh water flooding, storm surge, and wind damage may make the overall impact of Irene just as great, or greater, than Gloria.