New Look at Irene’s Storm Surge

Yesterday I visited the USGS in East Hartford for a story about the loss of the Middletown river gauge. The loss is unfortunate and like so many other services is a function of shrinking budgets at the municipal, state, and federal level.

While at the East Hartford field office the topic turned to Irene and the fabulous work the USGS did recording data as Irene moved up the coast. With Irene threatening the USGS deployed 203 temporary storm tide sensors to measure Irene’s storm surge inundation. A number of those gauges were deployed in Long Island Sound.

Here are before and after pictures of one of the gauges being deployed near the Town Dock in Guilford.

Courtesy: USGS

Courtesy: USGS

The town dock was essentially destroyed by Irene’s storm surge. The data wasn’t available in real time but is available now for more than a dozen points on the Sound in Connecticut. Here’s a look at the storm surge in Guilford that flooded many coastal areas.

The storm surge here was over 4 feet (not including waves) and quite destructive. The data can now be used to help predict areas that are at risk for inundation in the future by better understanding what happened during Irene.

If you’d like to check the data out here it’s available from the USGS website.

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Exceptional Damage Following Historic Freak October Snow

The northwestern half of Connecticut will be picking up the pieces for days and even weeks following a spectacular and historic October snowstorm that has not just broken, but shattered, every long-standing weather record.

Even with temperatures at or above freezing (in fact in some areas the entire storm occurred at 34 degrees) snow had no problem accumulating in many areas. Snowfall totals exceeded expectations or wound up on the high end of my ranges in many towns because getting snow to accumulate at some marginal temperatures is just remarkable.

Instead of starting as rain in the greater Hartford area the storm began as snow around 2 p.m. With an inch of snow the power began to flash by 4 p.m. and by just before 5 p.m. we switched to generator power for the duration of the storm (in fact I’m writing this on generator power, 15 hours later).

Studio Lights Go Dark as Engineers Switch to Generator Power

Remarkable damage occurred after dark and in many areas the full extent of damage won’t be known until later today. What sounded like shotgun blasts through the night was trees snapping in half. The night sky lit up with flashes from both lightning and transformers exploding.

The first 6″ of the storm in most towns was a heavy, water-logged paste. The second (or third, in some cases) 6″ was more fluffy. Here’s a look at the front of our building around midnight. Take a look at the poor saplings in the background.

NBC Connecticut Around Midnight

It’s been a marathon here at the station no doubt. From the morning show on Saturday to coverage all day and night yesterday the NBC Connecticut gym turned into my personal bedroom for the night.

The Sailboat Blanket is Soft!

Here are 2 tweets that stand out this morning:

@CTLightandPower Unprecedented damage from this storm. Please prepare for worst case scenario – a week or more without power. Call 211 for shelter info.

@bobmaxon 25 years of weather forecast/coverage….I’ve never seen anything like this. On the heels of Irene, this is unreal

I’m ready for a drink. And a nap.

No More Rain! Please!!!

More Rain! NOAA/HPC 5 Day Forecast

We’ve certainly had a lot of rain in 2011. So far we are an incredible 20.57″ above normal in the greater Hartford area! We are on pace to break the record for the wettest year of all time. Here’s how we fall so far:

  1. 65.43″ – 2008
  2. 64.55″ – 1972
  3. 62.94″ – 1955
  4. 61.63″ – 1938
  5. 60.96″ – 1920
  6. 57.12″ – 2005
  7. 57.11″ – 2011 (so far…)

If you take a look at those years a lot of the years jump out. With the exception of 1920 and 2008 most of the wettest years on record have seen, not surprisingly, tropical activity in or near southern New England. In 1972 it was the remnants of Agnes. In 1955 it was the remnants of Connie and Diane. In 1938 it was the great hurricane. In 2005 it was the remnants of Tammy. In 2011 it was Irene and the remnants of Lee.

The last 2 1/2 months have been incredibly wet. October so far is 2.25″ above average while September was 5.77″ above average and August was 7.74″ above normal.

With another major rainstorm on the way for Wednesday we’ll easily tack on another inch or two to the 2011 total. On average we pick up 9.65″ of rain in the last 75 days of the year which means that if from here on out we pick up exactly normal rainfall we will break the all-time wettest year record.