Hitting the southeast Bahamas “hard”, major hurricane Irene is growing in size and strength. A category 3 storm with peak sustained winds of 120 mph, its radius of hurricane force winds have expanded outwards to 60 miles from the center (from 40 miles earlier today). The National Hurricane Center writes the satellite presentation of Irene has “continued to improve” and its pressure has dropped. Intensification to the dangerous category four level is still possible in the next day or two.
Importantly, two global forecast models, the European and the NOAA’s “GFS”, have shifted the track slightly westward this afternoon increasing the risk of severe impacts to the coast of the mid-Atlantic and New England. The National Hurricane Center has adjusted its official track slightly westward bringing Irene’s center near the North Carolina Outer Banks then north-northeastward (paralleling the Delmarva coast) over the east end of Long Island, before crashing it into Rhode Island.
Dr. Rick Knabb, hurricane expert at the Weather Channel tweeted: “Irene poses extreme threat to many parts of U.S. east coast. Main message is to prepare just in case.”
A Weather Channel map places the Outer Banks, Delmarva coast, Jersey shore, southeast New York (including New York City and Long Island) and southern New England under “extreme risk” from this hurricane.
Possible impacts in these areas including flooding rain, a dangerous storm surge, severe coastal flooding and damaging winds. It is important to remember small changes in the storm’s track could result in lesser (or more severe) impacts, and errors are still large at this range.
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said he is worried about the threat Irene poses to New England.
“The benchmark is the 1938 hurricane,” he said. “I am very concerned with what will happen there.”
We will have much more on this storm tomorrow.