Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane Irene - Wednesday Update

Hurricane Irene strengthened into a category 3 hurricane Wednesday morning and appears to be tracking toward the U.S. East Coast. The storm should take a more northwest and eventually more northerly turn steering the storm just east of Florida and toward North Carolina's Outer Banks. The latest forecast track has shifted to the east compared to earlier in the week.

Here's a look at some of the latest computer model forecasts from Wednesday --
There are now several models showing Irene's center passing just east of the Outer Banks. Keep in mind Irene is a large storm and even if the storm's center passes just east of the Outer Banks much of coastal North Carolina will still be impacted by the storm. Tropical storm force winds (40mph+) extend up to 200 miles from the storm's center.

A track directly over the Outer Banks as a strong category 2 or category 3 storm would not only bring damaging winds and flooding rains to that area, but it would create overwash from the ocean and sounds. A track just to the east may not be quite as devastating but would still produce hurricane force winds (75mph+) along the Outer Banks along with heavy rain and some overwash. Gusts up to 100mph cannot be ruled out especially near Hatteras.

Based on the latest forecast track, here's what we expect for other areas in North Carolina:

Crystal Coast (Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Morehead City)

  • Outer rain bands from Irene arrive Friday. Rain, which could be heavy at times, will continue Friday night and into Saturday.

  • Tropical storm force winds are possible Friday night and Saturday. Wind gusts up to 60 to 65mph possible. Could see a higher gust at Cape Lookout.

Wilmington, Jacksonville, and the Cape Fear Coast (Topsail Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Oak Island, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle)

  • Outer rain bands from Irene arrive Friday. Rain will continue Friday night into Saturday. Heavy downpours are possible at times.

  • Tropical storm force winds are possible Friday night and Saturday. Gusts up to 50mph possible.
Wilson and Goldsboro

  • Scattered showers and a few storms are possible Friday afternoon and Saturday.

  • Sustained winds 10-25mph expected with on occasional gust up to 30 or 35mph possible Saturday.

Triangle and Sandhills (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill and Fayetteville)

  • Minimal impacts from Irene

  • Scattered showers and storms are possible Friday afternoon with some rain possible Saturday. However, some locations may see very little if any rain.

  • Sustained winds: 10-20mph with an occasional higher gust.

Irene will quickly move away from the North Carolina coast late Saturday night and early Sunday. The storm will quickly accelerate up the east coast and could track over or near Long Island, New York as a hurricane Sunday.

All of the expected mentioned in this post could change if there is a change in the forecast track. A jog just a little to the west or to the east could change the expected impact in your area. Stay tuned to News 14 Carolina and Weather on the Ones for the latest information.

Lee Ringer
News 14 Carolina Meteorologist

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