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Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene Forecast On Track For Connecticut


Alright here we go. Irene is taking a very similar track to Gloria. Hurricane Watches are in effect for the southern four counties of the state with Tropical Storm Watches in effect for the northern half of Connecticut. Irene will take a very similar track to Hurricane Gloria. Prepare for similar damage. Storm surge could be even worse.

The track from the National Hurricane Center has shifted east again which means less land interaction from the New Jersey coast and a stronger storm for us. This could really turn into a worst case scenario. Could this track shift again? YES! I could be wrong and this is the one case I hope I am! But until I see strong evidence of this storm moving away, I have to prepare us for the most likely scenario.

Forecasting these storms is about half science and half experience. I know my science but I'm new to Connecticut. I have been consulting with Joe Furey, Geoff Fox and Ryan Hanrahan (from NBC30, we went to college together ,he's a genius). I don't feel it's right to post this blog entry without giving those people a shout out.

Timing: Showers from the outer rain bands of Irene will begin to affect us on Saturday. But the timing of the storm is a little faster than we initially anticipated. Tropical Storm Force winds will begin while you’re sleeping on Saturday night. Hurricane force winds and torrential rain Sunday. Prepare for an all day event. But things should be winding down on Sunday night.

Rainfall amounts: 5”-12” of rain with the heaviest amounts to the left of the storm’s track. That means location will make all the difference in terms of rainfall totals. If the storm cuts right up through the center of the state, Litchfield and Danbury could get 12” while New London and Putnam pick up 5”-6”.

Flooding: The soil is already saturated, especially in western Connecticut. So the ground will not be able to absorb most of the rain. This will exacesrbate the flooding problem. Small streams, rivers, low lying areas and basements are all under the gun for flooding.

Storm Surge: Storm surge forecasts are the most difficult to make because you need to know the exact track to be accurate. What causes storm surge? Low pressure in the eye of a hurricane acts like a straw, drawing water near the center causing the water to rise into a mound. In addition, strong winds in the hurricane act like a plow causing a large bulge of water to develop. Because this will be a long duration storm event, the storm surge could be even worse than a typical category 1 hurricane. Also, astronomically high tide is occurring at the same time the storm arrives so water levels will already be at their highest point of the month.

Winds: With the soaking wet ground, trees will be easier to take down, with that comes power outage concerns. So please make sure you have enough food and water to get you through a week (just to play it safe). Wind gusts on the shore could get up to 100 mph. Wind gusts inland up to 75 mph.

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