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August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene (tmi3rd)

Hi, Morons. I'm tmi3rd, and I'm sitting at the Moron Central Weather Desk, which is a nice way of saying that I'm done with class for the day and sitting at the table doing this because 1) I don't feel like working on physics right now and 2) we have a decent-strength hurricane bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard.

This is going to be a long post, so let me put the big bullet points up above the fold and we'll take it from there:

1) Don't panic. If you're anywhere from the Outer Banks of North Carolina up the east coast all the way to Maine (and the Canadian Maritimes, for that matter), you need to be paying attention to this storm.

2) You need to be thinking about somewhere else you can go if you're within 10 miles of the coast. That is necessarily a New Orleans-centric way of looking at things, but the bottom line is that if you're 10 miles inland, that's far enough inland that the storm surge would have a hard time getting to you. Thus, if you're in NYC or Boston, this definitely means you... but the same if you're in Philadelphia, anywhere along the Jersey Shore, et cetera.

More below the fold...

Okay, for those of you unfamiliar with my background, I'm married to a meteorologist whose particular emphasis is hurricanes. I'm also a veteran of roughly 30 storms from having grown up in the New Orleans area, and flew into Hurricane Ivan in 2004 with the Hurricane Hunters (USAF 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler AFB).

Hurricane Irene is, as of the 11 AM EDT advisory, a solid Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That means that its highest winds are sustained at 115 miles per hour (Category 3 means winds of 111-130 miles per hour), and the current thinking has its winds increasing to 125 mph in the next 24 hours. The latest public advisories can be found here. The site is Weather Underground (I know, I know), and for my take, their site is less panicky and news-driven than

One of the things that is not always obvious is that you have to be pretty close to the center of circulation in order to get the really ugly winds. That said, there's a graphic of the wind field that gives a decent idea of the storm's composition. Here's an example, via

You'll note that the high winds are in the red, and the yellow stuff is the tropical storm-force winds.

For those who know this stuff, I apologize for doing the Hurricanes 101 stuff, but if it isn't said...

Moving on, hurricanes rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. That's important because if, as currently predicted, the storm hugs the East Coast and the center of circulation goes ashore anywhere from the NJ/DE border to going ashore at Manhattan or the western side of Long Island, winds will come in from the east on the northern side of the storm. If that happens at high tide, you can expect seas to run probably 5-10 feet above normal, and higher in some places.

For historical perspective, the 1938 New England hurricane (which went ashore at Bayport on Long Island) spared Manhattan by being as far east as it was, but still managed to push the East River 3 blocks inland.

So what does this all mean? It means that you're looking at what will act like a particularly bad Nor'easter, but carrying a lot of ocean water with it at the surface. If you have any sea assets (boats, beachfront property, et cetera), you need to be making moves to secure it immediately.

So where is the storm going? That's a good question. Historically, storms going up the Eastern Seaboard sort of "bounce off" of North Carolina. This one, however, due to some other weather features over the Great Lakes, seems more likely at the moment to continue on a path right up the East Coast.

Quick summary: if you're anywhere around Chesapeake Bay, if you're in DE, if you're in Philadelphia, or if you're anywhere near the coast in NJ or NY, you need to plan with the assumption that you may receive a direct hit from the center of circulation from this storm. Now let's head into New England...

If you're in CT, MA, RI, NH, or ME near the coast, again, you need to act like this storm is going to hit you hard. The current path which will change, necessarily, would put you at some point on the northeastern side of the storm. That is the most violent side- the most wind shear happens there, the heaviest thunderstorms are there, and that's typically where you get embedded tornadoes. They're usually small, but they still do damage. During Katrina, one touched down in my parents' backyard. Something to ponder...

If you're in VT, you're not off the hook, either. There will still be inland effects from the storm... you just won't get the storm surge.

So how do you prepare for hurricanes? First, you plan for the following:

1) Assume the power will be out, along with running water, for a few days.

2) Assume that the roads may not be passable and businesses will not be open, probably for a shorter length of time.

From there, figure you need enough food, medication, and water to get through 3-5 days. If you're near the coast, you need to think about somewhere else you can go, further inland, for a couple of days. So, put your Zombie Invasion Guides to work... it'll be a good dress rehearsal for whatever apocalypse you want to practice for,.

As of 4 PM EDT, North Carolina, Maryland, and New Jersey have declared states of emergency, and it stands to reason that more and more northeastern states will follow suit.

I won't presume to speak for LauraW and the New England-area Morons, but I'd anticipate the weekend's Moron Meetup may need to be postponed.

Anyway, that's enough of my ramblings... I'll try to check in periodically to answer questions, but if you have something you need to ask me, please find me on Twitter at tmi3rd, or use that handle at Hotmail to reach me. Certain Morons know how to reach me on Facebook, but since that's my real name, I'd rather not post it here. In any event, if I don't know the answer right away, I'll ask Mrs. tmi3rd.

Thanks for reading- again, no panic here, but just be prepared. If the order comes to leave, please heed it. The number-one cause of fatalities in hurricanes is flooding, and you can usually avoid that. Stay informed, and I'll be floating around all weekend. Don't hesitate to get a hold of me if I can be of any help.

Stay safe!


P.S.- DO NOT FORGET ABOUT YOUR PETS! You wouldn't believe how many homeless pets there were after Katrina. Take them with you and with enough food for a week. Thanks to Billy Bob for reminding me.

P.P.S.- Dr. Varno reminded me in the comments. Just pretend Kim Jong-Il is singing this...

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posted by Open Blogger at 04:06 PM

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