UPDATE 6:20 p.m. 8/29/2011As Hurricane Irene—now a tropical storm—moves farther north, it has left behind severe flooding in the Northeast.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate, did not provide an estimate of Irene’s damage. He told reporters in an Aug. 29 mid-day conference call for reporters that FEMA is awaiting estimates from officials in the affected states.
Fugate says, “We just don’t know how big the numbers are going to be on this storm.”
David Vallee, hydrologist in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast River Forecast Center, in Taunton, Mass., said in the same conference call that there is still “moderate to major flooding” in parts of Eastern New York state, the Connecticut River Valley and much of New Hampshire and Vermont.
Vallee says that the middle Hudson and middle and lower Connecticut rivers had yet to crest as of mid-day Aug. 29 and said that the Connecticut isn’t expected to crest until mid-week.
He says Irene put “an awful lot of rain along and into the west of her track.” In a 24-36 hour period, he adds, the storm poured between five and 15 inches of rain in the area from northern New Jersey through the Hudson and Connecticut river valleys.
But what made the flooding worse was a thunderstorm that that hit the region a week or 10 days before Irene struck, soaking the soil and producing stream flows much higher than normally expected for mid- to late August.
“That antecedent condition…is really the catalyst for these remarkable floods that we’ve experienced,” Vallee says.
Fugate also says that to husband remaining resources in its Disaster Relief Fund, FEMA won’t draw on the fund to finance not-yet-approved permanent repairs to structures damaged by earlier disasters.
FEMA reportedly has less than $1 billion in the disaster fund to last until Oct. 1, when the next federal fiscal year starts.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m. 8/28/2011
In a televised press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told residents that "the worst is over" and we now in "return and restore" mode. He announced that as of 3 p.m., the city would lift its evactuation order and allow residents to return to homes in low-lying areas of the city.
The mayor reported that the World Trade Center site did not sustain significant damage. Cranes on the site were secured, and crews should be "back to work tomorrow." He said the 9/11 memorial is still on schedule to open on Sept. 11.
The city has no reports of deaths or injuries due to the storm.
Con Ed reports 62,000 households out of power at this time, and it did not have to shut down any potion of the power grid as feared to protect the system.
The New York City Fire Department is "up in the air" with a senior engineer from the buildings department surveying damage, but already all bridges and tunnels are open. The mayor encouraged residents to report damage on the city's website using a electronic damage reporting tool that will help the city's Office of Emergency Management deploy state OEM and FEMA workers to make assessments and repairs.
The critical question for New York City residents is: When will the vast transportation network of subways and buses, taken out of service to protect the system, be up and running again?
The answer: Service is not resuming today. It will be back late tomorrow afternoon at best, according to Bloomberg.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun the process of assessing storm damage. The system did experience power outages and flooding. After physical inspections of both elevated and underground track, MTA is running pump trains, then running non-revenue trains to make sure the tracks are safe and then getting equipment and people back in place. For example, no trains are currently located in Brooklyn. All were relocated because of potential flooding in the train yards.
Finally, more good news: There was no flooding with intrusion of salt water in the under-river tunnels.
UPDATE 10:45 A.M. 8/28/2011
Cleanup is beginning in New York City, although there is a significant risk of falling trees now as the wind comes up again. Before I go down to start getting the flood out of the basement, though (it is such a normally dry one there are no sump pumps) I want to share a wee-hours of the morning design to catch the leaks running out of the woodwork framing one of my front windows. Being on the bottom floor of a 120 year-old brownstone can bring all the ailments of the four stories above to your living room. This worked like a dream. It's a large plastic bag, sliced down one side with the other corner clipped to turn it into a funnel.
Wish i had thought of it earlier.
And one more note from Jim Parsons in Virginia for now: Overwash damage to Route 12 near Rodanthe is apparently large enough to warrant NCDOT to begin emergency ferry service.
UPDATE 9:53 8/28/2011
New York City is doing pretty well, but sea water is brimming in lower Manhattan, flooding in some areas, but the consequences are not yet clear. High tide for this cycle has passed, however, and water is receding. Rain is pulling off. Saturated ground and 65 knot winds are the main concern for the next few hours. Public transportation is still shut down and subways may not resume operations until the entire system has been checked out. Trains may not run until Monday night, although no official timetable has been announced.
There is a lot of heavy flooding reported throughout the region.
NCDOT reports a 100-200 yard area along Route 12 in Rodanthe, on the N.C Outer Banks that is washed out, including pavement, with a 3-6 ft escarpment. This is likely the same area that has suffered repeated washouts in the past.
UPDATE 8:40 a.m. 8/28/2011 Southwest tail of Irene still bringing rain, wind to northern Va. 2 million without power. Metro Richmond as hard-hit as Hampton Roads.
Norfolk storm surge was 7.63, less than what was recorded during Isabel. VDOT and NCDOT beginning road assessments.
Delmarva Peninsula: Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Md. and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Va. remain closed due to high winds; causeway to Chincoteague in Va. has been reopened. Hampton Roads: Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel reopened; James River Bridge and Midtown Tunnel remain closed NC: NCDOT "cleaning up" Route 12 on Hatteras Island; ferry service set to resume.
Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Md. is offline due to transformer that was struck by hurricane debris. No problems with shutdown. In Va, power seems to be coming back one house at a time. Only 2 million to go. -- JP
UPDATE 12:45 P.M. 8/28/2011
As wind and rain intensifies outside an interesting observation comes from the National Hurricane Center about how this particular storm is likely to socialize with high rise buildings it enounters:
IRENE WILL BE MOVING OVER PROGRESSIVELY COOLER WATER UNTIL LANDFALL OCCURS ON LONG ISLAND...WHICH WOULD NORMALLY RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT WEAKENING OF MOST HURRICANES. HOWEVER...DUE TO THE UNUSUALLY LARGE WIND FIELD OF IRENE...ONLY SLOW WEAKENING IS EXPECTED THROUGHOUT THE FORECAST PERIOD...AND IT WILL ONLY TAKE MODEST CONVECTION TO BRING DOWN STRONGER WINDS ALOFT TO THE SURFACE AS SUSTAINED HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS OR GUSTS. MORE SO THAN WITH MOST STORMS...THE WINDS WITH IRENE INCREASE SHARPLY WITH HEIGHT ABOVE THE SURFACE. AS IRENE MOVES THROUGH AREAS WITH HIGH-RISE STRUCTURES...THESE BUILDINGS COULD EXPERIENCE WINDS SIGNIFICANTLY STRONGER THAN THE SURFACE WINDS. WINDS AT THE 30-STORY LEVEL WILL LIKELY BE 20 PERCENT HIGHER THAN AT THE SURFACE...AND WINDS 80-100 STORIES UP COULD BE ABOUT 30 PERCENT HIGHER THAN AT THE SURFACE.
DEPENDING ON THE EXACT TRACK...INTENSITY AND TIMING OF THE
HURRICANE...THERE IS POTENTIAL FOR MODERATE TO MAJOR COASTAL
FLOODING DAMAGE IF THE GREATEST SURGE COINCIDES WITH THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDES ON SUNDAY. THIS SURGE WILL BE EXACERBATED BY
ACCOMPANYING LARGE...DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE THREATENING WAVES.
THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR 6 TO 12 INCHES OF RAIN WITH LOCALLY
HIGHER AMOUNTS. BASED ON RECENT HEAVY RAINS...IF THESE RAINFALL AMOUNTS OCCUR...MODERATE TO MAJOR RIVER FLOODING IS LIKELY.
SIGNIFICANT AND WIDESPREAD URBAN AND POOR DRAINAGE FLOODING WILL ALSO BE AN ISSUE.
BASED ON THE FORECAST TRACK OF HURRICANE IRENE...THERE IS
POTENTIAL FOR 4 TO 8 FEET OF SURGE ACROSS WESTERN LONG ISLAND
SOUND AND NEW YORK HARBOR...WITH 3 TO 5 FT OF SURGE ALONG THE
SOUTH SHORE BAYS OF LONG ISLAND AND NEW YORK CITY...PECONIC AND GARDINERS BAYS...AND EASTERN LONG ISLAND FROM EARLY SUNDAY
MORNING INTO EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON. THESE TIDAL CONDITIONS WILL BE AGGRAVATED BY ACCOMPANYING LARGE...DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE
THREATENING WAVES ON TOP OF THE STORM SURGE.
HIGH TIDE ACROSS NEW YORK HARBOR AND THE SOUTH SHORE OF WESTERN LONG ISLAND IS AROUND 8 AM SUNDAY. IN A WORST CASE SCENARIO...WATER LEVELS OF 8 TO 10 FT ABOVE MSL ARE POSSIBLE.
HIGH TIDE ACROSS WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND IS AROUND 11 AM
SUNDAY. IN A WORST CASE SCENARIO...WATER LEVELS OF 10 TO 11 FT
ABOVE MSL ARE POSSIBLE.
HIGH TIDE ACROSS EASTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND IS AROUND 9 AM SUNDAY. IN A WORST CASE SCENARIO...WATER LEVELS OF 7 TO 8 FT ABOVE MSL ARE POSSIBLE.
THERE IS A 10 PERCENT CHANCE OF THE WORST CASE SCENARIO.
City of Norfolk officials confirm 8ft storm surge at city's flood gate.
Flooding reported around Wallops Island at northern end of Va's Eastern Shore. VDOT's website is currently down, but earlier today, they noted that the causeway to Chincoteague Island might be need to be closed.
Despite the massive outages in NC, 90% of residents in Dare County, NC (which includes most of the Outer Banks) have power. UPDATE 7:40 p.m. EDT 8/27/2011
RALEIGH, NC--From Gov. Bev Perdue's 6:00 pm briefing: 4 known deaths, 500,000 people without power (more expected), major transmission line down in Tarboro, problems at wastewater treatment plants across eastern N.C. Route 12 on Outer Banks has "problems" with overwash and sand on the roadway.
Also, --storm surge of 8 ft or more predicted for Norfolk.
UPDATE 2:15 P.M. EDT 8/27/2011
OUTER BANKS, NC--Contrary to rumors, the inlet created by 2003's Hurricane Isabel north of Buxton has *not* reformed...at least not yet
UPDATE 1:40 P.M. EDT 8/27/2011
Two good radar links are offered by correspondent Jim Parsons in Virginia. Parsons also sends an update on coastal bridge and tunnel closures in lower Virginia as Hurricane Irene prepares Act II, the return to open waters after crossing the North Carolina sounds west of Cape Hatteras and the resumption of its march up the coast:
National Weather Service radar loops; easy to navigate to adjacent radar areas.
Here's covering NYC
And here's the one for Morehead City, NC, which has the best view of Irene's eye as of 7 am.
So far, Parsons reports, Irene hasn't done anything "extraordinary". But its slow movement will make beach erosion along the Outer Banks something to watch (including overwash damage to State Route 12). One storm a few years ago cut a new inlet north of Hatteras Village, but NCDOT filled it in quickly. Mother Nature will surely try again.
Parsons also reports as of 1:15 p.m. VDOT has closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. For now the only surface access to Virginia's Eastern Shore is from the north. the closure joins that of the I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel beneath Hampton Roads, due to sustained tropical force winds (>36 mph). Also closed is the Midtown Tunnel connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth, due to flooding concerns.
The I-664 Monitor-Merrimack tunnel and US 17/258 bridge remain open for now.--Jim Parsons
UPDATE 12:30 P.M. EDT 8/27/2011
Irene made landfall in North Carolina this moning. As promised, the storm brought ample wind and rain, with gusts of 115 m.ph. and measured precipitation of 7.78 in., according to the National Weather Service. Early reports noted that more than 400,000 customers in North Carolina and Virginia are without power. Here's Progress Energy's map of the affected area of its North Carolina service area.
UPDATE 1:22 A.M. EDT 8/27/2011
Still hot and still in New York City.
Grocery stores staffed up big time this evening as waves of office workers crashed the stores to stock up at the end of the day. Every cash register was manned and baggers -- generally unheard of here -- quickly stuffed purchases into plastic sacks to move people away. Yet lines for registers in Brooklyn's Park Slope were reportedly 37 people deep, according to a twitter feed, and at Whole Foods in Midtown, Manhattan, the line to get on the escalator to get into the store was remarkable just because it was there:
At Wrightsville Beach, N.C. a call to my architect brother, John Sawyer, found him without power and not expecting it to be restored for a day or two, as strong winds are forecast to continue for some time after the center of the storm cruises past tonight, about 80 miles offshore. The area is being hit by stiff winds and heavy rains, but nothing really serious by local standards. The Carolina coast catches a lot of hurricanes. John tried to get a shot of the ocean at dusk tonight but couldn't make it out through the rain. "It was blowing sideways," he said. The sheltered, backside of the island offered a better photographic opportunity:
UPDATE 8:00 p.m. EDT
Mass transit in New York and New Jersey will shut down on Saturday. AMTRAK will curtail service from New York to Albany at noon. Service between Washington and New York will cease at 5 p.m. New Jersey Transit service will stop at noon Saturday. Both carriers expect to resume service Monday, pending conditions.
UPDATE 7:50 p.m. EDT
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was embarrassed last January when he was enjoying a visit to Disney World while his constituents were digging out of a massive blizzard, makes was unequivocal in his dictum to coastal residents of the Garden State at a Friday afternoon briefing: "I see people sitting on the beach in Asbury Park, get the hell off the beach, you're done! It's 4:30, you've maximized your tan!!" - Also get your pets and your pooper scooper and leave!
Not everyone got the word.
It’s a beautiful, clear—but hot—Friday evening in New York City. The highways are clogged as commuters flee Manhattan to batten down homes or evacuate them for safer ground as Hurricane Irene draws near. Many are nervously trying to anticipate what tomorrow’s predicted arrival of the storm will mean.
Already, city and regional officials have announced that public transportation – subways, commuter rail, bus lines, all will shut down by mid-day tomorrow. Airports, of course, will shut down, too. That’s hard to imagine for a metropolitan region this large that lives and breathes, thanks to its extensive network of public transportation.
The short-term disruption during the passage of the storm is, of course, a concern, but more worrisome is the potential for long-term damage from storm surge and coastal and interior flooding as the broad, lumbering storm rolls up the coastline, hammering away with the counter-clockwise haymakers of its flailing rainbands, packed with torrential rains and sustained winds of hurricane force.
The New York region’s coastal geography would seem to invite serious consequences from a major storm traveling this route. Time will tell.
Reports at this hour from the little North Carolina island where I grew up, Wrightsville Beach, give a foretaste. The center of the storm is approaching and will pass offshore tonight, but its field of sustained, 100-mile per hour winds extends up to 90 miles from the center. Relentless heavy surf is slamming the beaches and the rain bands are rolling through like the rotating gear teeth of an enormous aerial machine, dumping rain by inches as they pass.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center believe Irene may weaken to just below hurricane strength before reaching southern New England, but they warn its impact will not be much different whether it is a strong tropical storm or a low end hurricane. For the rather un-tested northeast coast, it has the potential to deliver damaging winds, storm surge flooding and extremely heavy rain almost anywhere from eastern North Carolina through New England.
Irene is a very broad storm, and, for these latitudes, an unusually slow moving one, which will extend its unwelcome visit everywhere it sets in.
ENR writers and editors will share this space over the next few days to keep the lines open to deliver quick reports and observations as the situation develops and the story unfolds.