Irene Update, 2pm Wednesday

[a more recent forecast followed this one – go straight to SeaAndSkyNY.com and scroll down to find the latest update]

The 2pm update from the National Hurricane Center shows a “best estimate” forecast track for Hurricane Irene clipping the Outer Banks at Category 2-3 (110 mph winds), then making landfall near Providence at Category 1 (90 mph winds) on Sunday night.  As always, they make clear that there is substantial track uncertainty beyond a few days forecast (average error of 200 miles at 4 days).  This distance suggests a range of likely landfall from North Carolina to Nova Scotia, so things are still highly uncertain.

Uncertainty still reigns, and hurricane landfall on the Jersey Shore, hammering New York City, or along Long Island is still a reasonable possibility.  Straight from the NHC forecast discussion: “THE GFDL AND HWRF MODELS REMAIN ALONG THE WEST SIDE OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE AND SHOW A TRACK OVER OR VERY CLOSE TO THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST. THE UKMET AND NOGAPS ARE ALONG THE EASTERN SIDE AND KEEP THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE WELL OFFSHORE. GIVEN THE TYPICAL MODEL AND OFFICIAL TRACK ERRORS…BOTH SCENARIOS ARE VIABLE OPTIONS AT THIS TIME…”

Here is a map of probabilities of tropical storm force winds, based on NHC data.  Superimposed is the NYHOPS and Storm Surge Warning System model domain (green), where we provide storm surge forecasts two days into the future.

NHC forecast track for Hurricane Irene, including probabilities of Tropical Storm force winds. The NYHOPS/SSWS domain is superimposed with a green border. Courtesy of Dr. Nickitas Georgas.

The regional National Weather Service Office says, “THE EXACT TIMING IS STILL UNCERTAIN…BUT HEAVY RAIN…STRONG WINDS…AND COASTAL FLOODING COULD BEGIN AS EARLY AS LATE SATURDAY.”  Add to this, the possibility of damaging waves and coastal erosion, for the New Jersey and Long Island coastlines.  The NOAA Wavewatch model predicts waves hitting the New Jersey and Long Island shores of 16 to 23 ft if the storm passes offshore.

Keep your fingers crossed that it’s a curve ball out into the Atlantic.

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