One aspect of this hurricane that it is time to discuss is the approaching swell action that will impact Florida and the East Coast over the coming days. Irene has been generating waves that will move towards the coast very soon. The fact that the hurricane getting stronger means that these waves will only get bigger. I am not kidding when I tell you this can be a lethal effect if not respected. Rough surf and rip currents from tropical cyclones kills people every year it seems, even without a landfall. Take a look at this video that we put together and share it with friends and family who might be going to the beach over the next few days: Beach Safety During Tropical Cyclones. For you surfers out there, this is going to be a great set up for you but seriously, be careful. Know your limitations and keep an eye out for swimmers who may have ventured out too far and in to trouble.
The next three days will be very important for the North Carolina coast as the forecast track takes a powerful Irene very near to the Outer Banks. The key is when the turn east of due north takes place. The later this happens, the more the impact will be – the sooner, the less. It’s all about timing which is directly related to the strength of the Bermuda High. If it does not give or break down as soon as the models have been showing, then Irene could easily pass west of Cape Hatteras over the Pamlico Sound. This would put a potentially massive storm surge in to portions of the Outer Banks with category three winds possible as well. Folks farther south and west in locations such as Morehead City, New Bern and Wilmington shold expect tropical storm conditions at the very least with possible hurricane force winds. It all depends on how far north and west Irene is before the turn happens. When will we know? We won’t. It’s a matter of watching satellite and radar as Irene approaches and seeing the turn as it happens. The current forecast at least gives hope that maybe, just maybe the core will stay out over the water.
Then we have the issue of the Northeast. If Irene only skims over the Outer Banks, it will not weaken due to land. Only cooler water and possible upper level winds becoming less favorable would weaken the hurricane. This means that, on the current forecast path, Irene would make landfall quite likely as a hurricane over New England. This is a rare event and people in the region should be watching this situation very closely. It is this part of the forecast that has much more uncertainty. There is a chance that Irene does not turn as far to the east and goes more north which would place Long Island in much greater danger. The model package has been gradually trending east over time and if we can get enough of that to continue without and bends back to the west, there is at least a shot that Irene clears the U.S. coast entirely. As things stand right now, people along the forecast track should be preparing for a hurricane landfall and if the track moves east, excellent. If not, you’d better be ready.
I’ll post another update here early this evening with occasional posts on Twitter and Facebook. For our new Client Services subscribers, tune in at 1pm ET for our daily live video briefing- we’ll have the very latest model info on Irene and a look at our plans for covering the hurricane in the field with our wind sensors, video units and aerial video unit.