Hurricane Irene Downgraded To Strong Category One Storm

Dry Air Continues To Get Entrenched In Storm

Good morning everyone. After midnight this morning, we had a downpour for a few minutes here in Northwestern Middlesex County. About 0.07 inches of rain fell. It was the opening salvo in what could shape up to be a memorable storm for those living in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

There is some more good news through. Dry air continues to get entrenched in the western side of Hurricane Irene, and as a result, the storm continues to become ragged. Maximum sustained winds have decreased to a strong Category One strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale at 90 miles per hour. Pressure is still low at 952 millibars, or 28.11 inches of Hg. That is major hurricane intensity type of pressure.

The storm’s size has also decreased. Hurricane force winds still extend some 90 miles from the eye, but the tropical storm force wind field has shrunk from 290 miles to 260 miles. Nevertheless, Irene remains a very large storm, which is one reason forecasters are still calling for rough weather conditions to linger up into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast starting tonight and continuing on Sunday.

The barometer has begun to fall here in South Plainfield. In the past five hours or so, it has dropped three millibars, or 0.09 inches to 29.84 inches of Hg. The outer bands are already bringing rains to the Delmarva Peninsula, and another feeder band is approaching South Jersey. Much of the Garden State remains under a Hurricane Warning, and could expect more showers and storms as we progress through the morning with the rain becoming more steady by the afternoon and evening.

As of the 5:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the storm was located some 35 miles to the South of Cape Lookout, or 95 miles to the Southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Irene was moving to the North-Northeast at 14 miles per hour, and that track is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. The Garden State should begin to feel the effects of the hurricane in earnest on Saturday night, and get the brunt of the storm on Sunday before clearing out late Sunday afternoon into Sunday evening.

The storm should be entering Southern New England by Sunday afternoon. The latest NHC forecast track and discussion indicate that Irene should still be a hurricane by then. Here in Northwestern Middlesex County, rainfall amounts are expected to be in the range of 8 inches with sustained winds up to 45 miles per hour, and gusts up to 60 miles per hour tonight. On Sunday, the sustained winds are forecast to increase to 60 miles per hour with gusts up to 80 miles per hour. Storm surge levels could be between 3 to 6 feet, and higher if it is accompanied by high tide.

Listening to the Weather Channel over the past day or so, I’ve learned that Hurricane Irene seems to be following the path of the Great Hurricane of 1821. It was one of only two hurricanes to impact New Jersey directly. The storm tracked up along what is now today the Garden State Parkway, and brought hurricane conditions to New York City. It is a very important storm in the area of early research on not just tropical storms and hurricanes, but also storms in general.

A Hurricane Warning remains in effect from Little River Inlet, North Carolina northward to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts. This includes the Pamlico, Albermarle, and Currituck Sounds in North Carolina, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay south of Drum Point, New York City, Long Island, Long Island Sound, Coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

A Tropical Storm Warning is now in effect from north of the South Santee River to Little River Inlet in North Carolina, along the Chesapeake Bay from north of Drum Point to the Tidal Potomac, and north of Sagamore Beach to the mouth of the Merrimack River. A Tropical Storm Watch remains in effect from the Merrimack River to Eastport, Maine.

I will continue to monitor the progress of this storm.