Update on Daunting Irene (Targeting Long Island?) As We Note Anniversary of Devastating Hurricane Andrew

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Current predicted path of hurricane Irene. Click for larger version. Image: ImpactWeather

As U.S. East Coasters watch and prepare for hurricane Irene – and in the wake of today’s fairly historic earthquake – we’re mindful that tomorrow’s the 19th anniversary of the SE Florida landfall of hurricane Andrew, a devastating hurricane that was among the deadliest and costliest of the 20th century.

Here’s the latest (3:45pm CDT 23 August) on Irene from ImpactWeather StormWatch Manager Fred Schmude:

“Hurricane Irene is slowly gaining strength this afternoon and is currently located at 20.7N and 71.2W, or about 70 miles north of the Dominican Republic.  Maximum sustained winds are at 100 mph and gradual strengthening is likely.  We expect Irene to track WNW to NW across the central and northern Bahamas over the next 48 hours and strengthen to a powerful category 4 hurricane with 135 mph winds with higher gusts above 150 mph.   Irene is forecast to track about 150 miles east of the Florida coast on Friday and up towards far eastern North Carolina on Saturday.  Landfall is currently projected to be just east of Jacksonville, North Carolina as a borderline category 2-3 hurricane with 110-120 mph winds.

“Be advised if Irene continues to track a little more to the right we could see the center miss the North Carolina coast and move up toward Long Island and Southern New England as a stronger hurricane on Sunday.   Based on the current forecast, strong winds up to hurricane force strength and torrential rainfall will spread from south to north over eastern North Carolina and extreme southeast Virginia Saturday afternoon and evening, northward across the eastern Delmarva, eastern New Jersey, Long Island and southern New England on Sunday. Since the ground is already saturated over most of the Northeast from previous periods of heavy rain, any more heavy rain will likely result in widespread flash flooding.

“Be advised this is a potentially very dangerous and deadly situation for the Northeast, especially if Irene misses the North Carolina coast and takes a direct aim on Long Island and southern New England. We of course will continue to watch very closely in the days to come.”

A year or so before ImpactWeather was created as a division of the worldwide aviation meteorology department of its parent company, it was in anticipation of Andrew that one of Universal Weather’s aviation forecast managers began conducting twice-daily live briefings for Universal employees in the HQ atrium lobby.  The ferocity of Andrew drew so much attention that those employee briefings were very well attended.  In hindsight, Universal’s realization that it’s the responsibility – not to mention excellent business sense – of an employer to keep its own employees as well informed and best prepared for severe weather events (and other unforeseen disasters) can be seen as the impetus for the creation of ImpactWeather.

Kyle Tupin, ImpactWeather

That same former aviation weather manager is still with ImpactWeather today – our VP IT Kyle Tupin.

Side note:  we’ll be hosting our September 30-day outlook webinar for the 2011 tropical season next Thursday, September 1st at 10:30C.  It’s about 25 minutes long and free of charge.  You can register here and feel free to forward the link to anyone you think might be interested.  Also, if you don’t have time to attend next Thursday, register anyway – that way you’ll get an email with a link to the recorded version that you can watch anytime.

Hurricane Andrew, 23 August 1992, a day before its first landfall in SE Florida. Image: NOAA

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