Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene Update

11 am:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) continues with a slightly more eastward track for Irene Saturday into Sunday.

This would confine the more extreme part of the hurricane to the Outer Banks and the eastern shore down to Norfolk. Irene will move through these areas as a category 2 hurricane.

Effects on our area will still be quite strong. The I-95 corridor has been placed under a tropical storm warning, for winds potentially in the 45-65 mph range. The Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula are under a hurricane warning, with winds possibly reaching as high as 75-85 mph.

Rainfall in the hurricane warning area will be in the 5-10 inch range, and in the 2-5 inch range in the tropical storm warning area.

Air Quality Alert - Friday

An air quality alert has been issued until 8 pm for much of the area. Smoke continues to move in from the Great Dismal Swamp Fire.

Rainfall Saturday will greatly improve the air quality. In fact, rain from Hurricane Irene may help dowse much, if not all, of the fire by Sunday afternoon.

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect

The watches issued for parts of Virginia Thursday have been both expanded and upgraded to warnings early Friday morning. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the orange areas on the map below, including the entire Richmond and Petersburg metro regions, for imminent Tropical Storm impacts by 36 hours from now. In the bright pink, that's the Hurricane Warning for Hurricane impacts in 36 hours.

The worst of the impacts should be felt in the Commonwealth late Saturday evening, overnight, into Sunday morning. In fact, the greatest sustained winds could occur in the dead of night:

For your reference, Tropical Storm force winds are up to 73 mph, and Hurricane force winds are 74 mph and stronger. Compare this to a severe thunderstorm wind gust of 58 mph or stronger, and you can understand why we could be dealing with significant damage in central and eastern Virginia because of potential several hours of strong Tropical Storm force winds. We could experience power outages, downed trees and limbs, and structure damage. Please develop a disaster plan now. Visit the Red Cross website for extensive resources on how to stay safe this weekend!

In addition to the strong wind threat, there is also the potential for flooding rainfall, mainly east of I-95, where there is a Flood Watch for this weekend. Here's what the potential accumulated rainfall may look like by the end of the weekend:
As is common in land-falling tropical systems, small, brief, weak tornadoes may occur within the spiral bands of the storm. That puts places especially along and east of I-95 prone to this additional wind damage threat.

For the most recent updates on Irene's status and forecast track, I encourage you to utilize our Hurricane Tracker Tool by clicking here.

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose
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