Hurricane Irene Strengthens

Hurricane Irene  has become  a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds increasing to near 115mph and   additional strengthening is possible.

That’s the latest  forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its 8am EDT advisory.

The core of Irene will move across the southeastern and central Bahamas today and over the Northwestern Bahamas tomorrow. Irene is then forecast to track up the Mid-Atlantic and  Eastern seaboard.

According to the NHC, Irene’s hurricane force winds extend outward up to 40 miles and tropical storm force winds up to 205 miles from the center.

This raises an important point. Regardless of where or whether Hurricane Irene makes U.S. landfall, storm-related winds, storm surge, rainfall and surf are all potential hazards that coastal residents from  the Carolinas  to Maine  may face on land.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters yesterday warned that Irene is a potential multi-billion dollar disaster for New England and the mid-Atlantic:

If Irene ends up skirting the Outer Banks of North Carolina and not significantly weakening, then plowing through the mid-Atlantic and New England states as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, it could become one of the ten most damaging hurricanes in history.†

Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats and I.I.I. hurricane fact files by market share and state.

The NHC graphic below shows Irene’s tropical storm force wind probabilities for the next five days.

[Image of probabilities of tropical storm force winds]

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