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Hurricane Irene - Outer Banks, North Carolina - August 26-28, 2011

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Uploaded on Sep 6, 2011

On the evening of August 20th an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft found a small low-level circulation center about 200 miles east of Dominica, associated with a tropical wave that had moved off the west coast of Africa several days prior. At this time, the plane also measured maximum winds of 61 mph (53 kts) at 1400 ft (425 m) and 50 mph (45 kt) surface winds, along with a minimum pressure of 1006 mb (29.71 in). Based on these observations, advisories were initiated on Tropical Storm Irene at 7:00 pm AST.

Over the next 36 hours, Irene moved toward the west-northwest and began to strengthen significantly as it approached Puerto Rico. Irene was just below hurricane strength late on August 21st as the center of the storm moved over the island of Vieques and then over eastern Puerto Rico in the early morning hours of August 22nd. Tropical storm conditions spread across Puerto Rico with a sustained wind of 54 mph (47 kts) and a gust to 76 mph (66 kts) reported on Vieques and a sustained wind of 41 mph (36 kts) with a gust to 59 mph (51 kts) reported at San Juan. Widespread tree and powerline damage was reported across eastern Puerto Rico during Irene's passage. Irene produced a significant amount of rainfall over Puerto Rico and trailing rainbands from the storm aggrevated the flooding problems for several days after the storm moved past the island. Maximum three-day rainfall totals exceeded 20 inches (505 mm) in several locations with a maximum of 33 inches (835 mm) reported.

Immediately after moving offshore from Puerto Rico, Irene reached hurricane strength. The storm continued to intensify as it moved west-northwest, just offshore the Dominican Republic, towards the Turks & Caicos islands.

As Hurricane Irene moved through the southeastern Bahamas on the afternoon of August 24th, maximum sustained winds reached 120 mph (105 kts) making Irene the first major hurricane of the 2011 season. For the next 24 hours, the hurricane pounded the central and northwestern Bahamas as it began to recurve towards the northwest and then north-northwest by late on the 25th. Winds in excess of 100 mph (85 kts) likely occurred over several Bahamian islands and data is still being collected and verified.

By the morning of August 26th, Hurricane Irene had weakened to a category two with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (95 kts) and had turned towards the north. Although slightly weaker, the storm's central pressure reached a minimum value near 942 mb (27.82 in) at this time with the cyclone's windfield expanding significantly. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 90 miles (145 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 290 miles (465 km).

During the afternoon of August 26th, the forecast movement of the hurricane placed large sections of the U.S. east coast from North Carolina through New England under significant threat from the storm. However, despite the expectation that some re-strengthening would occur, Irene weakened as it approached landfall with maximum sustained winds decreasing to 85 mph (75 kts) as the center moved onshore near Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 8:00 am EDT on August 27th. Several locations across eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks reported winds of hurricane force, with an unofficial report of a 115 mph (100 kt) gust at the Cedar Island Ferry Terminal and an 84 mph (73 kt) gust at Cape Hatteras.

Several tornadoes were also observed in some of the outer rainbands that spread across the area in the early morning hours of the 27th, with a confirmed EF2 just east of Columbia, North Carolina causing significant damage to several homes.

After moving across eastern North Carolina, Hurricane Irene emerged over the Atlantic a short distance east of Norfolk, Virginia around 8:00 pm EDT on the 27th. Moving towards the north-northeast with an increasing forward speed, Irene skirted the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coast while continuing to weaken. Irene made its final landfall at New York City, New York as a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (55 kts) at 9:00 am EDT on August 28th.

During the remainder of the day, Tropical Storm Irene moved inland over New England and became post-tropical near the U.S. / Canadian border. Although weakening significantly, Irene's rainfall was responsible for horrific flooding over portions of upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire resulting in over 40 fatalities and extensive damage. Final totals are still pending.

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