Here's the latest on Hurricane Irene. It is still a Category 1 hurricane centered about 300 miles south of the city and moving this way at about 13 mph. The first rain band from the storm reached the city early this evening. While the maximum intensity of Irene has diminished somewhat it will still be a large and dangerous hurricane when it makes landfall tomorrow.
Wind and rain are usually the media stars when it comes to hurricanes but it is the storm surge that typically causes the most damage. While the peak winds of Irene may weaken before it reaches the city the storm surge will not. Tomorrow's astronomical high tides will be unusually high and the storm surge is going to be on top of them. There is a small chance that the surge will be high enough to flow over the not very high seawall in lower Manhattan.
GOES satellite image of Irene from NASA
The area of hurricane force winds is about 85 miles across and tropical storm force winds cover an area several hundred miles in diameter. This, coupled with Irene's slow northward movement means we are in for many hours of high winds. The National Weather Service expects the winds to pick up to 25-30 mph soon and increase to 35-45 mph, with gusts to 60 mph overnight. Peak winds will occur tomorrow morning, when they will be blowing at a sustained 50-70 mph with gusts to 80 mph. Irene's winds increase sharply with height above the ground. The winds will be roughly 20 percent faster at 30 stories above ground and 30 percent faster at 80 stories and above.
The rain that occurred earlier today was enough to make this month the rainiest August ever recorded at Central Park. Yay? The Weather Service expects another 6-10 inches of rain from the rest of the storm.