Irene Update - Thursday Evening

The center of Irene will pass over the Outer Banks midday Saturday as a Category 3 hurricane. The eye will then pass over or *just* off the coast of Virginia Beach Saturday night as a Category 2 hurricane. Irene will then push fairly quickly up the coast Sunday afternoon.

If you are unfamiliar with the Saffir Simpson scale (Category 2 vs 3) you can visit the NHC website to see what to expect. There is no doubt that it will be bad in eastern North Carolina and Virginia.

Here are the forecasted rain totals. I think Irene will move a little farther west than this computer forecast, but I think it paints a clear picture: rain totals will increase dramatically closer to the coast.

Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Eastern Shore could easily exceed 10". Northern Neck and Williamsburg could get 4 to 8". I'm still going 1 to 3" for Richmond. The rain will not be continuous for Richmond, but bands will bring periods of heavy rain. Here are a couple snap shots of the WSI RPM model for Saturday evening and night. I think the track will be slightly farther west, but I posted these images because it also shows how heavy rains stay near the center of a hurricane.

I should also mention that there will be a tornado watch issued Saturday night as the eye passes. Areas along and east of I-95 (Richmond included) should be aware of isolated weak tornadoes. This always happens with hurricanes because of strong wind shear.

Speaking of winds...

Just like rain, the strongest winds reside near the center of a hurricane. Look at the forecast below:

Again, I'm expecting a path a little farther west than this computer forecast. However, look how dramatically winds drop off from the center. Hurricane-force winds could extend all the way to Williamsburg, but will quickly drop off near Richmond. I'm going to stay with my original forecast for Richmond: 25 to 35 mph sustained winds with gusts up to maybe 45.

There is no need to panic if you live in Richmond. Probably the greatest severe weather threat will be the possibility of isolated tornadoes Saturday night. A couple trees might topple over, otherwise, if you just use your common sense, you will be fine! 

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