Living in North Carolina, I have been following Hurricane Irene closely. She came onshore at Cape Lookout, NC at about 7:30am eastern .. I think.
First, let me say that I am thrilled that the storm has had a much more minimal impact on North Carolina, but being a curious person, I am stumped why the difference in NOAA’s numbers and actual surface wind speeds.
Take a look at the surface wind map below. Those flags show winds no greater than 40mph and there’s only one station on the outer banks even reporting that (each full tine on the flag = 10mph each 1/2 tine is 5mph). The rest are showing winds that are below tropical storm threshold (39mph).
So what happened to 85mph with 100mph gusts? Is this the big storm that didn’t? I’d hate to belittle the storm as the rain contained in the storm will still present a real flood danger to anyone in its path, but as a wind event, not so much.
So far there have been three deaths, including one child in Virginia. Two due to trees being blown down and one a heart attack while boarding up a home. While tragic, trees go down and people get killed in thunderstorms. The widespread damage associated with Hurricanes like Ike and Katrina is not evident with this storm.
I don’t have any reason to doubt the wind measurements that the NOAA P3 Orion’s took at altitude, but the surface measurements are a mystery.
Estimates were for Billions of dollars in damage from Irene, but so far, two piers in the outer banks seem to have gone missing, but little else has been shown or reported. Hopefully this will turn out to be just a large thunderstorm.
One concern might be that with current weather patterns, we’ll see more storms hit the east coast. If the next one is really dangerous, people might not take it seriously after this badly mis-estimated one. I hope that NOAA takes it upon to find out why the difference between their projections and actual measurements taken on the ground. The credibility of hurricane and tropical storm warnings depends upon it.