As we've been warning for days now, the first major impact that Irene will have on the U.S. East Coast will take place across North Carolina on Saturday. The sequence of images below shows the Global Forecast System (GFS) computer model forecast valid at the times indicated below each image.
When examining the images, keep in mind that the colors surrounding the center of Irene represent the following surface wind speeds: brown, 100-115 mph; dark red, 90-100 mph; lighter red, 80-90 mph; orange, 70-80 mph; yellow, 60-70 mph:
Valid 2am EDT Saturday
Valid 8am EDT Saturday
Valid 2pm EDT Saturday
Valid 8pm EDT Saturday
Valid 2am EDT Sunday
If the above forecast model verifies (and based on the current trends of Irene, this appears quite likely), then widespread, damaging winds of 70-80 mph can be expected as far West as the Raleigh-Durham and Fayetteville areas by mid-morning Saturday. Just East of this area, on up to I-95 and I-40, winds of 80-90 mph are likely. To the East of I-95 and I-40, sustained winds in excess of 100 mph are likely.
Rainfall has been generous across this region during the spring and summer months. The ground is moist, and trees are loaded with moisture. This will make it even easier for them to be toppled in the strong winds, which will further aggravate an already extreme potential for power outages across the region.
Speaking of rainfall, the latest HPC forecast image below is calling for widespread rainfall of up to a foot along the far Eastern coast of North Carolina, tapering back to the West to the 3-5 inch range in the Raleigh-Durham and Fayetteville areas:
The additional heavy rains, some of which will flow into the region ahead of the stronger winds, will further increase the likelihood of widespread tree and power line damage.
This is a very dangerous and potentially life threatening situation. If you live across this region, please heed all warnings and local evacuation orders. Your preparation and evacuation plans should be complete at this time. Particularly if you live East of I-95, don't chance it and try to ride out the storm. Such a decision could end up costing you your life.
For more details on the expected track and East Coast impacts of Irene, please see my earlier post here. Also, watch for upcoming detailed posts for specific areas further North along the forecast path, which are forthcoming later this evening and/or tomorrow....
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