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When Did Irene Stop Being a Hurricane? 426

Posted by timothy
from the anything-with-cliff-mass-is-interesting dept.
jamesl writes "Cliff Mass, a climate researcher at the University of Washington and popular Seattle blogger, asks, 'When did Irene stop being a hurricane? ... there is really no reliable evidence of hurricane-force winds at any time the storm was approaching North Carolina or moving up the East Coast. ... I took a look at all the observations over Virgina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Not one National Weather Service or FAA observation location, not one buoy observations, none reach the requisite wind speed. Most were not even close. ... Surely, one of the observations upwind of landfall, over Cape Hatteras or one of the other barrier island locations, indicated hurricane-force sustained winds? Amazingly, the answer is still no.' Cliff supports his statement with data from NOAA/NWS/NDBC presented in easy to understand charts."
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When Did Irene Stop Being a Hurricane?

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  • Who cares... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday August 29, 2011 @06:58PM (#37247800)
    Knowing when it wasn't a hurricane won't help those injured or killed, or fix the damage. Just someone interested in playing Monday Morning Quarterback....
    • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:02PM (#37247844)

      No, but if it wasn't a hurricane then there are implications for planning for the future.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        No, but if it wasn't a hurricane then there are implications for planning for the future.

        Oh? And just what would those implications be? Maybe that folks shouldn't listen to Big Government when they are told to evacuate because the storm didn't turn out to be as bad as expected? Or that maybe the money spent on flood insurance would be better spent on a weekend at Atlantic City?

        I'm curious as to what you believe the "implications for planning for the future" would be.

        I've got one: "The climate's going to

        • by nabsltd (1313397)

          Oh? And just what would those implications be?

          That the current infrastructure sucks pretty bad to have had "not-a-hurricane" do quite a bit of damage, and the time to fix those infrastructure issues is before an actual hurricane hits.

          • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:14PM (#37248924)

            You're assuming a hurricane is worse than not-a-hurricane. It isn't always. Hurricane reflects windspeed, but speed is not the only measure of damage.

            I was on Nantucket for a wedding during Hurricane Bob. We stayed in a tiny, poorly-built cottage right over a small dune from the ocean. During the storm itself, we moved to higher ground and a better-constructed building, but the tiny, poorly-built cottage was fine. A Noreaster came through six months later, broke through the sand dune, and took out the cottage and all the cottages around it, and caused much more damage than hurricane Bob had generally.

            In this hurricane, the water was the damaging factor, not the windspeed, and the water could have been far worse very easily. Places in Virginia got 16" of rain. Normally at 4" of rain, a county or municipality will have major outages.

            • The #7 most costliest "hurricane", before 2004, was Tropical Storm Allison [noaa.gov]
              • by Solandri (704621)
                Second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history was Hurricane Mitch [wikipedia.org] in 1998. If you closely look at the storm track [wikipedia.org], you'll notice that the entire time it was over land it was "only" a tropical storm or tropical depression. Like Allison, it moved slowly and lingered, killing people with massive rainfall causing tremendous flooding and landslides. It nearly drove Honduras back into the stone age.
          • Is the cost of evacuating a large part of the biggest city in the nation counted as part of the "damage?" Because if it is, I'm thinking the number might be just a tad inflated.
    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Yeah, we should never improve our data collection methods when someone's life is at risk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Knowing when it wasn't a hurricane won't help those injured or killed, or fix the damage.

      No, but it might help to determine just WHY the storm was being hyped so much.

      Because, face it, in spite of the 20-odd deaths from the storm (including one surfer), it really wasn't much of a storm. When NYC ordered its evacuation (which most of the few people affected by ignored), NOAA was showing that the storm was probably going to be no worse than a middling tropical storm when it reached NYC. Yet we didn't hear

      • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gcnaddict (841664) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:17PM (#37248014)

        it really wasn't much of a storm

        Tell that to Vermont, as well as to the millions out of power, the people and institutions which suffered billions of dollars in damage, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.

        This was still a nasty storm.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          That isn't a argument New Yorkers can grasp because nothing that exists out side of the NY Burroughs matters or has any value in their minds...

          • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:08PM (#37248402) Homepage Journal

            That isn't a argument New Yorkers can grasp because nothing that exists out side of the NY Burroughs matters or has any value in their minds...

            In many ways the right precautions were taken. Here some people were affected and some inconvenienced. Luckily the storm calmed down before it was expected. Had there been no preparation and a storm that didn't calm down then plenty more people would be complaining and rightly so.

            Katrina taught us that being prepared is important. Nature is not always easy to predict.

            • Luckily the storm calmed down before it was expected.

              No, actually it didn't. NOAA forecasts predicted it calming down pretty much when it did.

        • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pla (258480) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:43PM (#37248238) Journal
          Tell that to Vermont, as well as to the millions out of power, the people and institutions which suffered billions of dollars in damage, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.

          More importantly, tell that to the relatives of the people who will die next time, because everyone says "bah, evacuate my ass, remember Irene?".

          Warning people to protect themselves in the face of a legitimate threat has unmeasurable value to society, it can save countless lives and reduce the actual property damage resulting from unpreparedness. Crying wolf just teaches people to ignore the warnings.


          This was still a nasty storm.

          No argument about that. That doesn't qualify it as an "evacuate NYC"-level of false alarm, however.
          • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:10PM (#37248416) Homepage Journal

            Nature is unpredictable, just like a wolf. It might change it's mind.

          • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:21PM (#37248996) Homepage

            Warning people to protect themselves in the face of a legitimate threat has unmeasurable value to society, it can save countless lives and reduce the actual property damage resulting from unpreparedness. Crying wolf just teaches people to ignore the warnings.

            The problem with that is that evacuations don't come free. If you move a million people around you have a good chance of killing some in the process, so you better want to have a good reason to do an evacuation.

            DEATHS RELATED TO HURRICANE RITA AND MASS EVACUATION [chestpubs.org]:

            There were 111 deaths related to Hurricane Rita in the state of Texas. The three direct deaths were from wind blown trees. A majority of the deaths (90/108 or 83.3%) were related to the mass evacuation process. Of these deaths, 10% were directly related to hyperthermia in motor vehicles. The combination of traffic gridlock and high temperatures, limitation of air conditioning to reduce fuel consumption, reduction of oral intake to decrease restroom visits, and conservation of limited supplies is suspected. 51.1% (46/90) of the evacuation deaths were persons found unresponsive in their vehicle. Hyperthermia and decompensated chronic health conditions are suspected but complete health information was not available. 25.5% (23/90) were nursing home evacuees who died in a bus fire that resulted from overheated brakes in combination with oxygen tanks. The evacuation of patients from chronic health facilities resulted in 10 deaths (11.1%).

          • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Torodung (31985) on Monday August 29, 2011 @11:13PM (#37249644) Journal

            This was still a nasty storm.

            No argument about that. That doesn't qualify it as an "evacuate NYC"-level of false alarm, however.

            You're right, but only in hindsight.

            Problem is, the time it takes to really "evacuate the island" is somewhat longer than the window of accurate forecast for this sort of storm. So basically, you don't know that it's going to fizzle when you're making the call. You just know that if you don't, and it doesn't, you're responsible for thousands of deaths, and you didn't give them the information that would let them choose between holding out, or fleeing.

            That's the government's job here, to provide the best recommendation for likely and possible, but not certain, worst cases. Even if it's a 20% likelihood. Not to spin a sugary story like this storm, (death toll: 38 as I post, btw), turned out to be.

            To give you an example of things not going well, we had a serious blizzard here in Chicago this past winter. Town hall did not close Lake Shore Drive, because it really didn't look like it was going to be a problem in the near term (several hours of safety were predicted). They decided to leave LSD open to get people away from downtown quickly before the worst hit. The thing blew a portion of Lake Michigan (as snow) onto the drive in a space of about 10 minutes. Basically, they had the right call, but then 10 minutes later, everyone on LSD was stranded and in danger of freezing to death. It was the damnedest thing I've ever seen.

            This happened because the storm was particularly large, not because it was necessarily intense.

            Now imagine that happens when millions of people are trying to clear out from a larger affected area, and the nature of the problem becomes apparent. In Chicago's case, 10 minutes later, after making a reasonable, responsible but ultimately wrong decision, they were hosed. Apologies all round. We pulled together and dug them out.

            What made this call was the size, not the intensity. There is more than one metric than wind speed at work here. There is moisture content, and radius, and tornadoes on the border. Even as a tropical storm, it deluged Vermont. Imagine if it had still been merely a Class 1 when it hit New York. That might have been a serious emergency. And historically, hurricanes like Irene [wikipedia.org] have ambled unpredictably up the East coast for centuries. It's not beyond the realm of imagination or even history. Any time something that big forms, no matter the current intensity of wind, which is capable of throwing large parts of the Atlantic onto Manhattan, you have to err on the side of caution. For the tunnels, evacuation routes may be flooded, which will then leave a lot of people stranded in traffic on suspension bridges in high winds. Manhattan is hard to clear once the festivities begin.

            This should give us pause to consider how hard it is to run a decent, rapid civil defense action on Manhattan. They're sitting ducks. If anything comes of it, we should realize and amend that so they don't have to make decisions like this so far beyond the window of reliable prediction. Not grouse about their lack of a Palantir to divine the will of nature.

            Until such time? They made the only decision they could. Individuals may choose to hold out, once the risk is firmly their choice and they have good information, but governmental bodies really and truly can't.

            Sorry if you were inconvenienced by the "mistake."

            • by pla (258480)
              You're right, but only in hindsight.

              Well, that, and the whole point of TFA centers on the fact that this storm never posed a serious threat. Not just in hindsight, but not a single verifiable data point even says "hurricane", much less "storm of the century".


              Sorry if you were inconvenienced by the "mistake."

              Not at all - I didn't have such good evidence as TFA to back it up, but despite living dead center of its pre-landfall track, at no point did I panic over a (hypothetical) category 2 storm maki
              • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @10:15AM (#37253028)

                In terms of flooding it was indeed a 100-year event, or storm of the century. Many rivers in NJ and VT have hit 100 year or all time record high flood levels.

                And what are most evacuations conducted for? To get people away from flooding.

                This fixation on wind velocity as a metric for the danger inherent in a storm is not accurate. Insisting that it be used in a case like this is bad judgement, plain and simple.

              • You're right, but only in hindsight.

                Well, that, and the whole point of TFA centers on the fact that this storm never posed a serious threat. Not just in hindsight, but not a single verifiable data point even says "hurricane", much less "storm of the century".

                But the point that TFA, and you, miss, is that the meteorologists were forecasting - predicting the future. And that's always difficult. Storms just like Irene have in fact grown in strength as they approached the coast, despite being fairly benign fu

          • Warning people to protect themselves in the face of a legitimate threat has unmeasurable value to society, it can save countless lives and reduce the actual property damage resulting from unpreparedness. Crying wolf just teaches people to ignore the warnings.

            I remember when in 2004 (the year before Kathrina) I read in the news that the major of New Orleans had ordered a (voluntary) evacuation of the city. Checking in wikipedia, I see this was in preparation for Hurricane Ivan. When I saw that and read a bit about how bad the flooding risk was I thought, wow, I need to visit New Orleans before it goes under. By a combination of circumstances I ended up actually visiting the city in December that year.

            However, the wikipedia page on Kathrina does not say anyth

        • by tibit (1762298)

          Main reason for that I'd think: no winds of that speed for a good while. Trees overgrow and then you get branches taking out power left, right and center. That's what happened in Ohio after IIRC hurricane Ike. We were without power for almost a week. We got winds of similar speeds about two years later and there was negligible loss of power -- because everything that was weak or overgrown was mulched or turned into firewood long ago.

      • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by technomom (444378) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:21PM (#37248054)
        The not-so-bad-storm has produced record flooding in many places. I don't think the evacuations did any harm and in the case of the mass transit system, it probably saved a lot of mini-Katrina like situations happening as there were flooded tracks, downed utility poles, mudslides, and trees on virtually every rail system in New York. Had people been on trains, they might still be there as much of that is still shut down. I don't recall anyone saying anything about a Category 3 except for Fox News who kept showing footage from the Category 3 1938 "Long Island Express" storm claiming it was going to be "just like that". Idiots. All the local news I was following (CBS 880 mostly) reiterated over and over again that the trouble was going to be the 5-10 inches of rain, not the wind. In most places like low lying Hoboken, New Milford, Wayne, NJ, Elmsford, Mamaroneck, NY, the evacuations were dead on necessary as that indeed was the case. Even in the higher elevations in Staten Island, NY, people had to be evacuated because ponds that had never, ever had a history of flooding did so. Was it hyped? Maybe. So what? With a storm the size of Western Europe, only 21 deaths? That's a pretty good line of success for managing what could have been a lot worse.
        • by mysidia (191772) *

          Had people been on trains, they might still be there as much of that is still shut down.

          Wait... a near Cat1 Hurricane event approaching/occuring, and someone would think about travelling on a train, rather than being hunkered down in a suitable shelter to ride out the storm?

          Travelling during an ordinary thunderstorm is OK. If a person is foolish enough to attempt travel in the middle of an extreme severe weather event that they have advance warning of, then they kind of deserve that in a way.

          Certainl

      • Oh pooh. There are several rivers in NJ that reached record flood levels, and there are several towns that are completely surrounded by water. Some places in NJ set all time 24 hr rainfall records.

        I don't particularly care about a stupid storm categorization system based only on something like wind velocity when clearly there are other measures like rainfall that should be considered. The fact is that with modern storm prediction techniques flooding is the primary cause of damage.

      • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:31PM (#37248160)

        Because NYC doesn't get "middling tropical storms" all that often.

        Just like New Yorkers get to giggle when those Southern folk shut down schools and stock pile supplies like survivalists because they got 2 feet of snow.

        Most places that get tropical storms often enough don't build transportation systems that move millions of people below sea level with nothing preventing them from flooding. Just like most places that get snow don't not have snow plows and salt.

        • Most places that get tropical storms often enough don't build transportation systems that move millions of people below sea level with nothing preventing them from flooding.

          Did you know that most of Greater New Orleans is below sea level? The French Quarter is above sea level, and I think there's a manmade hill in the zoo that's a few feet above sea level, but pretty much all of the rest is below sea-level.

        • by sjbe (173966) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:55PM (#37248786)

          Just like New Yorkers get to giggle when those Southern folk shut down schools and stock pile supplies like survivalists because they got 2 feet of snow.

          New Yorkers (the ones from NYC, not upstate) do that when there is 2 feet of snow. Southern folks shut down when there is 2 INCHES of snow.

          Seriously, when I lived in a more southerly latitude, a quarter of an inch of snow would close every school within 15 miles of my house. They simply do not know how to deal rationally with significant amounts of snow. Where I grew up 1-2 feet within 24 hours was rather normal and I've seen as much as 72 inches in just three days. Despite that I didn't get a single snow day when I was in high school. Not one in four years.

          • by gstovall (22014)

            I live in a rural area in the Ozarks of Arkansas. It is true that a very small amount of snow (to my upper midwest born/raised sensibilities) brings school to a crashing halt here. But it's not because people do not know how to deal rationally with snow. It's because there are no snow plows, no deicer, and, most importantly, no pavement.

            When nearly every road has a significant slope and gravel only if you're very very fortunate, roads become nearly impassible with even a small amount of snow. At only t

      • Re:Who cares... (Score:4, Informative)

        by mellon (7048) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:03PM (#37248382) Homepage

        Beach houses *did* get washed away; if people had stayed in them, the would have died. Tunnels in New York were flooded; if people had been in them, they would have died. The Hudson came up over its banks. The east river came up over its banks. Yes, the storm surge wasn't as big as anticipated. But measuring this storm by the number of deaths is completely fallacious. If that reasoning made sense, then we would measure the strength of earthquakes by the death toll as well, and earthquakes in countries with no earthquake code would always measure stronger. And then we'd assume that those countries just got stronger quakes, and there was nothing we could do about it.

        The reality is that we, and by we here I specifically mean people tasked with emergency preparedness, cannot predict exactly what effect any given storm will have. All we can do is try to guess accurately, and to make sure that our guess is more pessimistic than any realistic scenario, so that if that scenario happens to be the one that comes to pass, people don't die because we were afraid of over-hyping, and didn't do the prudent thing and evacuate them to higher ground.

      • Somewhere in the world, there is a bridge that is missing its troll.

        Or maybe that bridge was one of the many that have washed away and that is why there is a troll wandering around, making stupid about overhyped storm warnings.

      • No, but it might help to determine just WHY the storm was being hyped so much.

        That's easy. Because NYC had a chance to be affected and that is where the news organizations are. Secondarily, no government official is going to take the chance of not reacting after the debacle that was Katrina. Anything that might affect NYC is apparently news - even when it isn't. When NYC gets weather that is rather typical where I live you'd think the world was coming to an end. I'm not looking forward to the day when a truly serious natural catastrophe affects NYC. We'll never hear the end o

      • Yawn. Nothing new to see here. 36 hours before Andrew's landfall, the official party line was that Miami Beach was facing lethal danger, and the safest place to go was southern and western Dade County. The people who stayed on the beach had a bad rainstorm. The people who evacuated south and west had the worst 18+ hours of their lives. The REAL shitstorm came a few months later, when it was confirmed that the local authorities knew beyond doubt ~12-18 hours before landfall that Andrew was going to miss Sout

    • by silky1 (1609493)
      Yeah I don't give a crap if it was a hurricane or not, I was moved to fuel up my gas tanks, get money out, check chainsaw and other equipment by all the 'hype'. Good thing I did as the cleanup effort in CT goes on with no power for an unknown amount of time.
    • Re:Who cares... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mellon (7048) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:56PM (#37248328) Homepage

      I don't understand why anyone would mod the above article flamebait. The fact is that this was a tremendously destructive storm, because of all the moisture that it carried. I'm right there with people who want facts to be reported accurately, but the degree of preparation that went on before this storm was entirely appropriate. Should New York City have kept running the subway lines? The tunnels flooded! Should those people in Groton, CT, who boarded up their windows not have bothered? Some of their neighbors' houses were washed away. What about the damage on the Jersey Shore, and in North Carolina? Hype?

      In my town alone, with a population of about 14k, there were 30 swift water rescues during the flooding. Houses were carried downriver. Propane tanks, hissing gas, were carried downriver. A young woman was swept away downriver, and drowned, two towns west of here.

      What is amazing about this storm is that despite how serious it was, and despite all the damage that was done, so few lives were lost. Many towns in Vermont flooded, and some can only be reached by class 3 roads that are barely passable because the main road and the alternate have washed out, and the road that _is_ passable has two-foot waves in it.

      We were shocked by the ferocity of the flooding. Yesterday morning I foolishly thought that the danger had passed, and this was a flash in the pan. I had no idea what that giant bank of orange on the radar over the Green Mountains meant. I'm really glad someone did, and that people got warnings in time, and weren't in the path of the flood waters when they came roaring down Whetstone Brook. I'm really glad that low-lying trailer parks were successfully evacuated, and that we are not reading about the tragic loss of life that could have occurred, but instead about people wondering when they can go back to assess the damage.

      So if there was some scientific inaccuracy in the exact name that was given to the type of storm this was, I guess that's of some academic interest, but if this storm had gotten a different name, and that had resulted in less preparation, that would have really sucked. Some of my neighbors would be dead now.

      I think this is the point that the parent was trying to convey. It's not flamebait. If there's a problem to correct, let's make sure that correcting it doesn't result in less hype the next time a storm like this comes through.

  • Media Hype(rcane) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AbsoluteXyro (1048620) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:03PM (#37247856)
    Yes, it was a Bad Storm. Nobody is going to deny that. However, the media's over-hype and over-coverage of the storm could have a serious "boy who cried wolf" effect. I would hate to see people woefully under-prepared if and when the next "Katrina" arrives, due to lack in confidence in media storm reporting and forecasting. We really don't need to instill a mindset of "it's not going to be as bad as they say it is" in hurricane prone areas. That kind of thinking costs lives, but is none the less engendered by ratings hungry news networks over-hyping relatively weak storms like Irene.
    • Sorry, no.. it is only going to have "boy who cried wolf" effect if idiots like you keep talking about over-hype when there was clearly a potential for mass catastrophe.

      To put it another way, STFU and be happy we have a way to tell that a storm is coming that has the potential to cause us massive harm.

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:17PM (#37248008)

      I think what's kinda telling is that the prediction services and government agencies can't win. Shrug it off as another storm; people crucify you if one person dies. Sound the alarm, shut down major cities, and people crucify you if there aren't at least a few hundred dead. Unless everything happens exactly according to predictions, and everything can be fixed up within a week, it's a major disaster and scapegoats need to be scapegoated. And the media is definitely part of the problem. We are hardwired to look at how people in our surroundings behave to figure out how we should behave. If everyone on TV is going ape-shit, we're going to go ape-shit as well. I'd love the news media to take a hard look at how they report on events, and how it influences the discussion around events.

      I guess there's a reason that the only news agencies I've paid money for in the last 5 years are The Economist and my local public radio station.

      • This. A million times this. We have serious problems in the way media presents information before, during, and after events such as this.
      • by flappinbooger (574405) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:51PM (#37248738) Homepage
        Here's my take on Irene. It wasn't "that bad" of a storm but see below. I was in SW Florida from 2003 to 2005 and watched Charlie, Ivan, Katrina and Wilma (and all the others) come by. Some of them were severe. I was directly in the path of Charlie and Wilma. They all had very sharply formed eye walls as I recall, because when you live there you're checking the track and satellite images about every 4 hours. Irene didn't rebuild the eyewall and thus didn't strengthen as much. You looked at Wilma and it just looked mean. They said at the time if the scale went to cat 6 Wilma would be a 6.

        That being said even a category 1 hurricane can mess you up. If you're in the way of storm surge and on a coastal region it's simply a good idea to evacuate. Crap can blow into your house and trees can fall on you. If you're on the coast at 1 foot above sea level and they are saying 6 foot storm surge that means you can get 5 feet of water in your house. Want to be there for that? No. Can it happen? Yes. Can it NOT happen? Yes. Do they know 100%? No.

        Another thing to mention, even though hurricanes take days to get to you, they can and do change course affecting their landfall by up to several miles in a matter of minutes to hours. Charlie was literally heading right up the Caloosahachee river - which I lived a block away from at the time, just off McGregor Blvd in Fort Myers. I took my pregnant wife and kid and went inland a few miles. When it hit Sanabel Island it changed course and went north and hit Punta Gorda really hard. It was a last minute change. I don't recall the people who evacuated FM bitching that it missed. Instead most were disturbed by the total destruction and deaths where it hit. I worked with a guy who volunteered with the red cross and he was stunned by the scale and totality of destruction caused by Charlie when it hit land in Fla.

        You're right, they can't win but they have to error on the side of caution because the cost of not being careful enough is lives lost. The only cost of being wrong the other way is getting yelled at. I'd sleep better at night being careful.

        The aftermath of a hurricane sucks. No power. No phone. Cell towers last 24 to 48 hours on battery, then they go out. Gas stations run out of gas. No A/C. Ice is like gold. Cash only, no phone or power for credit cards. Banks aren't open - no power no ATM no cash. Stuff spoils and condiments are EXPENSIVE when you have to replace them all. If you have damage you are likely on your own because everyone around you will have damage too. Watch out for con artist contractors. The good times are when blocks come together and have massive cookouts because you gotta cook the meat before it spoils. Those are the good memories.

        Anyway, here's a funny anecdote. Funny now anyway. After Charlie hit there was non-stop news coverage for DAYS on the Fort Myers stations. It basically missed Naples, a very high class city, as you know. The day after it hit, they pre-empted a major golf tournament for hurricane coverage. People from Naples called in to complain they couldn't watch the golf tournament. Their reply was "Um, we're sorry you're unhappy, but we're covering the hurricane now because PEOPLE ARE DEAD AND MISSING.
    • by MightyYar (622222)

      When they called most of the evacuations, it was still a category 3. I think the government officials made the right choice.

      And then it hit New Jersey at dead-low tide during a new moon - one couldn't get any luckier than that. The Jersey Shore floods during a regular full moon high tide with a strong easterly wind (it doesn't let the water recede from the back bays).

      But the media, well... their job is to get you to watch TV. To their credit, I was watching because of their hype and thus caught a tornado wa

      • And then it hit New Jersey at dead-low tide during a new moon - one couldn't get any luckier than that.

        Because moon phases and tides are notoriously hard to predict.

        • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:55PM (#37248772)

          Because moon phases and tides are notoriously hard to predict.

          Yeah, but I hear it's hard for hurricanes to get online and look up tide tables...what with all the damaging wind and rain and stuff.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          I won't berate you like some of the others, but I would ask you to think about what you wrote in mathematical terms. The time difference between low and high tide is about 6 hours. At the time of the evacuations, the hurricane had not even hit North Carolina yet, which is roughly 500 miles away. The hurricane was moving around 15MPH. At that speed and distance, missing the predicted speed by a single MPH changes the arrival by between 2 and 2.4 hours, give or take. So while the high and low tides are very w

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Check out this article [nytimes.com] by a couple of guys who are pretty statistically reliable. The "hype" for this hurricane was nothing out of the ordinary.

    • by mellon (7048)

      Then why are you contributing to the precise mode of thinking that would lead to that boy-who-cried-wolf scenario? This really, really was a bad storm. Nobody cried wolf here. A lot of people would have died without the preparatory measures that were taken, and the occasional heroic emergency rescues that were nevertheless required.

      What about this smacks of "crying wolf" to you?

    • by trout007 (975317)

      As someone who routinely rides out storms in Florida the reason isn't the forecasters. The problem is the local governments that refuse to let you back to your house because there is no power or water. They like to blockage places playing safety guard instead of just checking to see if you actually live there and let you back. This may work for one storm but after having lots of damage that could of been prevented if you were allowed home you get pissed. And don't say insurance will handle it because the hu

  • Does it matter at what altitude the wind speeds are measured? The buoys and measuring stations are at or near ground/sea level... while the aircraft are considerably higher. I remember a local forecaster stating that he was seeing 70mph winds less than a mile up near Raleigh.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Yes and no. But for the most part this was a well developed tropical depression, with people running amok including NOAA and NHC, going that this was a storm of the century, and NYC was doomed! DOOOOOOOMED! What's worse was people going off their rails that it was a hurricane after it centrally collapsed. A collapsing depression can cause more damage than a cat 1 hurricane.

    • by anagama (611277)
      Oh definitely, altitude makes a huge difference. I heard the Jetsons lost every window on the windward side and Astro almost got blown off the balcony.
  • It gained hurricane status when people actually latched on to their monster-of-the-week and started paying attention to the media's FUD about just-another-storm.

    It lost hurricane status when people got bored with it. Which, not coincidentally, happened right around the time people realized that the storm had passed and nothing more interesting than a few downed trees and some localized flooding had accompanied the Grim Reaper on his end-of-summer ride through the heavens.

    Yep, a few people died. Floodi
  • When a storm is rotating counter-clockwise, the strongest wind will be on the right side of the storm. Because the storm as a whole is moving forward and on the right side, the forward-motion of the storm as a whole coincides with the direction of the rotation of the storm.

    Now, as the storm was on the east-coast of the USA and moving north, the highest wind speed would be on the east of the eye of the storm - over the sea.

    However, CNN mentioned at some point when the storm was over New York, that it was
  • And watch this hurricane! Oh boy it's gonna be historic!

    Now keep watching... keep watching... keep watching...
  • Irene had pressure that low across N. Carolina and into Virginia. Still a strong storm. High winds spread out over wider area.

    I was watching the reports at www.wunderground.com Tropical Weather page, and Dr. Jeff Masters blog there.

  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:20PM (#37248040) Homepage

    Glad to see others publicly noticing the wind speed discrepancies and general weakness of the storm.

    Related to that is some local stations not only referred to it as a hurricane, but further stated that hurricane force winds extended out 125 miles from the eye when it was already very evident, even to many TV news reporters, some of who, that morning, on the air, characterized it as more akin to a Nor'Easter.

    Makes some, including myself, wonder whether state and local governments, from pressure by the Feds, used the storm as a pretext to test shutting down entire mass transit systems and mass evacuations; not to see if it was possible, but what the public reaction would be, and the amount of compliance - reportedly, some local authorities, for people who refused to leave, were demanding them to provide their names and social security numbers.

    Ron

    • What the public reaction would be, and the amount of compliance

      Now that you brought it up, anybody know what the level of compliance was?

    • Late summer weekend with a crap economy? Little was lost economically by the shutdown

    • In Spring Lake NJ, some 10 miles from where I live there is a number of cases where homes were penetrated by flying debris - tree limbs, 2x4s, and even some 4x4's.

      In other areas entire towns have been flooded and rivers have set new flood level records.

      Evacuation of the NJ shore obviously saved lives.

      This is not some made up conspiracy or false alarm in action, nor is it anything like nor'easter which we often get multiple times a year in NJ.

    • by notnAP (846325)

      source, please?
      Saying things like "reportedly, some local authorities, for people who refused to leave, were demanding them to provide their names and social security numbers" in a story which lambasts the government for making people afraid without a justifiable reason just pegged my irony-o-meter.

  • When it was no longer convenient to describe it as such. Just like Pluto.
  • I watched this storm closely. The bottom line is it was expected to strengthen before landfall. I recall seeing predictions of 130-135 mph winds. That didn't happen. In fact, Irene kind of fell apart on the way to the Carolina coast, so the devastating storm the news machine had hyped up simply never materialized. That's why there was so much news coverage. It WAS expected to be big. Why didn't they start reporting on Irene falling apart and saying "Whoops, my bad..."? I have no idea.

  • by guanxi (216397) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:44PM (#37249204)

    Here's some data Cliff Mass must have overlooked:

    Here's a helpful map with data:
    http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/at201109.asp [wunderground.com]

    Here are the National Hurricane Center reports:
    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2011/refresh/IRENE+shtml/120913.shtml [noaa.gov]?
      * Note the Wind Speed Probability reports

    They also provide this:
    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at4+shtml/085722.shtml?swath [noaa.gov]

    The Wikpedia article is well-footnoted:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Hurricane_Irene [wikimedia.org]

  • 9:00 am Sunday (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:39PM (#37249490) Homepage

    At 9:00 am Sunday morning, August 28, EDT. According to the Hurricane IRENE Advisory Archive [noaa.gov]. At that time, it was centered over New York City (it was 40 miles SSW of there an hour earlier). Until then, estimated and measured wind speeds made the system a hurricane.

    If you want to dispute the accuracy of NWS current measurements and estimates, then research how they do it and dispute properly. They use [noaa.gov] recon aircraft, doppler radar, satellite imagery, balloons, and ships, in addition to buoys and automated surface observation systems, to measure and estimate wind speeds. If you want to dispute the NWS's predictions, then either learn meteorology and forecast models to prepare yourself, or compare past predictions to later observations. If you want to dispute the NWS's warning wording, then compare predicted conditions and their real world impact to the NWS's wording. If you want to dispute the media's hype, then compare their hype to the NWS's warnings, and have fun.

    But do not ask such an amazingly easy to answer question like "When Did Irene Stop Being a Hurricane?" in order to stir provocation, without answering it. And do not look at some buoy and automated surface observation system data and claim there was no hurricane just from that.

  • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @07:33AM (#37251600) Homepage

    One link that I read religiously when there's a storm: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html [wunderground.com]

    Masters used to fly with the Hurricane Hunters, and his blog is one of the best. Go back and look over his assessment of the storm. Jeff was *never* that worried about the wind, and he explains what apparently has the news media baffled: Irene began an eyewall replacement cycle just before hitting NC, and never recovered.

    When an eyewall replacement begins, the storm typically expands. In this case, it meant that Irene had a *HUGE* field of tropical storm-force winds, but only a small pocket of hurricane-force winds on the east side of the storm. Yes, it was a hurricane; just because dood can't find any buoys that support that doesn't mean that it isn't so. The hurricane hunters measured winds > 74 MPH, so it was a hurricane. The fact that winds > 74 MPH weren't recorded as having much land impact has nothing to do with the classification of the storm.

    Now, I think the NHC kept the "hurricane" classification a bit longer than was justified, but they possibly did that because they KNOW that most people (especially the news media) focus on winds, instead of the REAL danger from a hurricane: flooding. Even if Irene had completely dissipated to little more than a weak tropical depression by the time it hit New Jersey, you'd still have major damage, power outages and loss of life just from the flooding.

    The news media has NEVER understood that. They will invariably put some moron out in the wind with a camera, hoping to get an image of the guy being blown all over the beach. But the primary danger from Irene was flooding, as Masters points out repeatedly in his blog.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @10:22AM (#37253118)
    .. The hurricane planes measured hurricane force wind in one of the outer bands of the hurricane. The storm is classified as a hurricane if any area of the storm has hurricane force winds present. Those winds do not need to be over a populated area, near the eye of the storm, or even at sea level. They just need to be somewhere in the storm.

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