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Hurricane Irene: The Big One

Hurricane Irene is approaching the east coast and for many big cities, this could be "the big one."

Millions of people are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a major hurricane that has its eye set on parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and even up into the northeast. In this blog, I'll outline the storm's timetable and just how bad conditions will get right here in central Virginia.

By Saturday afternoon, Irene will still be a major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of nearly 115 miles per hour as it approaches the North Carolina coast. The strongest part of the storm will come very close to, or go directly over the Outer Banks and eastern North Carolina. This could be a devastating blow to the barrier islands, with major flooding and wind damage a high likelihood. From there, the storm will pass very close to Virginia Beach as it moves off toward the north. Winds will still likely be in excess of 100 miles per hour at this point. The storm will begin to pick up speed, accelerating toward coastal New Jersey and eventually New York City. This could be very close to a direct hit for New York City and this would be the first time in the more than a century that has occurred. From there, Boston and even Portland, Maine could take big hits from a weakening, but still powerful Irene.

Here's what it means for central Virginia. Clouds will increase Friday night and into Saturday in advance of the storm. A few outer rain bands could impact our area beginning Saturday afternoon and continuing into Saturday night. It's important to note that with the storm on its current track, we will not get into the shield of continuous rain and wind. That will largely stay to the east of Interstate 95. Regardless, being so close to the circulation center, winds will pick up somewhat Saturday night and into Sunday. Winds could gust in the 20-30 miles per hour range through Sunday as skies begin to clear. Overall, this will be a relatively minor impact event for Charlottesville and the immediate area, but conditions will rapidly decline moving toward the beaches.

Of course, a slight wobble in the path could change things around for us, but for now this forecast looks solid. We will continue to keep a very watchful eye on this developing system as it heads toward North Carolina and Virginia. What precautions are you taking (if any) in advance of Hurricane Irene?


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