North Carolina's Takedown of Hurricane Irene Is a Sign of What's to Come

hurricane irene over north carolina
Hurricane Irene made landfill in North Carolina
Thank you North Carolina! Hurricane Irene made landfall near Atlantic Beach this morning. Tens of thousands are without power, and there's some serious flooding. But boy did those Tarheels show her how they get things done. Cranky old Irene has officially been downgraded to a Category 1 storm! That means she's slowing down, losing steam as she moves across land rather than water.


So that's good right? I mean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies a Cat 1 as a storm that gives us:

No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.

Pshaw. I can handle that. Again, let's give a little thank you to the fine folks of North Carolina who withstand this stuff year after year and really took the hit for the whole Eastern Seaboard.

Or maybe not. Because this is where I stop understanding the whole categorizing of hurricanes entirely. All week they've been talk about Irene being a Category 2 (or at least that's what they expected she'd be by landfall) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale that they use to estimate how bad a storm will be. By those standards, all she would have affected was:

Some roofing material, door, and window damage to buildings. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.

That sounds crappy but nothing like the out and out devastation they've been yowling about on the TV. Nothing like the "worst effects on the Eastern Seaboard in 50 years" that supposed experts got us all panicky about.

So what gives?

It's all about size and duration of a storm say the folks at the National Hurricane Center. Irene may have lost some of her strength in North Carolina -- hence the downgrade -- but the winds don't have to be that strong if she can make up for it with enormous amounts of rain. Those Tarheels still get my utter respect for making it through, but we've got a lot more coming our way.

Are you ready?


Image via NASA/Flickr

Read More >