Bloomberg News

Emergencies Declared on East Coast as Hurricane Irene Nears

August 25, 2011

(Updates with Connecticut declaration in eighth paragraph.)

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Irene is now forecast to strike deeper into North Carolina before making landfalls on the Delmarva Peninsula and New Jersey. Governors from North Carolina to Connecticut issued emergency declarations.

Irene, a Category 3 major hurricane, is forecast to peak with winds of 120 miles (193 kilometers) per hour, which will leave it short of the threshold needed to be upgraded to the second-most powerful type of storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. Earlier forecasts had Irene growing to Category 4.

The hurricane center’s 5 p.m. forecast track shows the storm moving closer to the coast, and that may be good news for the U.S. Northeast, said Arthur DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University.

“It is going to hug the coast and that is going to take a lot of punch out of the storm,” DeGaetano said.

The hurricane center said its confidence in the track forecast is increasing.

“The new track guidance has been nudged westward,” according to an agency analysis. “Since Irene is a large tropical cyclone, one should not focus on the exact track of Irene as significant impacts will be felt well away from the center.”

More than 65 million people, or about one in five Americans, from North Carolina to Maine, are in the way of the hurricane, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Emergencies Declared

Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Bob McDonnell of Virginia declared emergencies today. Christie said people should leave the shore by midday tomorrow. North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for counties east of Interstate 95.

In Delaware, Governor Jack Markell told potential visitors to stay away from his state this weekend. Amtrak canceled most train service south of Washington starting tomorrow through Aug. 28, according to a statement.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a decision on evacuations would be made tomorrow for residents in areas including Coney Island, Battery Park City and parts of Staten Island. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Irene is currently 575 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving north-northwest at 14 mph and “still battering Abaco Island” in the Bahamas, the hurricane center said in a 5 p.m. advisory.

Alerts Posted

A hurricane warning was issued for the coast of North Carolina from Little River Inlet to the Virginia line. A hurricane watch has been issued from that point to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the hurricane center said.

Irene may cause $13.9 billion in insured losses and $20 billion in overall economic losses due to lost hours at work, power outages, interruption of shipping and airline traffic, according to estimates by Kinetic Analysis Corp.

Small fluctuations in the track could mean much greater damage to New York City from storm surge, said Eric Wilhelm, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

DeGaetano said the track ultimately depends on a weather front moving into the Northeast from the west as Irene approaches from the south.

“When they interact with a frontal system, that provides the boundary they travel on,” said DeGaetano, who is also director of NOAA’s Northeast Regional Climate Center. “It will be riding up along the front.”

The track will also determine how much the storm affects Boston and eastern New England, he said. If it moves up the Connecticut River, Boston will be affected. If it moves farther west, then Boston may be spared the brunt of the winds.

Irene is paralleling the path of Hurricane Gloria, which killed 11 people after landfall in New York’s Long Island in 1985.

The last hurricane to strike the U.S. was Ike in 2008, a Category 2 storm when it went ashore near Galveston, Texas. The most recent major hurricane, one with winds of at least 111 mph, was Wilma in 2005.

Farther east in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 10 probably will be upgraded to a tropical storm by tomorrow, the center said. The next tropical storm will be named Jose.

The system is about 540 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest across open waters at 12 mph, the Miami-based center said.

--With assistance from Elise Young in Trenton, Chris Burritt in North Carolina, Frank Bass in Washington and Conor Sullivan, Lananh Nguyen and Steve Voss in London. Editors: Charlotte Porter, Richard Stubbe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Banker at bbanker@bloomberg.net


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