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OVERVIEW: August 27, 2011 6:00AM New York, NY. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , states that Hurricane Irene will reach New York City at about 12 midnight, Sunday, August 28, 2011. Winds are expected to reach 90mph/150kmh. The hurricane is moving slowly at 12mph and thus is expected to be over NYC for an extended period of time. Estimates state from 12AM to 2PM, or a total of 14 hours. Low lying areas in all five boroughs(counties) of NYC have mandatory evacuation rules in effect. This effects about 320,000 people. Many people have stated that they prefer to stay at home and wait out the hurricane. Certain areas of lower Manhattan, including Battery Park City, which is built on landfill, reclaimed land from the Hudson River, have been ordered to be evacuated. At 12 Noon Saturday, August 27, all mass transportation including railroads, subways and busses, have been ordered to stop operating. All five airports in the NYC area are closed. If sustained wind exceeds 60mph/100kmh, bridges will be closed. Tunnels are being closed out of fear of possible flooding. Hurricane Irene's eye will reach NYC at about 7AM. This is the worse possible time since it is high tide and there is an almost full moon. The normal high tide-low tide range is between 4.6 and 6.5 feet/1.3-2.2meters. The storm surge may range from 6-10ft/2-3mtrs above the high water mark. This is enough to flood many low lying areas including parts of lower Manhattan, DUMBO (downtown Brooklyn), and in certain areas of all 5 boroughs. Con Edison, the local electric company, my turn of electric power to certain areas, prior to flooding with salt water, though such a decision has not been made yet.
The outcome - the next day: 10:15AM The hurricane is all but over. The sun came out momentarily. The dire predictions did not materialize. There were a few tragic deaths around the lower New York state and New Jersey region, including a heart attack victim, a man who was electrocuted, when he came in contact with a downed power line and two people, outside of NYC, who drowned.
Never the less, the flooding was minimal, and in the vast majority of cases, the flooded area could best be described as a large puddle of water. The Hudson River did not overflow its banks, but rather came within 2 feet of the boardwalk in lower Manhattan. In the case of the boat launching ramp, just South of the World Financial Center, small waves of water would occasionally push the water perhaps 2 or 3 feet on to the immediate sidewalk and within a second, recede back into the Hudson. This was the extent of the predicted flood that had been predicted for the Battery area of lower Manhattan. The same holds true for the East River,where the water did reach the level of the sidewalk, but again, was nothing of concern and the depth on the immediate sidewalk was probably not more than an inch or two. Television crews had to search far and wide for images that represented the "hurricane" and in some cases, the reporters were filmed with tight closeups, standing in puddles of water! When the camera zoomed out, the viewer would then see that the "flood" was a non issue.
There was sustained rains throughout the night and this did cause some poorly designed basements to flood. In addition, occasional gusts of wind did knock a few tree branches and trees down, but you would be hard pressed to find them.
Originally, New York City was supposed to have winds from 85-110mph/130-175kmh and most people assumed that this would be constant, sustained winds of those speeds, based on statements made by City officials. In reality, the highest gust of wind recorded in the NYC area was at LaGuardia airport, in northern Queens, which recorded one gust of wind at 67mph/110kmh, for a very brief period. Kennedy airport recorded a gust of wind at 58mph/97kmh. City officials said that in Central Park (Manhattan), the fastest gust had been 24 mph. Sustained winds there were just 16 mph. On average, the sustained winds were about 20mph/35kph for the night, with some gusts of wind that could be significantly higher, ranging mostly in the 30mph/50kmh area and occasionally, higher.
Presently, the damage resulting from the hurricane in NYC is said to be in the Billions Dollars! This amount seems shockingly high considering that very little damage is seen. One report stated that the damage is do to flooded basements and flooded infrastructure. It is hard to assess, what you can not see. Very little damage is visible to the casual observer in DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and lower Manhattan. Perhaps the damage figures are overstated. The financial loss to businesses forced to close as a result of the shutdown of mass transportation, could well be significant. As we now know, the forced evacuation of the 325,000 people, was a great imposition on them.
It is easy to view events in hindsight, never the less, in the future, it is essential that government officials analyze the complete data and calmly govern their decisions based on truly accurate information and not on media hype or what might remotely happen. As for other members of the press, the reporting on the ground must represent an accurate description of what they are actually seeing. Standing in a puddle and claiming a flood is not good journalism. Theatrics should not be a part of journalism. We need less hype and more solid information.
Hour by hour view of what is being observed
9:00AM Complete cloud coverage.
Temperature 72F. Calm, no wind.
6:31PM Tornado warnings has been issued for nearby New Jersey, Hudson Valley, NY, and Long Island, though not for New York City
6:36PM Thunder can be heard
715:PM I rode my bicycle a few blocks to Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are occasional gusts of wind that are perhaps 20mph/30kmh. As a sailboat person, I am familiar with the tides. The tides rise and fall, about 5ft/1.7meters every 6 hours in NYC. Presently we are at high tide. I would say that the tide is about 1 1/2 feet/42cm higher than normal. The full force of the hurricane is expected at 7AM, when some say that the storm surge can be up to 10feet/3meters higher than normal. It is raining very strongly, and is expected to get worse as the night progresses.
8:05PM All but one store is closed in DUMBO. The Korean Deli is open, being run by the owner and his wife. The other employees, except for one, have gone home. Very few cars on the road, with the exception of emergency vehicles.
9:27PM Battery Tunnel in lower Manhattan, is in the process of being closed. The MTA is concerned about the possibility that the tunnel could flood, when the storm surge (increase in the height of the surrounding rivers) arrives in full force, by tomorrow morning.
9:35PM I can see that the calm is gone and it is getting windier. I estimate gusts to 25mph/40km.
10:15PM A tornado watch is now in effect in all five boroughs of New York City till 5:00AM.
11:22PM The wind suddenly gained a little speed. The storm seems to be less in intensity, than what had been predicted for this hour. There is a fair amount of rain, but from one perspective, listening to the sound of the rain falling on more or less deserted New York City streets, is pleasant.
1:00AM Sunday, August 28, 2011 The wind and rain seems to be more or less that same that it has been for the past two hours.
1:41AM Sunday, August 28, 2011 Suddenly, there are bursts of very high winds.
3:05AM Sunday, August 28, 2011 It is not raining as hard as before, however the wind seems to be getting strnger.
3:12AM Sunday, August 28, 2011 The weather report has somewhat down graded Hurricane Irenes power. For New York, it is predicted that on Sunday morning, the high: will be 76F with winds in the 40-50mph/60-75kmh and with gusts of wind from 60-75mph/100-115kmh.
5:07AM The weather seems to have improved. There are occassional bursts of wind and a little rain, but nothing like what the experts had predicted and what had closed the City in anticipation of.
10:15AM The hurricane is all but over. Please go back up to the top for a complete description of what has happened.
Copyright 2011 by Frank X. Didik