Hurricane Irene is trudging northward towards a date with the Mid Atlantic, bringing a rather large and significant storm our way.
The core of Irene (its “eye”) is modeled by computer forecasting to track rather close to the coastline on its trek north past Delaware and New Jersey. This will bring the worst of the storm’s impact to coastal sections but also bring a swath of heavy rain to many locations in the region. Hurricane warnings were issued from Sandy Hook in New Jersey southward, including Delaware Bay.
Specific to Delaware, Irene will cause its greatest impacts in the beach towns of Sussex County and along Delaware Bay. The combination of east winds pushing water across the bay will lead to initial bay flooding in Kent and Northern Sussex County early on Sunday, with impacts shifting down the bay as winds veer around to the north and northwest later on Sunday morning or towards midday. This will cause some coastal flooding concerns in Lewes (which faces north into Delaware Bay). Water levels could reach four to perhaps eight feet above average at the brunt of the storm. Wind impacts will be highest at the Beaches, with gusts potentially reaching over 80 mph at the brunt of the storm. Even inland at Wilmington, wind gusts could reach 50-60 mph at the brunt of the storm. Rainfall totals on the order of five to ten inches statewide will lead to flooding of streams, rivers, and some roadways. The combination of wind and rain could lead to power outages across a chunk of the state as well if the storm plays out as it looks like it should.
Compared to yesterday, the timing of the brunt of the storm has sped up slightly, with the storm poised to track through a bit earlier on Sunday. Conditions should begin to improve late in the afternoon from south to north across Delaware, with Monday a much better day for cleanup after the storm.
Tom Thunstrom is the founder, editor, and primary forecaster at Phillyweather.net, a site devoted to discussing weather and climate in the Delaware Valley.