At 5 AM Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Long Island, including Long Island Sound, which means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. Irene is expected to batter the Outer Banks of North Carolina Saturday and head up our way on Sunday with heavy rain, damaging winds, and potentially devastating coastal flooding and erosion.
While the actual forecasted track of Irene is becoming more accurate closer to the event, it has wobbled between the East End and up through New Jersey. The “cone of uncertainty” has decreased in its width over time as well. This all means that there is a near guarantee that Long Island will be affected by the storm, but the actual path and location of the storm center will determine the degree of effects. Remember, the focus is on the cone, which becomes smaller each day. The forecasted track is merely the average or middle of the model and forecast consensus.
Evacuations will begin today for areas along the South Shore, including Fire Island and Long Beach. All residents south of the entire stretch of Merrick Road/Montauk Highway (not so much in western Nassau County, where the cutoff is more like Atlantic Avenue from Oceanside to Hewlett) should expect significant flooding.
Rain begins Saturday and could be heavy at times. Wind will not be so much of a problem until Saturday night. Conditions will deteriorate and be at its worst from around midnight Sunday morning through 6pm Sunday evening. The forecasted track and cone put Irene near Long Island as a Category 1 hurricane (5am’s updated track or “middle of the cone” puts Irene at landfall Sunday morning, but this will probably change and isn’t a guarantee).
At a press conference yesterday, MTA Chief Jay Walder says the transport agency will shut down all service once winds are sustained at 39 mph, or tropical storm force winds and conditions. This may mean the Long Island Bus and the Long Island Railroad will cease operations for a time starting Saturday night. Cancellations were already made for Friday.
Wind gusts could reach 100 mph during the height of the storm. Storm surge could reach 10 to 12 feet along the South Shore, making wave heights over 20 feet fairly common. Rainfall totals could exceed 10 inches, which will not help with an already soaked ground.
Preparations should be finalized today with food, water, supplies, and batteries. Don’t expect to easily find a generator at home improvement stores. Fill up with gas and have some cash on hand.
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