23 deaths, more than 2 billion dollars in damage, and over 4 million without power. Those are just some brief numbers which remain eye-popping more than a year after Hurricane Irene made its move up the East Coast of the United States. Although the storm made its second landfall near Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey as only a Tropical Storm, the winds and heavy rain the storm packed with it brought some of the most fierce tropical-conditions that the area has seen in several years. 69 miles per hour were the recorded sustained winds at Irenes second landfall in New Jersey. The storm would make a third landfall near Brooklyn after it re-emerged into the waters off the New Jersey coast, and a fourth in Connecticut after crossing over Long Island.
New York City was prepared in advance of Irene, after evacuating thousands of coastal residences and shutting down the subway transportation system in advance of expected flooding and high winds. But the torrential rains and high winds still caused damage to thousands of trees throughout the area and led to power outages for millions of people throughout the area. Forecasting the hurricane was not an easy task either, with the storm providing a ton of uncertainty as she approached the east coast. Initial forecasts took the storm into the Southeast United States, but as it drew closer it become apparent that the storm would turn northeast towards New Jersey and New York City.
A few days prior to the storms impact, we published an article on our old blog (which you can see a screenshot of here). Forecasting such a prolific event, and using strong wording, isn’t something we like to practice. But in this situatino, it was warranted. Irene will be remembered as one of the more memorable and difficult events to forecast in many of our careers — seeing an expansive and developed Tropical System impact the area is rare enough as it is. Luckily, the storm weakened slightly compared to forecast models were hinting at a few days in advance. Still, the billions of dollars in damage, more than 20 deaths, and duration and expansive coverage of power outages are a testament to the power of the storm.