Cloud Lightning

Short of the Doomsday Predictions: Little Damage Seen in Many Places After Irene

Irene road flooding
© AP Photo/Elise AmendolaElise Amendola - David Korostoff, left, and Jimmy Kaplow, both of New York, step through standing water on a walkway in New York's Central Park as Tropical Storm Irene passes through the city, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011.
From North Carolina to New Jersey, Hurricane Irene appeared to have fallen short of the doomsday predictions. But with rivers still rising, and roads impassable because of high water and fallen trees, it could be days before the full extent of the damage is known.

More than 4.5 million homes and businesses along the East Coast lost power, and at least 11 deaths were blamed on the storm. But as day broke Sunday, surprisingly light damage was reported in many places, with little more than downed trees and power lines.

"I think it's a little strong to say we dodged a bullet. However, it certainly could have turned out worse for the Hampton Roads area" in Virginia, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Montefusco.

At the same time, officials warned of the possibility of severe flooding over the next few days as runoff from the storm makes its way into creeks and rivers. In some parts of the Northeast, the ground was soggy even before the storm because of an extremely rainy August.


Red Sprites: Lightning Bolts from Space

High above Earth in the realm of meteors and noctilucent clouds, a strange and beautiful form of lightning dances at the edge of space. Researchers call the bolts "sprites"; they are red, fleeting, and tend to come in bunches. Martin Popek of Nýdek in the Czech republic photographed these specimens on August 27th:

Red Lightning_1
© Martin PopekImage Taken: Aug. 27, 2011
Location: Nýdek,Czech Republic
"Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon," explains lightning scientist Oscar van der Velde of Sant Vicenç de Castellet, Spain. "They develop in mid-air around 80 km altitude, growing in both directions, first down, then up. This happens when a fierce lightning bolt draws lots of charge from a cloud near Earth's surface. Electric fields [shoot] to the top of Earth's atmosphere--and the result is a sprite. The entire process takes about 20 milliseconds."

Bizarro Earth

North Carolina, US: Five Dead, Families Stranded, Thousands Without Power After Irene

© Chuck Liddy/The News & ObserverMaria Melnikova, 22, a seasonal worker from Russia who is staying in Buxton, protects her face from wind-blown sand.
Hurricane Irene triggered at least five deaths, swamped coastal families in waist-high water and left more than 500,000 homes without power - a bruising that will take the state days, if not weeks, to heal.

The cyclone killed three people in cars, including a 15-year-old girl whose father's vehicle collided with another under a blacked-out traffic light in Goldsboro. Four more children were ejected from that car and taken to Wayne County Memorial Hospital.

Floodwaters pushed onto the Outer Banks from the sounds, making parts of N.C. 12 impassable around Duck, Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, and prompting curfews for all but law enforcement.

The storm led to 100 swift-boat rescues in Craven County. An additional 26 people were rescued in Pamlico County, including two pregnant women and a pair of infants. Water rose so high there that the National Guard couldn't get through in pickup trucks, leaving some residents without aid until morning.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Irene rakes up East Coast, shuts down New York

Irene sandbags Virginia
© Reuters/Lucas JacksonPeople stand behind sandbags ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irene in Amagansett, NY August 27, 2011.
Hurricane Irene charged up the East Coast Saturday toward New York, shutting down the city, and millions of Americans hunkered down as the giant storm halted transport and caused massive power blackouts.

"The storm is coming," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the more than 8 million people who live in the United States' most populous city that includes Wall Street, one of the world's major financial centers.

From the Carolinas to Maine, tens of millions of people were in the path of the 580 mile-wide storm that howled ashore in North Carolina at daybreak Saturday, dumping torrential rain, felling trees and knocking out power.

At least seven deaths were reported in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Several million people were under evacuation orders on the U.S. East Coast.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which connects Virginia's Eastern Shore with the mainland and is regarded as a modern engineering wonder, was closed because of the winds and rain.

This year has been one of the most extreme for weather in U.S. history, with $35 billion in losses so far from floods, tornadoes and heat waves. President Barack Obama was keeping a close eye on preparations for the hurricane.

New York City's normally bustling streets turned eerily quiet after authorities ordered unprecedented major evacuations and shut down its airports and subways.

Cloud Lightning

US: Hurricane Irene Threatens 65 Million People, North Carolina in Path

Ocracoke Island evacuation
Hurricane Irene is barreling toward North Carolina early Friday with landfall expected Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon. Forecasters said the storm will hit eastern North Carolina as a Category 3 storm with winds estimated at 115 miles per hour. Mandatory evacuations of coastal North Carolina residents will take place throughout the day on Friday. Officials are expected to order evacuations Friday as far north as New Jersey. Forecasters said early Friday the storm is as large as the Southeast, and has the potential to affect as many as 65 million people as it moves north along the East Coast of the U.S.

Cloud Lightning

US: New York City, Mid-Atlantic Brace for Irene's Violent Strike

Irene remains on a path that will take the hurricane dangerously close to, if not over, the mid-Atlantic coastline and New York City Saturday night into Sunday, posing a serious danger to millions of people.

Irene could be "once-in-50-year" hurricane for the Northeast from the standpoint of power outages caused by downed trees alone.

The Hurricane Center is confident that Irene will strike the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Saturday as a strong Category 3.

Bizarro Earth

Irene's First Rains Reach Threatened US East Coast

© AP Photo/Charles DharapakA message is left for Hurricane Irene on one house, left, as a resident boards up another in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Irene in Nags Head, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Hurricane Irene's rains began reaching the U.S. East Coast on Friday ahead of a weekend of punishing weather from the Carolinas to as far north as Massachusetts, with at least 65 million people in the storm's track.

Rain began falling along the coasts of North and South Carolina as Irene trudged toward the coast from the Bahamas.

Swells from the hurricane and 6 to 9-foot waves were showing up in North Carolina's Outer Banks early Friday and winds were expected to begin picking up later in the day, said Hal Austin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Meanwhile, the hurricane warning area was expanded and now covered a large chunk of the East Coast from North Carolina to Sandy Hook, N.J., which is south of New York City. A hurricane watch extended even farther north and included Long Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass.

For hundreds of miles, as many as 65 million people along the densely populated East Coast warily waited Friday for a dangerous hurricane that has the potential to inflict billions of dollars in damages anywhere within that urban sprawl that arcs from Washington and Baltimore through Philadelphia, New York, Boston and beyond.

Bizarro Earth

US: Hurricane Irene "Looking Bad" - Is The New Moon To Blame?

Unusually high tides and potentially unprepared towns might spell disaster

The exact times, places, and intensities of Hurricane Irene's predicted U.S. landfalls are still ripe for revision, but according to meteorologist Keith Blackwell, at least one thing is certain: "It's looking bad." And the moon is at least partly to blame for that cloudy outlook.

Current forecasts suggest Irene will likely make landfall as a major hurricane on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands this weekend, bringing damaging winds and serious flooding to coasts from North Carolina to New England.

© NOAAHurricane Irene churns over the Caribbean Wednesday in an infrared satellite picture.
Hurricane Irene's center is "likely to go through the Outer Banks and rake the coast all the way up - Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey - all the way up to New England," said Blackwell, of the University of South Alabama's Coastal Weather Research Center.

"Long Island looks like it's really going to be in trouble."

Cloud Lightning

Monsoon Rains Trigger Floods Killing 16 in Pakistan

Pakistan flood victims
© AP Photo/Mohammad SajjadPeople displaced by last year's floods and living in tents are seen after heavy monsoon rains in Peshawar, Pakistan Thursday, Aug 25, 2011.
Flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains swept through a village in northwestern Pakistan, killing 16 people and leaving several others missing, disaster management officials said Thursday.

The floods hit the remote Kundian Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Wednesday, destroying houses and other infrastructure, said Syed Asghar Ali Shah, the acting head of disaster management in the province.


US: North Carolina Counties Tell Thousands to Leave as Irene Looms

© AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaTourist Neil Marcella of Yorktown Va. rides his bike in an empty ferry parking at Cape Hatteras, N.C. as evacuations from Ocracoke Island have begun Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene strengthened to a major Category 3 storm over the Bahamas on Wednesday with the East Coast in its sights.
Thousands were fleeing an exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches off North Carolina on Thursday as Irene approached, threatening to become the most powerful hurricane to hit the East Coast in seven years.

Hours after a hurricane watch was issued for much of the state's coast, emergency officials expanded evacuation orders to include hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals in four coastal counties. The areas include the barrier island chain known as the Outer Banks, which is expected to take the brunt of Irene's first hit over the weekend.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey made emergency declarations to free up resources, while the Navy began moving dozens of ships in Irene's path out to sea. And emergency officials all the way to New England were urging residents in low-lying areas to gather supplies and learn the way to a safe location.

The storm is expected to come ashore Saturday in North Carolina with winds of around 115 mph (185 kph). Forecasters predict it will then chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form trudges through New England.