2011 Chase Summaries

Aug 27, 2011:    Hurricane Irene

Brian A. Morganti

Although the impacts from Irene would effect my own back yard,  Nancy and I made a last minute decision to try to meet her head on somewhere to our south in the DELMARVA peninsula.  The center of circulation was forecast to slide north along the Atlantic seaboard, but the heavy rain and winds from this massive storm would be felt for hundreds of miles inland.  So the plan was to get as far east and south along the coast as we possible could in order to get close to the northward moving center of circulation.  We headed south into Delaware and then followed the toll highway 1 south, which was free of tolls on this day due to the hurricane.  A little south of Dover, DE this highway connects to route 113 which cuts east and south towards the beach towns in DE, MD, and VA.  We knew the barrier islands were not accessible since they had been evacuated the day before, but we could still get within few miles of the coast to experience the strongest winds.  Unfortunately for us, Irene weakened to a Category 1 storm along the outer banks of North Carolina and never really gained strength as it crawled its way northward.  Highway 113 was virtually deserted and most of the small towns along the way had businesses boarded up with the exception of on one or two gas stations that decided to weather the storm.  Although we carried extra gas, it was a relief to fill up whenever we could just in case of problems later on the way home.  We stopped just south of Selbyville, DE to measure easterly wind gusts of 50mph as a plastic tarp was being ripped from a motor home.  Nearby we observed large trees down and business with windows boarded up.   At this point the eye of Irene was about 149 miles to our SSE.


We then continued south into Maryland and on south into the narrow Virginia peninsula.  I recorded no wind gusts over 50mph, but based on observations some gusts had certainly exceeded 60mph.   Fortunately, most of highway 115 is rather open but there are a few spots that are tree lined.  In those areas the roadway was littered with leaves and small to medium size branches as well as the occasional large tree that had been previously cut and removed by local road crews.  By 7pm we were within 75 miles of the eye but it was getting rather dark for photography. We cut east towards the town of Oyster for one final film stop before heading back towards Pennsylvania.  I had visited this bay town during hurricane Isabel back in 2003 and once again found the loop road going around this town to be flooded by the encroaching bay. 


We spent the next six hours or so driving back home and noticed that all the hotels were completed filled along the way, no doubt from all the vacationers that had been evacuated from their beach towns the day before.  We now had strong northwesterly winds to contend with, particularly with the heavier rain bands.  A couple of tornadoes were reported to our north along the way and I kept my eye on GRLevel for any circulation that might be crossing our path.  We also encountered a few power flashes once we got back in Pennsylvania as the strong winds were just catching up with us at that time.  We arrived back home by 2am to strong gusty rain-swept winds which were soon followed by a 22 hour power outage for us.  Other folks were not so lucky and had to wait up to 5 days to get their power restored.  Although the impact from Irene was far reaching, she didn't pack the punch wind wise compared to previous hurricanes I had encountered.  568miles roundtrip