We depart from looking at current and future weather to take a look back at Hurricane Irene, which made landfall as a tropical storm seven years ago today.
Like many of the tropical systems that impact Connecticut and the US, Irene began as a strong tropical wave that left the coast of Africa in mid August 2011. At its peak, Irene was a Category Three hurricane, with winds of 105kts (120mph) and 942mb central pressure, making it a major hurricane. After menacing the Bahamas, Irene began to make its final approach toward New England.
By the time all was said and done, Irene was responsible for 48 US deaths over its lifespan, 40 direct and 8 indirect. Direct deaths broke down as followed:
- 6 deaths due to storm surge/waves or rip currents
- 13 deaths due to wind (including falling trees)
- 21 deaths due to rainfall induced floods
*Data and images in this post are from the Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Irene. For more information, go here.
Below: Best track of Hurricane Irene
For many landfalling systems in New England, a delicately timed and positioned upper level balance is necessary for a turn north and into the region. In Irene, a subtropical ridge that steered the system west-northwest when it was near the Caribbean islands and Bahamas shifted eastward, while a trough moved over the continental US simultaneously. As a result, Irene got caught in the flow that propelled the system north-northwest, and then northward. Irene made landfall on Coney Island on August 28, though impacts from the storm were felt in Connecticut the day before.
The large size of Irene created a situation that allowed for significant storm surge along significant portions of the Connecticut coast, with storm surge values between 4-6 feet being reported in parts of New England. Irene was responsible for one of the greatest power outage events in the state's history, leaving millions in the larger New England region without power for up to a week in many cases and longer for others. While catastrophic flash flooding did not occur in Connecticut, it did in parts of northern New England.
Not every site in CT experienced tropical storm force sustained winds, but many sites inland and along the coast did receive tropical storm force gusts.
Irene was not the strongest storm the state has seen, but because of its size and power, it killed people and caused significant damage in the state, particularly in southern Connecticut. Irene is a reminder that Connecticut can be directly impacted by tropical systems, and that it does not need to be classified as a hurricane to be severe for the state.
What were your memories of Irene? Please feel free to share them in the comments section on our Facebook page.
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