Some folks in the media and denier-sphere have tried to downplay the severity of Hurricane Irene. That’s probably because they don’t live in my home town of Middletown, New York, one of the many Hudson Valley & Catskills towns devastated by Irene. Where I grew up, this was the storm of the century.
Above is a screen capture from the website of the Middletown Times Herald Record, the paper my father ran for some 3 decades starting in the late 1950s. The paper now does video reporting, and I’ll repost their amazing coverage of the super-storm below. That story notes that “emergency personnel” in the area have labeled Irene, “the most devastating weather event ever to hit the region.”
First, though, meteorologist and hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters has the big picture in his post, “Irene’s 1-in-100 Year Rains Trigger Deadly Flooding“:
Hurricane Irene is gone, but the huge hurricane’s torrential rains have unleashed one of the Northeast’s greatest flood disasters. Videos of rampaging rivers in Vermont, New York State, New Jersey, and surrounding states attest to the extreme nature of the great deluge Hurricane Irene brought. Numerous rivers and creeks throughout the Northeast crested above their highest flood stages on record over the past 24 hours. The previous records were mostly set during some of the great hurricanes of 50 – 60 years ago–Hazel of 1954, Connie and Diane of 1955, and Donna of 1960. Vermont, where 3 – 7 inches of rain fell in just twelve hours, was particularly hard-hit. Otter Creek in Rutland, Vermont crested at 17.21 feet, 3.81′ above its previous record, and more than 9 feet above flood stage. In northern New Jersey and Southeast New York, where soils were already saturated from the region’s wettest August on record even before Irene arrived, record flooding was the norm. According to imagery from metstat.com, Irene’s rains were a 1-in-100 year event for portions of six states.
Here’s the video from my home town newspaper:
I checked with some of my childhood friends, and they report massive flooding in Middletown, including around the newspaper — “cars floating down the street with people inside them.”
The NY Times has a good story, “Inland Floods in Northeast May Be Irene’s Biggest Impact,” which related:
… it was the water, not the wind, that was the major culprit.In New York, the town of Prattsville has been washed away. In other areas, houses were swept from their foundations and one woman drowned on Sunday when an overflowing creek submerged the cottage where she was vacationing. Flash floods continued to be a concern into the afternoon on Monday.
Here’s an ABC News report:
Finally, Masters has more details on this devastating record-smashing storm:
Here are a few of the rivers in the Northeast that set all-time flood height records over the past 24 hours, which I found using our wundermap with the USGS rivers layers turned on:
Mettawee River, Middle Granville, NY
Hoosic River, North Bennington, VT
Saxton River, Saxtons RIver, VT
Schoharie Creek, Gilboa, NY
Esopus Creek, Coldbrook, NY
Passaic River, Millington, NJ
Rockaway River, Boonton, NJ
Pompton River, Pompton Plains, NJ
Millstone RIver, Blackwells Mills, NJ
Assunpink Creek, Trenton, NJ
And here are the unofficial maximum 24-hour rainfall amounts each state received from Irene, as compiled by our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt:
North Carolina: 14.00″ Bunyan
Virginia: 12.52″ Ft. Eustis
Maryland: 12.96″ Plum Point
Delaware: 8.50″ Federalsburg
Pennsylvania: 8.00″ Goldsboro
New Jersey: 10.20″ Wayne
New York: 11.48″ Tuxedo Park
Connecticut: 8.70″ Burlington
Massachusetts: 9.10″ Savoy
Vermont: 7.60″ Walden
New Hampshire: 6.09″ 5SE Sandwich
Rhode Island: 5.37″ Warren
Maine: 6.11″ Phillips
Newark, NJ broke its all-time 24-hour precip record with a total of 8.92″ (8/27-28)–old record 7.84″ on 8/27-28/1971. Also, New York City, Philadelphia, and Newark now have August 2011 as their rainiest month in recorded history. Overall damages from Irene could range from $5 billion to $10 billion, according to Kinetic Analysis, a risk assessment firm that specializes in natural disaster impact. This would put Irene between 13th and 24th place on the list of the most damaging hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. Irene is very likely to have its name retired. The multi-billion dollar price tag from Irene puts the year 2011 in first place for the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in one year, ten. The previous record was nine such disasters, set in 2008.
No, this wasn’t Katrina, which made landfall 6 years ago today, but for millions, it was still the storm of the century.