Gov. Christie on Hurricane Irene: “From a Flooding Perspective, This Could Be a 100-Year Event.”

Masters:  “Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 – 15 feet of water, to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded. I strongly recommend that all residents of the mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk.”

This morning meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters posted this figure, “The height above ground that a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds would push a storm surge in a worst-case scenario in New York City”:

My brother lost his Pass Christian, Mississippi home in Katrina’s “worst-case scenario” storm surge 6 years ago this week —  so as Masters wrote this afternoon, “Take this storm seriously!

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s quote — “From a Flooding Perspective, This Could Be a 100-Year Event”– was from tonight’s NBC Evening News.  As Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said last December, “The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”

Masters writes that in addition to the storm surge, we have the deluge:

Irene likely to bring destructive fresh water flooding
In this morning’s post, I highlighted the threat from storm surge flooding, but flash flooding and river flooding from Irene’s torrential rains are also a huge threat. The hurricane is expected to bring rains in excess of 12″ to 100-mile swath from Eastern North Carolina northwards along the coast, through New York City. The danger of fresh water flooding is greatest in northern New Jersey, Southeast Pennsylvania, and Southeast New York, where the soils are saturated from heavy August rains that were among the heaviest on record.  At Philadelphia, rainfall so far this August has been 13 inches, not far from the record for rainiest month of all-time, the 15.82″ that fell in August 1867. This record will almost certainly be broken when Irene’s rains arrive. In general, the heaviest rains will fall along the west side of the hurricane’s track, and the greatest wind damage will occur on the east side

Here is the rainfall map:

Predicted rainfall for the 5-day period ending at 8 am EDT Tuesday August 30, as issued by NOAA/HPC.

Finally, here is Masters’ latest forecast.

The latest set of model runs don’t show any major changes to Irene’s track or intensity. Irene will bring damaging winds, torrential rains, and an extremely dangerous storm surge to the coast, affecting a huge area of the mid-Atlantic and New England. Take this storm seriously! Expect widespread disruptions to electric power, transportation, and water systems. Be prepared for many days without power, as utility crews will be overwhelmed with the damage. Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 – 15 feet of water, to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded. I strongly recommend that all residents of the mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk. The best source of that information is the National Hurricane Center’s Interactive Storm Surge Risk Map, which allows one to pick a particular Category hurricane and zoom in to see the height above ground level a worst-case storm surge may go. If you prefer static images, use wunderground’s Storm Surge Inundation Maps. If these tools indicate you may be at risk, consult your local or state emergency management office to determine if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone. Mass evacuations of low-lying areas along the entire coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are at least 50% likely to be ordered by Saturday. The threat to the coasts of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine is less certain, but evacuations may be ordered in those states, as well.

Irene is a very dangerous storm for an area that has no experience with hurricanes, and I strongly urge you to evacuate from the coast if an evacuation is ordered by local officials. My area of greatest concern is the coast from Ocean City, Maryland, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is possible that this stretch of coast will receive a direct hit from a slow-moving Category 2 hurricane hitting during the highest tide of the month, bringing a 10 – 15 foot storm surge.

Be prepared.  Just by happenstance, I’ll be in Colorado for the worst of the storm at the Stephen Schneider symposium..

46 Responses to Gov. Christie on Hurricane Irene: “From a Flooding Perspective, This Could Be a 100-Year Event.”

  1. David B. Benson says:

    Either evacuate as soon as may be or start laying in seriously large supplies of:
    (1) potable water — water supplies may be undrinkable for three weeks (maybe more);
    (2) something to eat;
    (3) sources of light — I assure you that the utility crews will be simply overwhelmed.

    But if you possibly can take a vacation now, I recommend going to the hills for a longer than normal stay.

  2. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe, you might consider opening your talk by saying something like “Right now as I speak a Category 3 hurricane is slamming into North Carolina. Also right now as I speak Phoenix is 112 degrees, Las Vegas 109, Houston 107 and Dallas 105, where this is the 25th day of 105 or hotter temperatures this summer, including 60 of 100 or hotter and there’s no end in sight even as September approaches. Texas and Oklahoma are under the most intense combined droughts and heat waves in their history. And as I often say, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.'”

    Of course there have always been extremes of weather including heat waves, droughts and hurricanes, it’s just that the likelihood of more extreme events is increasing with every year’s increase in CO2 and corresponding global average temperature.

    Anyone who doubts a connection between higher global average temperatures and heat waves, droughts and extreme weather needs to think again. With extreme weather, just look at how record or near-record sea surface temperatures allowed the Pakistan flood of 2010, the Queensland, Australia, Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi River floods of 2011, last April’s record tornado outbreak in the South and the intensity of Hurricane Irene right now.

    And the 4% additional water vapor in the atmosphere since 1970 Kevin Trenberth tells us about can be 10 to 15% in some of these areas during these times. The global average corresponds to a Lake Superior and a half additional water vapor in the atmosphere. The added heat since 1970 also has added the energy output equivalent to that of 190,000 nuclear power plants to the system.

    All of that has come with an increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1970. Now imagine the 10 degree F increase the conservative IPCC Report process says is possible by 2100. That would mean 40% additional water vapor in the atmosphere or 15 Lake Superiors, and energy added to the system that equals the output of almost 2 million nuclear power plants.

    What that would mean to our weather is hard to imagine. Anyplace or building that sees 3 feet of flooding now could see 30 feet of flooding during the most severe events of the next century. And it’s not just a linear projection. Many of these factors will be synthesized to make the effects even worse, far worse than anything we can now imagine. In fact the scenarios I’m talking about happening today could very well be the best-case scenarios in the best years a century from now.

    All of you sitting here know all of this better than anyone on Earth in addition to your very few colleagues with comparable credentials.

    If you aren’t going to come to these conclusions and effectively communicate them to the public, media and policy makers, who is?

    I welcome your partnership in this process.

  3. Richard Brenne says:

    Oops, double post, hopefully that’s caught. If you decide to post this (of course you could just use any of it if you prefer, and say hi to Kevin, Bryan, Jeff, Ben and Linda for me – maybe not in the talk), please double-check all the facts to make sure they’re current. I took a flier with a few of them. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your talk – can you post it here as well?

  4. Richard Brenne says:

    If you decide to use any of these facts, please double-check them. It was your commenters including Leif Knutsen who came up with the Lake Superior and a half and 190,000 nukes figure, which we’d both like to see double-checked.

    The temperatures are today’s forecast highs but those could be checked just before going on, as could the exact intensity and location of Irene.

    I took a flier on number of days Dallas has had of 105 and 100, so that would need to be checked as well.

    And I’d be very grateful to anyone who wanted to check any of those things. Thanks in advance.

  5. Greg Wellman says:

    “Irene is a very dangerous storm for an area that has no experience with hurricanes”

    Does expansion of the tropics mean more northerly tracks for hurricanes? I suspect so, but I’d like to hear expert opinion on that. Anyway, if so, lots of people are going to gain experience with hurricanes.

  6. Mossy says:

    Just hoping we can catch the train Tuesday morning for our trip from Boston to DC for the tar sands protest!

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Likely to be canceled due to weather.

  8. Joe Romm says:

    Mainly this weekend will be bad, tho Boston into Monday.

  9. Joe Romm says:

    Warmer waters extend over larger areas.

  10. DaveE says:

    On restoring your previous commenting system: I am delighted that you are going back to the old system. I have only posted one comment since you converted to the new system. Now, how about fixing some other problems. Last year I fell off my bike and was in the hospital for a month–I read your blog exclusively on my Droid. Back then, I could make the text a comfortable size and it would wrap at the screen edge–this no longer happens on the droid, limiting the amount I can enlarge the text to just a bit under what is comfortably readable (and that’s in landscape mode)–PLEASE go back to allowing the text to wrap.

  11. Greg says:

    Did anyone catch tonight’s NBC live climate science town hall hosted by Anne Thompson and, if so, how well was it handled from a climate hawk’s perspective and is there an archived link? Thanks.

  12. Shaheer says:

    I’d like to hope that this is the wake up call that the United States needs. On the other hand we’ve been disappointed at the US response over and over again.

    In a recent statement Hans Schellnhuber has stated that if we do not reduce our emissions by 2020, that “according to physics, the climate will run out of control”. Something to that effect…

  13. Shaheer says:

    I’d like to hope that this is the wake up call that the United States needs. On the other hand we’ve been disappointed at the US response over and over again.

    In a recent statement Hans Schellnhuber has stated that if we do not reduce our emissions by 2020, that “according to physics, the climate system will run out of control”. Something to that effect…”Take my word on it”, he says.

  14. Leif says:

    Thank you for the acknowledgment Richard. Actually a couple of other commentators did the heavy lifting on the math. I am unable to find a link to the site what with all the CP transformation happening, so cannot pass on the praise. (I was getting error bars big enough to throw your hat through.) As I recall a few months ago Joe did a post on the heat imbalance and computed the energy of 1,000,000 Hiroshima bombs a day. That turns out to be one for every 16 mile diameter circle, the world over. So today look around your 8 mile radius neighborhood and see a Hiroshima bomb go off. Tomorrow another. And another, until such time that we take some CO2 out of the air. Each day we add ~10 more bombs, so the radius grows smaller.

  15. Paul Magnus says:

    when it gets hot, the storms come blowing in….

  16. _Flin_ says:

    Concerning the nuke figure: which figure do you mean?

    When it comes to nuke analogies the easiest thing to compare is upper ocean heat content anomaly with the Hiroshima bomb. UOHCA is measured in 10^22 Joule, compared to the 79,1 * 10^12 Joule of “Little Boy” (according to Wikipedia).

  17. Villabolo says:

    “. . . the climate system will run out of control”.

    What is meant by running “out of control”? A runaway Greenhouse effect like Venus or simply a devasted environment?

  18. Peter Mizla says:

    I am in the path of this Hurricane in eastern CT- expecting hurricane force winds, torrential rains. Power will go out I am sure- for how long? who knows…

    State of Emergency in Connecticut.

    should see some trees uprooted, wires downed, road flooding.

    All outdoor furniture secured, ……near the time of the new moon, high tides, water will be forced into Long Island Sound- coastal flooding, storm surge.

    if I do not post—-power gone on computer.

  19. Nicolas Huillard says:

    Did you try the mobile version (link at the bottom-right)? It’s really great on Opera Mini / Opera Mobile on my Nokia.
    The only problem is that comments are off in this version. Since comments are a great part of that blog, and will probably still be with the original commenting system back, it’s a bit annoying.
    @the IT team : please add at least the comments in the mobile version (maybe not adding a comment, but viewer other’s)

  20. Villabolo says:

    Stevy Gawdless is ridiculing this thread (I know; what’s new).

    “Romm : Manhattan To Drown This Weekend”

    This guy is getting desperate.

    [JR: Getting? He was booted off of WattsUpWithCrap for being consistently wrong. I’ll repost Masters any day!]

  21. Joan Savage says:

    A NJ tide chart shows high tides on Sunday August 28 at 7:40 am and 7:55 pm local time.
    The NOAA forecast puts the eye of the storm passing over NJ between 2 am Sunday and 2 pm Sunday.
    Along the Atlantic coast, high tides on Saturday August 27 and Sunday August 28 are affected by the dark moon alignment with earth and sun, so are strong high tides, “spring tides” regardless of season.

  22. Joan Savage says:

    Best wishes on all that.
    Having been through a week’s power outage (Labor Day derecho of 1998) at this time of year, it can be very quiet after the ambient 60 cycle hum stops, and all it powers with it.
    I look forward to hearing how it turns out for you.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Buckle your chin strap.

  24. Colorado Bob says:

    Here’s a factoid about the Texas drought. Tomorrow the 27th, marks three months since Lubbock , Texas recorded it’s first 100 plus degree day this season. At the time, 1934 held the record with 29 days at or above 100 degrees in a year.
    As of August 25, the new record was at 45 days and counting, and 5 straight days of 100 plus are in forecast.
    A new NPR story on what the drought is doing to wildlife in Texas –
    The unfolding calamity that is the Texas drought has thrown nature out of balance. Many of the wild things that live in this state are suffering.

    Sections of major rivers — like the Brazos, the Guadalupe, the Blanco, Llano and Pedernales — have dried up. In many places, there aren’t even mud holes anymore.

  25. Colorado Bob says:

    ” The whole food chain is getting disfigured: Plants don’t grow normally without rain, the bugs that eat the plants are undernourished, so they don’t make a proper meal for insectivores. “

  26. Colorado Bob says:

    Hungry bears are on the prowl for food in New Mexico, and many of them are paying for it with their lives.

    State Game & Fish officers say food for bears is at desperately low levels in most of the state’s mountain forests, thanks to a May freeze that killed off acorns and berries. Bears have been seeking food at lower levels, wandering from the foothills into town, where they frequently run afoul of property owners and wind up getting shot, either by civilians or game wardens. So far this year the total is 172 bears, almost 3 times the total from last year and far above totals for the last 7 years.

  27. Colorado Bob says:

    OMAHA, Neb. — Heavy rain earlier this week took out four pumping stations working to keep water out of the city. That puts Omaha’s bill in the fight against the flood at more than $10 million.

    Three million gallons of raw sewage is streaming into the Missouri River each day because of the issue. It adds to another six million gallons going untreated every day since a station went out in June.

    “We’re talking about tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs just due to this one storm,” Marty Grate said.

    Read more:

  28. Joan Savage says:

    The rainfall forecast map is a shocker, and I hope the mass media spread the word.

    I have a bone to pick about the NOAA hurricane maps and the commercial adaptations that use dots to show the eye of the hurricane. That under-represents the organized width of the storm. Satellite imagery of Hurricane Irene shows its “Danish pastry” swirl at least two hundred miles across at present, not counting the less organized movement further out. The rainfall prediction map helps with cluing how far inland folks should be buying emergency supplies.

  29. Colorado Bob says:

    Watching the pressure drop to 942mb, and losing 5mph in wind speed ? Looking at the water vapor shot explains this ….. Watch the bloom of deep wet clouds as she moves onto the Gulf Stream.

  30. Colorado Bob says:

    My two cents worth on this one, store as much water as you can. Given that many of the areas in the Tri-State region have just booked all time record rains, and the atmosphere has been charged up with water vapor for months in this area.
    This Omaha story this week highlights my point about water. There are going to be many water treatment plants that will be destroyed, and damaged.
    Two weeks ago it rained over 10 inches on the West end of Long Island. We will see 20 inch rains coming out of this.

  31. Colorado Bob says:

    The 166 mph Super Typhoon in the Western Pacific –
    Super Typhoon 14W (Nanmadol)

  32. Shaheer says:

    His statements seem to imply 4 degrees by 2100 and 8 degrees C by 2200, by mechanisms that we cannot stop. He has joked that microbes and cacti might survive. Perhaps the real joke was seeing a German physicist try to make a joke.

  33. Joan Savage says:

    New York Times’ interactive graphic has a storm width.!/2011/Irene

  34. Peter Whitehead says:

    I suggest a name is needed for rapid climate change events, where the climate ‘flips’ from one stable(ish) state to another in a short period of time. We may be in the start of one now, but the flips from glacial to interglacial stages of the ice age are the examples we should look at.

    I propose we call these events ‘Coope Events’, after Russell Coope who perhaps was the first to spot how quickly these flips happened, He studied beetle remains in the UK ‘ice age’ and says:

    “Particularly exciting to me was the fact that these insect fossils showed that Quaternary climates had changed abruptly.

    Thus, at times, fully glacial climates gave place to temperate interglacial conditions within the span of one human lifetime.”

    This quote comes from his comments when he was awarded the Prestwich Medal for 2005 by the Geological Society of London.

    As it happens, I was a student in his undergrad palaeotology course at the Univ of Birmingham (UK not Ala!) over 40 years ago. He was a great teacher.

  35. Richard Brenne says:

    Thanks Colorado Bob, and I’m sorry for what you must be experiencing in Lubbock. I fear for your trees as I do for millions of trees in the Northeast over the next four days.

    Looking around last night I noticed Waco was 10 days beyond their record for 100-degree days, Houston and Oklahoma City had just passed those records (but could get another 10 or so 100-degree days) and Dallas was about 9 days away from breaking the record.

    I was just guessing that Dallas had maybe 25 days of 105 or above and couldn’t find that figure – anyone care to count that kind of thing and share it with us?

    Also the latest forecast highs for Saturday when Joe speaks (and those highs would come within an hour or so of his talk) are 113 in Phoenix, 110 in Las Vegas, 107 in San Antonio and Houston and 105 in Dallas.

    It seems unusual to have such high temperatures so close to September, traversing well over 1000 miles, and so high in places like Houston with such high humidity as well.

    I’d love to know more, or the best summation of such records in one place. Thanks.

  36. dbmetzger says:

    Christie is proving to be more cogent than many of his GOP counterparts. Bloomberg is taking no chances either.
    NYC Prepares for Irene with Emergency Measures
    Hurricane Irene has weakened slightly but still poses a threat to a large stretch of the US East Coast, prompting New York to engage in emergency preparedness mode before the massive storm barrels into their areas.

  37. Lionel A says:

    Well as ever Greg Pallast is on top of the real estate issues in The Hamptons:

    Hamptons Hurricane: A Bankers’ Katrina

    ‘I made sure they’re safe. A couple decades ago, I worked on an emergency evacuation plan for the county of Suffolk, New York, home of the Hamptons. It’s the wealthiest county in the United States.

    The Hamptons’ hurricane plan is six volumes thick. The police and the politicians, the fire department and the first responders have their copies, their orders, their equipment and they are ready to roll before a single fake-blonde curl is ruffled by untoward weather.

    The last hurricane to hit Long Island, far fiercer than Katrina, took two lives, not 2,000.

    But then, the Hamptons isn’t New Orleans, is it?

    In 1992, a big storm washed into 190 houses on West Hampton Dunes, getting many grade-B film scripts very wet. The federal government, with your tax dollars, rebuilt every single home on the beach (average value then, $2 million each)––and even rebuilt the beach with an endless samba line of trucks filled with sand, care of the Army Corps of Engineers’.

  38. Lionel A says:

    Others have written about the rapid switching of climate with the like of Dansgaard–Oeschger events, Heinrich events and Younger Dryas, in particular Richard Alley, Walley Broecker and David Archer.

    Indeed the first two mentioned are contributing authors to a new book on Greenland ‘The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change’ which is worth looking at and which would make a good present for a denier near you.

  39. Richard Brenne says:

    Lionel A – Thanks for sharing that great excerpt from Greg Palast. It’s the first time I’ve seen him brought up at CP. I’m a big fan of Greg’s work, but realize he has some limitations. For instance, there’s no way any hurricane much less the most recent one hitting Long Island was anything close to Katrina’s strength.

    Also Greg told me he’s a disciple of Milton Friedman (I believe at least taking a class from him at the University of Chicago) cornucopian economics and what climate change, peak oil and economic collapse are all telling us is that there are Limits to Growth, whether the Friedmanites want to believe so or not.

    And just as the slightest update to my earlier comments, as of now the Weather Channel is predicting that tomorrow during Joe’s talk the temperatures will be 114 in Phoenix, 111 in Las Vegas and 106 in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

    Also, please let us know how Irene affects you if you’re in it’s path. Get all your camping stuff in order, fill your vehicle with gas (or ideally electrical charge), stove fuel, fill all (large) water containers with water, fill all your bathtubs and sinks with fresh water that as Colorado Bob says could be impacted for days or in some places weeks.

    And we’re thinking our best thoughts for you and your loved ones, including trees.

  40. Richard Brenne says:

    Irene’s winds are diminishing but the storm surge driven by how big the storm is, how long it’s been circulating and how strong the winds were that sent the waves toward shore mean that while wind damage will be less, more people will be drawn to watch the waves, putting themselves and all potental rescuers at risk.

    The Weather Channel has interviewed a number of Jersey wise guy types that said that they’re making no preparations but are “Gonna come down to da shore to watch da waves.”

    Your gene pool comment here. . .

  41. Villabolo says:

    I like that meta-joke about the German physicist. :-)

  42. Villabolo says:

    I have noticed he was more shrill from the moment he started his blog but he seems to be sinking even further….

    I’m already starting to make screenshots of his most outrageous nonsense. Like his and his posters despicable downplaying of the danger presented by Irene.

  43. Joan Savage says:

    In Syracuse in recent decades, 1 inch of rain an hour (and only one such hour) was enough to push an ancient system of combined sanitary and storm sewers to over-top into the main sanitary sewer (what a nutty engineering idea). Then the vast volume of semi-diluted sewage would force the county sewage treatment plant to triage into less than full treatment and discharge of partially treated sewage into Onondaga Lake. In recent years, gradual separation of sanitary and storm sewers and increased treatment capacity have cut down on frequency of the sewage discharges.
    So if 1 inch of rain per hour can do that to an old system, you are ‘spot on’ to forewarn about what 8-20 inches of rain in five days might do.

  44. NeilT says:

    It is going to be interesting to watch what happens with Irene. Well from a distance anyway.

    However there is a trend here which doesn’t appear to be being talked about.

    All storms are either being pushed south of the gulf or north and east of the gulf. Nothing is getting in to grow on the very warm waters there.

    I’m assuming it’s the blocking high which is blasting the lower states but wondered if anyone could confirm it.

    If that is the case, then the lower states will see no relief until the high eventually moves on.

    This is much what happened to Russia and Pakistan last year. The high over russia blocked the weather systems coming in off the sea and flodded Pakistan as it ran down the mountains instead of over them.

    This year it’s the US and Central America due to the fact that the high is positioned so that the tropical storms are being deflected either south and west or north and east.

    Just an observation……