2011 Hurricane Season Ending; Irene Recap

By: Jim Howard
By: Jim Howard

Wednesday is the last day of the 2011 hurricane season. We had a total of 19 tropical storms. Seven of those storms became hurricanes, with 3 major hurricanes. Of the 19 tropical storms, only 18 had names. One storm off the northeast coast in early September was re-classified as a tropical storm a few weeks later. The storm was not given a name, but was a tropical storm nevertheless.

Only one hurricane made a landfall in the United States this season. That storm, of course, was Irene. Irene made her landfall at Cape Lookout, NC on Saturday, August 27th at 7:30 am. Irene had sustained winds of 85 mph as it moved into the Pamlico Sound.

Irene was a slow moving, very large hurricane. These two factors brought widespread, extensive damage to eastern Carolina from I-95 through the beaches. Winds of 60 to 90 mph buffeted the area for 8 to 12 hours straight, bringing down many trees and powerlines.

Storm surge levels of 7 to 12 feet were common over portions of the Pamlico Sound, as well as the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. This resulted in extensive property damage to many coastal areas.

There was a silver lining with Irene. Irene's 7-12+" of rainfall effectively ended the severe drought conditions across eastern Carolina. Irene also spun up a few tornadoes prior to the storms landfall. One of those tornadoes touched down near Columbia, severely damaging several structures.

Typically we would expect to see the name Irene show up again in 2017, as the storm lists are reused every 6 years, but there is a good chance the National Hurricane Center may end up retiring the name considering her path of damage from North Carolina all the way into New England. Irene was not the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the U.S., but it is certainly one of the most powerful category 1 storms ever recorded.

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