Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Watch

Haven't been feeling well emotionally & physically. The two tend to get go together in depressives.  But my mood is lightening with the prospect of Hurricane Irene arriving here later Saturday.  Yes, it will cause misery for millions in Jersey,  especially in ocean & tidal areas, & has  the potential for catastrophic damage. Nothing one can do about it, so may as well observe it all with interest.

Irene's current path leaves open the strong possibility that it will directly strike New Jersey. A direct hurricane hit on Jersey is an extremely rare occurrence - direct meaning the storm eye  makes landfall here. For a hurricane to do that, it has to either stay at sea & bend west as it approaches Jersey - unlikely,  or straddle the coast up from Virginia, keeping hurricane strength - part of the current path forecast. If a hurricane moves inland, it may remain a devastating storm especially in the mountainous regions of Virginia & Eastern PA, causing widespread major flooding & wind damage,  but  it downscales to tropical storm strength quickly. If it skirts the coast offshore  it pushes in storm surges, high surf, & hurricane force winds & can wipe out homes, piers, boardwalks,  causing massive damage, but it still isn't a "direct hit."

We're used to "cry wolf" weather reporting here.  But  if  Irene comes across Delaware Bay as a fully-developed hurricane,  what happens  will not be in the experience of most South Jerseyans no matter how weather-savvy they believe they are. A hurricane is not a noreaster. A hurricane is a noreaster crammed into 3 hours.  . Noreasters tend to wind themselves up in the vicinity of Jersey.  Hurricanes arrive here in a condition of unwinding. What may take an approaching noreaster two or three tides to do with high water,  a hurricane does in minutes.  We Jerseyans may have some difficulty imagining a 10 foot storm surge riding in on top of a high tide.

In a space of a week, Jersey may experience both an earthquake & the eye of a hurricane. What odds would Vegas have given on that?

Morey's Piers in Wildwood, which operate the main amusement & waterpark attractions there. announced they're closed Fri, Sat & Sun, a huge economic blow before any damage even occurs. The beach is so broad there that any damage will probably be limited to rides & buildings rather than the piers themselves.

Jersey has had some memorable storms. I  vaguely recall Hurricane Donna in 1960 as a lot of rain & wind,  but it wasn't as bad as the panic it caused. The two worst in living memory are the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane that ripped up boardwalks & piers & destroyed hundreds of houses, & the 1962 March Storm, perhaps the single most destructive storm in modern Jersey history, a slow-moving noreaster that piled up successive high tides over two days, with pounding surf & gale force winds. Everyone who lived through it at the shore, or saw the destruction first hand afterward, as I did as an impressionable kid, ever forgot it.

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