The radar image is a few hours behind, but Irene made two more landfalls today, one in New Jersey at 5:30 am and directly over New York City at 9 am. It was barely a hurricane when it crossed the Big Apple, but a large part of New England will continue to feel tropical storm force winds for most of the rest of today. Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm with maximum winds of 65 mph as of 9 am. It's forward speed has increased dramatically from 16 mph Saturday night to 25 mph. The storm will quickly work its way through New England through the rest of the day and then proceed toward Eastern Canada Monday.
The biggest problem in the metropolitan New York area has been flooding due to the combination of steady heavy rain and tidal rises along coastal regions. The storm surge with Irene coincided with high tides in locations. This has resulted in water coming in from New York Harbor into Battery Park and both the Hudson and East Rivers have overflown their banks, covering low-lying streets with several feet of water.
Winds, while not especially high have hovered in the 40-60 mph range with occasionally higher gusts in the region. Rainfall totals from overnight through this morning have been in the expected 3 to 5 inch rain in places like Washington, DC, Philadelphia and on New York and Long Island.
One of the reasons Irene weakened a bit and picked up speed was due to encountering cooler water off the New Jersey coast and a slot of dry air, which began to feed into the storm late Saturday night. The rain coverage was nearly cut in half with more rain north of the center than south of it. No significant wind damage has occurred in the metro New York area, save some downed tree limbs. Stronger thunderstorms in spiraling bands through New England, however, could produce isolated tornadoes and widespread power outages. As of 9 am, 3 million people in total from the mid-Atlantic and New England are without power.
By Houston standards all of this is fairly tame. Irene's scope is what will be remembered. As I've been watching the reports from both local TV and national news media, I was most struck by how disappointed some were that there wasn't more damage. They should consider themselves lucky that it wasn't worse. I'm sure some may question why large cities disrupted mass transit and called for evacuations when dramatic images like what we saw from Ike didn't materialize. In the end, though, the need for public safety will bear out that the inconvenience outweighed the potential injury or loss of life.