PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As of 5 o’clock this morning, Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a Category 2 storm with winds averaging 110 mph. This is a very large storm, with tropical storm force winds extending almost 300 miles from the storm’s center, and the outer bands of showers were reaching eastern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas Friday morning.
The track of Irene has not changed much in the past day, although it has shifted just slightly to the east, with the center of the storm now passing by out to sea, just east of the Jersey shore towns. This is a slight improvement for portions of our area, in that it indicates an even sharp westerly cutoff for the worst of the rain and wind – the current track predicts the worst of the storm will be felt from I-95 eastward with the brunt of the storm down the shore.
We still expect the following:
- 5-10″ of rain possible from Philadelphia eastward to New Jersey, with the amounts closer to 5″ furthest west and the amounts closer to 10″ further east.
- A 4-6 foot storm surge at the beaches, and a storm surge as high as 5-7 feet throughout the Delaware Bays.
- Hurricane Force winds (75 mph+) will batter the Jersey Shore and Delaware beaches for a period of 4-6 hours Sunday morning.
- Tropical Storm Force winds (39 mph+) will be felt in the city and along I-95 for a period of 8-9 hours.
- There will be a sharp cutoff in the rain west of the city. As of now it looks as though Lancaster, Berks, even western Chester County up through the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos will see around 1″ or less.
- The weather will begin to deteriorate late Saturday afternoon as bands of showers rotate through the region. Overnight Saturday night into Sunday morning is when the wind really begins to howl and the rain will be pounding. The worst of the storm will be felt between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
By far the biggest threat is flooding. Low-lying areas near the mouth of the Delaware should plan for flooded homes and roadways, and the barrier islands of New Jersey could also be hit hard with the combination of heavy rainfall and powerful storm surge. Even areas that are not usually prone to flooding could see flood problems as we’ve already had 13.10″ of rain this month and the soils are saturated.
Heed the evacuation warnings down the shore. Inland, do not panic, just stock up on necessities (food, water, batteries, etc) and plan to be without power for at least a couple of days. Gas up the cars, charge the phones, and take cash from an ATM in case you need it.
Reported By Kate Bilo