Via the Daily Caller, yes, this actually happened. And yes, someone has already remixed the clip to add the infamous footage of dozens of New Orleans schoolbuses left inexplicably idle when Katrina hit. Pro tip on preparing for hellstorms: Don’t forget to evacuate people who might die. Even Mike “No Labels” Bloomberg figured that out, ordering the first partial evacuation of NYC in modern history today. If you’re a New Yorker and aren’t sure whether you’re in an evacuation zone, try this nifty map. Only people who live in low-lying areas by the river are at risk right now, but check out how far inland those yellow “Zone B” areas go if this thing picks up in intensity.
Which, fortunately, it’s probably not going to do.
As of 11:00 AM EDT, Irene’s maximum sustained winds are down to 105 mph, making it a mid-range Category 2, and the hurricane is officially no longer expected to re-strengthen at all. The forecast calls for the status quo through landfall in North Carolina, followed by weakening to 100 mph (low-end Cat. 2) and then 85 mph (mid-range Cat. 1) as the storm moves up the coast toward Long Island. If the track shifts slightly left, weakening would presumably happen faster over land. Either way, NYC & environs are now likely looking at Category 1 winds at most…
Irene is reminder of how much mystery remains in the science of hurricane intensity forecasting. All of the meta-conditions were ripe for her to become a monster. But disruptions in the storm’s own internal structure — the least well understood part of a hurricane — have prevented Irene from getting her act together well enough to take full advantage of the favorable environment. Those fears of a Category 4 monster were not unjustified hype. There was every reason to believe they’d be realized. They just…weren’t. So it goes with hurricanes sometimes. (Phew!)
That’s Brendan Loy writing this morning. Six hours later, the National Weather Center also sounds optimistic: “Recent microwave data and observations from the aircraft indicate that the inner core has eroded. Although Irene will be moving over warm water during the next 12-18 hours … the lack of an inner core will likely preclude any restrengthening.” Which means, instead of a watery apocalypse, NYC will suffer a mere watery nightmare. In fact, according to the Times’s Irene-tracker, the winds may slow to tropical-storm levels by the time it reaches the city. Nate Silver’s economic model puts the damage from a tropical storm making landfall near NYC somewhere in the range of $500 million to $2 billion, but if it hangs on as a “weak” Category 2 and makes a direct hit, the damage would be closer to $35 billion — half the city’s annual budget. One word, my friends: Bailout.
If you’re reading this on the beach because you think the whole thing’s overblown, take Chris Christie’s advice and get the hell off. Exit quotation: “Irene’s got a middle name, and it’s Global Warming.”