Irene weakening, but still plenty dangerous

As of 11:00 AM EDT, Irene’s maximum sustained winds are down to 105 mph, 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, then weakening to 100 mph and then 85 mph 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.

As I just tweeted, 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!)…

Also, the possibility of re-strengthening, although no longer expected, cannot be totally ruled out until Irene hits North Carolina. So stay tuned, and continue to prepare for the worst.