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26 August 2011

NHC Issues Hurricane Watch for Portions of North Carolina; ARRL Establishes Hurricane Irene Website

As Hurricane Irene — currently a Category 3 storm — approaches the US, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a hurricane watch earlier this morning for regions north of Surf City, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico, Albemarle and Currituck Sounds. A tropical storm watch is also in effect for north of Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Surf City, North Carolina.

In anticipation of Irene’s expected landfall in North Carolina, the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team (HQERT) has established a website to keep amateurs informed of the latest developments. This website will also provide links to the NHC, WX4NHC — the Amateur Radio station at the NHC — the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net (VOIPWX), where radio amateurs can send in their reports. The HQERT is currently monitoring various nets and providing support to the affected Field Organizations, and will be at W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station beginning 7 AM EDT Saturday, August 27.

The NHC is predicting that it will be issuing hurricane warnings later on Thursday for those areas already covered by the hurricane watch, and is expected to extend the hurricane watch northward along the Mid-Atlantic coast, as well. The NHC advises residents in the Mid-Atlantic States and New England to monitor Irene’s progress in anticipation of possible hurricane watches or warnings.

As of 11 AM EDT on Thursday, August 25, Irene is located about 75 miles north-northeast of Nassau, Bahamas and about 645 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; it is moving north-northwest at 13 MPH, with maximum sustained winds topping 115 MPH with higher gusts.

Forecasters are predicting that Irene will weaken slightly as it approaches the North Carolina coast on Saturday, but it could still be a major hurricane, causing extreme impacts to Eastern North Carolina on Friday night and Saturday. Winds topping 100 mph, torrential rainfall, ocean and sound flooding and a damaging storm surge are expected on the Outer Banks and the western shores of the sounds. Heavy rainfall is possible as far west as Central North Carolina and North-Central South Carolina through Saturday afternoon.

The latest models show that Irene may hug the Atlantic coast, potentially making a landfall not too far east of New York City on Sunday evening. This new track means more people could have catastrophic impacts from Irene, beginning Saturday night in Southern Virginia and lasting into Monday in New England. Even though Irene should weaken, some it will still bring hurricane force winds, extreme rainfall, significant coastal flooding and a tornado threat. Heavy rain could track as far west as Western Virginia, Western Maryland, Central Pennsylvania and Central and Western New York.

A hurricane warning is still in effect for the Central and Northwestern Bahamas. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.