ACCUWEATHER: By Bill Deger, Meteorologist
"As of Saturday afternoon, nearly a million customers were without power in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware." Hurricane Irene made landfall on Cape Lookout in eastern North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane and will continue track to the north with conditions deteriorating for millions across the mid-Atlantic through tonight.
6:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 27: The eye of Hurricane Irene was crossing the Virginia, North Carolina border, getting ready to emerge back over water. Wind gusts to hurricane force (74 mph or greater) will continue to be experienced near and to the north of the center, along with a damaging storm surge. Doppler radar estimates over 17.50 inches of rain has fallen in parts of North Carolina and extreme southeastern Virginia with confirmed reports between 10.00 and 14.00 inches.
Suffolk, Va., has received nearly 9.00 inches of rain thus far and was indicating widespread flooding in the city. Rainfall was increasing rapidly on the in Delaware and southern New Jersey with multiple locations now over 2.00 inches.
Power outages have had an impact on data collection in North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Over 2/3 of the Dominion Power customers in the Richmond Metro area are without power at the present time.
Winds have gusted to 60 mph on Wallops Island, Md., 63 mph in Hampton Roads and 67 mph in Langley, Va., and to 66 mph at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, 74 mph in Elizabeth City, 70 mph in Morehead City, 74 mph in New Bern, and 88 mph at Cape Hatteras, N.C. Downed trees were blocking southbound I-85 near Petersburg, Va.
A gust of 115 mph was recorded at Cedar Island, N.C., which was in the northeastern eyewall at time of landfall around 8:00 a.m.
Dare County Shoreline Management Commission reports that a new inlet may have been created on Hatteras Island, N.C.
Tropical storm-force winds have begun from southern New Jersey through southeastern Pennsylvania. These winds extend into all the way southward through much of eastern North Carolina still. Rain from Irene was increasing in intensity in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington/Baltimore areas.
Although slightly weaker as a Category 1 hurricane prior to landfall, Irene remains a tremendous threat to the East Coast in terms of rain, wind and flooding.
"The wind field associated with Irene remains large and this will thus have more impact than is commonly associated with a storm of this intensity," says Meteorologist Randy Adkins.
For continuous updates through the morning, follow @breakingweather on Twitter. The latest stats on Irene are available in the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center.
The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center expects Irene to track northward, right along the coast of the mid-Atlantic tonight, Irene will be over Long Island, N.Y., during Sunday morning as a weak Category 1 hurricane or a strong tropical storm and then onward into New England.
Though Irene is slightly weaker than earlier forecast, its massive size still poses a serious threat to lives and property.
Residents of the mid-Atlantic, including New York City, have been preparing for Irene for days now, with millions of people displaced from their homes. Fortunately, many who have been ordered to evacuate have heeded the warning of emergency officials.
For those who have not experienced a hurricane first-hand, AccuWeather.com's Jesse Ferrell states, "This will be like a severe thunderstorm that goes on for 12 hours."
Storm-chaser Ferrell rode out hurricanes Fran, Bertha and Hugo in North Carolina.
Irene is forecast to move on a path closely paralleling the mid-Atlantic coast into Sunday morning, then across Long Island and New England over the balance of the day on Sunday. Extensive flooding rainfall and power outages will ride along with Irene and in her wake.
As of Saturday afternoon, nearly a million customers were without power in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.
The large circulation of Irene, although not extreme, will bring coastal flooding and battering waves northward from the Carolinas into New England and into parts of the major bays and sounds along the way.
Irene threatens to bring the worst effects from a hurricane in 50 years in a large part of the I-95 Northeast in terms of flooding and power outages.