But It’s Not 2012 Yet!

By Vladimir Brezina

I thought we had a few more months until the end of the world

But this week we’ve seen a scenario unfold that is straight out of a Hollywood end-of-the-world movie. After Tuesday’s earthquake, we now have Hurricane Irene bearing down upon us. It seems determined to devastate the entire East Coast of the United States. Millions of people are fleeing for their lives, entire cities are grinding to a halt, awaiting the deluge…

From space, Irene is beautiful. And she’s huge, more than 500 miles in diameter, a third of the entire length of the US Atlantic coastline.

NASA / NOAA GOES-13 satellite image showing earth on August 26, 2011 at 14:45 UTC (10:45 a.m. EDT). Hurricane Irene can been seen on the U.S. East Coast.

Over the past few days, it’s been fascinating to watch her development

and her relentless progress headed, each day more and more clearly, straight for us!

And now she’s almost here.

National Weather Service forecast for Manhattan at 1:41 p.m. EDT, Saturday August 27, 2001

Red flags as far as the eye can see: National Weather Service warnings at 2:14 p.m. EDT, Saturday August 27, 2011. Hurricane warning (red), tropical storm warning (brown), flood watch (green)...

Last night was warm, humid, and calm: the calm before the storm… On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the only signs of the coming storm were that stores had completely run out of ‘D’ batteries, bottled water was flying off the shelves, and lines were unusually long, especially in liquor stores where everyone was stocking up for an apartment-bound weekend…

Now it’s started raining, and tropical-storm-force winds are predicted to arrive at 9 p.m. tonight. But the biggest worry is flooding, both from the likely intense rain and the storm surge, riding on top of a spring high tide with the moon in perigee…

It’s been disturbing to discover how much of New York City is low-lying and potentially subject to catastrophic flooding.

New York City Office of Emergency Management: Hurricane Evacuation Zones

Fortunately—returning to the apocalyptic Hollywood movie scenario—it’s a relief to learn, from Dr. Jeff Masters’ blog at Weather Underground, that

[t]he Statue of Liberty is not vulnerable to a storm surge, since the good lady stands atop a 65-foot high foundation and 89-foot high granite pedestal. However, the 305′ height of the lady’s torch above the foundation means the statue will experience winds a full Saffir-Simpson category higher than winds at the surface. The statue is rated to survive a wind load of 58 psf, which is roughly equivalent to 120 mph winds (Category 3 hurricane). However, a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds will be able to generate 120 mph winds at a height of 300 feet, and would theoretically be capable of toppling the Statue of Liberty. Winds from Irene should stay below 80 mph at 300 feet, and not pose a threat to the Statue of Liberty.

The next day could be interesting!

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