A massive storm, with tropical storm force winds extending as much as 200 miles, will move through the central Bahamas as a Category 3 hurricane by Wednesday, said National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read at a briefing with reporters.
"With the current forecast, it's highly unlikely the center, the core, is going to come across South Florida,'' Read said. Instead the state should expect a hit from "the peripheral effects,'' he said -- beach erosion. squally weather, "maybe tropical storm force winds."
President Obama has issued a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico and today they are preparing for a potential U.S. landfall anywhere along the entire east coast, said
FEMA Director Craig Fugate.
"We're very concerned about what's going to happen in New England,'' Read said. Because of a high pressure system over Texas, and another in the Bermuda Azores, coupled by a weak system in between, the storm is likely to remain on track up the coast, he said.
“We’ve going to have a very large tropical cyclone move up the Northeastern seaboard in the next five to seven days so just about anybody that lives along the Northeast and Southeast coast of the mid-Atlantic needs to be aware of this and prepare for it,’’ Read said.
The onset of adverse weather will hit the Carolinas by Saturday, with treacherous surf conditions starting on Friday. It is projected to move into the Mid-Atlantic states by Sunday and then into the Northeast by Monday.
“The impact could be widespread, depending on exactly where the storm goes,’’ he said. “We see no reason for it not to be a major hurricane in its track northward up along the gulfstream.”
As Irene bring heavy rains and high winds through the Northeast, where heavy rains have saturated the soil, Read said it “could exacerbate the flood potential and also the potential for tree fall during the wind with the saturated flow.”
“This is a very large storm,’’ he said. “We want all resident, including residents still in Florida, to understand that tropical force winds, marine impacts, and occasionally heavy rainfall can still occur even in those areas outside that skinny black line.”
Fugate said the storm reminded him of Hurricanes Floyd and Bertha which were very large storms and they will have to “be on a hair-trigger” when it comes to deciding whether to evacate people because if the storm alters its course slightly they won’t have time.
“People tend to look at the forecast guidance and go if it’s not insdie that cone it must not be a problem,’’ he said. “We’re going to potentially see some tropical force conditions, especially very hazardous beach conditions and unfortunately that leads to danagerous combination of people who are not very skilled swimmers and very treacherous surf conditions.”
Read said that even though the margin of error is 200 miles and greater the longer away they are from projected landfall, “if you just extend where we’re going with this storm through Day 5, it really brings New England into play.”
He said the 1938 hurricane was the benchmark storm and “there are a lot of development since your last major impact so I’m very concerned about what could happen.”
“The mid-Atlantic and Northeastern coastal communities need to be taking the track of Irene very seriously,’’ said Fugate. He urged people to go to ready.gov for information on the storm and, for those with cell phone, they can download an app: m.fema.gov.