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Irene Technically Wasn’t A Hurricane Over New Jersey

Hurricane Irene
National Hurricane Center

We all remember dealing with Hurricane Irene back at the end of August — mandatory evacuations, over 100,000 people without power, and more. However, it turns out Irene technically wasn’t a hurricane when it hit the Jersey Shore.

At the end of every hurricane season, researchers and meteorologists review all of the tropical storms and hurricanes of the season — they check the accuracy of their forecasts, actual information about the storm, and more.

When Irene passed by our area, it was classified as a hurricane with winds of 75 MPH (to have a hurricane, a storm needs maximum sustained winds of at least 74 MPH). Upon recent review by the National Hurricane Center, Irene only had winds of 70 MPH when it crossed the South Jersey shore and made landfall over Brigantine.

So whats the big deal about 70 MPH winds versus 75 MPH? It changes (or doesn’t change) 108 years of history. Irene was thought to be the first hurricane to make landfall on New Jersey since 1903 — but with this downgrade, Irene was really only a tropical storm, keeping the 108 year record in tact.

Now, in real life, there isn’t much difference at all between a storm with 70 MPH winds versus 75 MPH. Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center recently told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a very small change… The difference residents would see is about the same. There’s no perceivable difference.”

Regardless of what Irene technically was, we still had widespread flooding, eight inches of rain, bridges washed out, beach erosion, and some of our area was without power for days — quite a reminder of what Mother Nature can do.

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