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Come On, Irene --- turn away please!

If you haven't had enough information overload on Irene just yet, than I'm happy to supply you with some more! We're seeing what we feared when we saw the African coast get active - a powerful hurricane heading towards right towards the US. Not only that, but no place is more in the cross-hairs of the spaghetti models, cones of uncertainty, and tropical forecast jumbo than us right here in Southeastern North Carolina. Yes, it looks like we could get a big one for the first time in ten years. But it's not a sure thing just yet.

While many of the models are pointing toward a route right towards the Wilmington area, the trend has been towards the east in the last couple of days. If you remember back a couple of days, the hot spot was looking like Charleston, then Myrtle Beach, and now Wilmington. So - what does this mean? Well, we'll have to wait and see.

When I'm looking at these models run-to-run, I'm encouraged that the trend has been farther east because that increases the chances of the best case scenario: a trip out to sea. While this still doesn't seem like a likely outcome at this point, it is at least a possibility. The problem is a trend in the models to the east doesn't necessarily mean they can't shift farther west. We're just going to have to ride out the suspense a little longer until Irene actually starts to make her turn.

Here's what I think we can say with some certainty right now:

- Irene is stronger, sooner than originally thought. The category 2 status on Tuesday morning north of the Dominican Republic is quite impressive, especially with the southern inflow of the storm getting disrupted by the 10,000 ft mountains of Hispanola.

- Irene will strengthen over the Bahamas. After the storm leaves the Hispanola coast, it comes over some of the warmest water in the Atlantic (87-88 degrees), with little to no wind shear, and no dry air in sight. This is not good news. Storm could explode into a Category 4 very easily here on Thursday.

- Florida & Georgia are spared the worst. Georgetown to Hatteras is the 'hit zone'. With such broad model consensus that we're seeing, I think we can safely rule out any major brush with the Florida coast, and likewise with Georgia (which almost never gets hit by hurricanes by the way). As far west as Georgetown to as far east as Cape Hatteras could see a landfall Friday into Saturday. My gut tells me the eastern side of this (North Carolina) is by far the more likely case.

- Irene still could turn out to sea. Like I said before, this isn't something we should count on - but a turn out to sea is still possible with this storm if our trough of low pressure is strong enough and can race across the country fast enough. Even with a turn to sea, the storm is 750 miles wide, so we would still see wind and rain.

So what do you do right now?? Prepare!! Get those hurricane kits ready, with plenty of food and water for the whole family for 4 to 5 days. Get a plan in place that prepares you for the worst, and go ahead and join me as I hope for the best.

It'll be a bumpy ride as we watch this develop over the next couple of days, but we'll keep on giving you the latest information and all of our forecast thinking along the way. Stay tuned!

- TB

By: Tim Buckley

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