At 6:00 pm EST Hurricane Irene’s tropical effects are now starting to be felt in Clarke County, Virginia. Bands of rain and periods of gusty winds associated with the storm are beginning to sweep the area< However, current weather forecast indicate that the our region will be spared from major flooding and wind damage as the storm continues to spin up the northeast coast of the United States.
At 5:00 p.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Irene was located near latitude 36.2 north, longitude 76.0 west, or 50 miles south-southeast of Norfolk, V.A. According to the National Weather Service, the hurricane is moving toward the north-northeast near 13 mph. Irene’s track is expected to continue in the same direction at a faster forward pace during the next day or so.
Forecasters expect the center of Irene will move near or over the Mid-Atlantic coast tonight and then move over southern New England on Sunday. Maximum sustained winds are near 80 mph with higher gusts. Hurricane Irene is forecast to remain a hurricane as it moves near or over the Mid-Atlantic coast and as it approaches New England.
Near Mount Weather, Virginia, approximately .25 inches of rain had fallen since sunrise with nearly half of that amount registering since 5:30pm. Variable winds were increasing at 6:00pm with gusts from the northwest at 15 mph.
The National Weather Service predicts that Clarke County will receive less than an inch of rain from the storm, mainly before 2am on Sunday morning. However, gusty conditions will persist across the area tonight and tomorrow with northerly winds between 22 and 29 mph with gusts as high as 36 mph.
Due to Irene’s path, the heaviest rain and strongest winds will be to the east of Clarke County. Rainfall rates could reach one inch per hour with storm totals expected to be two to six inches from west to east. Wind gusts of 45-70 mph are possible near Washington DC.
Even though Irene’s direct impact appears to be minimal for Clarke County, wet soil conditions combined with the strong winds could result in falling trees and downed power lines. Motorists should use extra caution during the next 24 hours.