Due to power/access issues in the week after the storm, we’ve been slow to get back up and running, so our updates since the night of landfall have been a bit sparse. No need at this point to re-hash what everyone knows by now – Sandy was a devastating storm for the NYC area, and Staten Island in particular.

The below photos were taken Tuesday AM, and show the devastation wrought on the Great Kills Harbor area in Staten Island, the morning after the storm’s peak winds and surge slammed into the area:

Winter Storm Warning in effect through 2 AM Sunday… Who would’ve thought we’d be doing this so soon?

An unprecedented weather event in NYC/Staten Island history… Some videos from earlier this morning as things started getting a bit crazy:

6:00 AM:

3:30 AM:

Irene getting closer… heavy rain bands beginning to move in…

Whether we see hurricane force winds and storm surge here in Staten Island or not, one thing appears all but certain with Irene – massive rainfall – which in and of itself will pose a serious flooding threat, especially given the already-saturated ground from what has been a near-record breaking (and probably soon to be actual record-breaking) month of August for rainfall.

Take a look at this total rainfall forecast for Irene as currently modeled along the East Coast…. with numbers like this, you’d think we’re talking snowfall accumulation forecasts:

Three distinct forecast tracks, while in close proximity, would yield somewhat different results for Staten Island and the rest of the NYC area:

A) Inland track – storm makes landfall in North Carolina and remains inland as it moves up the coast, with center passing west of NYC. This would weaken Irene to probably tropical storm strength at best by the time it reaches our area, but would put us on the more turbulent side of the storm, resulting in gusty winds, heavy rain bands, and a prolonged southeasterly fetch that could result in serious coastal flooding along the Jersey Shore and Long Island.

B) Track along coastline or slightly offshore – storm moves over North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but re-emerges over water and rides up along coastline, coming ashore at or near NYC. This would allow Irene to maintain more of its strength, probably coming in as a strong Cat 1 Hurricane, with hurricane force winds in and around NYC. Storm surge could be severe in this case as winds around the eye pile up water into NY Harbor, flooding low-lying areas in the boroughs. Long Island would also be in stronger half of storm with southerly winds resulting in coastal flooding for south-facing shores. Heavy rains would also cause inland flooding.

C) Track offshore and east – storm grazes North Carolina’s Outer Banks and stays a fair distance offshore as it turns more North-Northeast, ultimately crossing far Eastern Long Island and/or southern New England. Hurricane would maintain strength, but NYC would be in weakened western side of storm, with lighter winds, and lower storm surge threat as winds blow more north-northeasterly instead of east-southeasterly. Very heavy rains could inundate NYC metro and NJ, but would be spared worst of winds and coastal effects. Moderate coastal flooding still an issue for Jersey Shore. Eastern half of Long Island could see major impact with strong hurricane force winds and dangerous storm surge.

All three possibilities are still on the table, with B or C appearing the more likely of the three as of tonight’s model runs and satellite observations, but all is subject to change. Hurricanes sometimes have a mind of their own and even when a forecast track seems to have good consensus, subtle, hard-to-predict variables can alter the track. In a case such as this (and as would be the case with all hurricanes threatening NYC area) those subtle changes in the track can have a major impact on the end result. Stay tuned.

Satellite images of Irene as it begins to make the turn towards North Carolina as of 10:45 PM ET Thu 8/25

Continuing to watch Hurricane Irene as it threatens to run up the coast (a grazing hit or near miss for North Carolina’s Outer Banks?) with its eyes ultimately set on the Northeast.

Question is, will it threaten to make a direct landfall as an in-tact hurricane somewhere in and around NYC? Or will it swing further out to sea and make its initial landfall in Southeastern New England?

Here are two storm tracks to consider, one from Gloria in 1985 which ran closer to the coast and crossed Long Island, and Bob in 1991 which went further east and made landfall in Rhode Island…

Hurricane Gloria 1985

Hurricane Bob 1991

If you’ve been watching the news or browsing the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Hurricane Irene and its potential threat to the U.S. East Coast. What you may not have heard is that computer models have been trending towards a track that could deliver a direct hurricane threat to the NYC/NJ/LI area… perhaps the greatest such direct threat since Gloria in 1985.

As Irene approaches the U.S. southeast coast, she appears destined to take a turn to the north, making a close pass at the North Carolina Outer Banks. A big question is whether any kind of landfall takes place at or near Hatteras, or whether Irene’s eye manages to skirt by without crossing the coastline. From there, it would have the opportunity to make a direct landfall somewhere between Ocean City MD and Long Island NY, including NYC and the Jersey Shore in between.

Direct hit or not, one of the greatest threats Irene may pose to our area could be another round of flooding rains on top of already-saturated ground. Depending on the exact track, coastal flooding and strong winds could also be an issue.

Take a look at the computer models as of 8 PM tonight, suggesting the ominous potential for Irene to come dangerously close to the NYC area as an in-tact hurricane:

Tropical Forecast Models, 8 PM Aug 23 2011

After a week’s hiatus which saw the bulk of our snowpack melt down with temps rising into the 60s and approaching 70 on Friday, winter has returned to Staten Island, its arrival boldly announced by 24 hours worth of 50 MPH+ wind gusts and temperatures plunging nearly 50 degrees from almost 70 on Friday to near 20 last night.

Granted, the brand of winter we seem headed for now will differ some from what we experienced for much of December and January. Rather than relentless cold and a steady stream of coastal storms providing hit after hit of signficant snow in the Northeast, the pattern now will favor more moderate cold and more variable weather, where significant shots of cold air (10s/20s/30s) will be quickly followed by moderation (into 40s/50s) and vice versa, with storms often tracking more west-east than south-north, putting the NYC area in somewhat of a battleground zone between winter and spring, snow and rain, cold and mild, with precise storm tracks making all the difference.

We will put this pattern to the test on Monday and Tuesday with potentially two opportunities for precipitation, with two systems tracking across the area from west to east, one of which comes a little further north, the other wanting to stay a bit further south. With plenty of solid cold air locked in from NYC points north, snow is definitely in play with both systems. However, with the first system taking a marginal track that may essentially cross NYC/NJ from W to E, enough warmer air may be pulled in to change snow to rain on Monday, particularly from Staten Island on southward, but probably not before picking up a coating to maybe an inch or two of wet snow.

The Tuesday storm presents a potentially more interesting scenario as cold air really pours in in the wake of the first system. There should be enough energy to produce a fairly heavy band of snow somewhere in the region with the second system, but a question is how far south that cold, dry air will supress the snow band and create a pretty sharp north/south cutoff of snow – i.e. South Jersey could see significant snow while NYC sees nothing. It will be a close call, and in this case, Staten Island may fare a better chance at seeing accumulating snow than the rest of NYC, but it’s a situation we’ll have to watch very closely as the fine details will make all the difference.

Looking ahead, there are hints that March will provide plenty of opportunities for cold and snow, so for those who thought winter was over this past week, think again – we may just make a run at that all-time seasonal snowfall record (75″ in 1995-1996) after all – need about 20 more inches. Can we pull it off?