Irene weakens a bit, still on course
The National Hurricane Center at 11 a.m. reported that Hurricane Irene has weakened a bit, with top sustained winds slipping from 110 to 105 mph. But thew storm is expected to move across or just offshore from North carolina's barrier islands on Saturday.
From there Irene is forecast to move north northeast toward Delmarva, passing over the beaches or just offshore. The resort is under a Hurricane Warning, and is expecting sustained winds of 70 to 90 mph, with gusts to 105 mph by Saturday night.
Baltimore remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, with winds forecast to reach 31 to 36 mph Saturday night, increasing to 36 to 46 mph, with gusts to 60 mph.
Fortunately, it looks as though the city and other Western Shore communities will see a modest storm surge of just 1 to 3 feet overnight into Sunday, compared with the 8 to 9 feet during Tropical Storm Isabel.
Irene was located 330 miles south southwest of Cale Hatteras, moving north at 14 mph. That motion was forecast to begin a shift to the north northeast on Saturday. Hurricane winds extended 90 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds still 290 miles from the center
North Carolina beaches were expecting a storm surge of as much as 6 to 11 feet. In the Lower Chesapeake, the surge is predicted at 4 to 8 feet.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today said Baltimore's emergency services are ready for the storm, and she urged Baltimore residents to be sure they're ready, too.
"Even if Baltimore is not in the direct path of Hurricane Irene, high winds, rain and a storm surge can cause flooding and downed power lines throughout the city," she said. "We have been monitoring the storm all week long, and we are taking the necessary steps to keep the city safe. It is absolutely vital that every resident is prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way."
In Annapolis, Mayor Joshua J. Cohen declared a State of Emergency and urged all residents in low-lying areas to evacuate their communities by Saturday afternoon. Annapolis High School is being opened as a shelter at 4 p.m. Saturday for those who cannot find shelter with friends or relatives.
Both mayors said they will open city garages for residents who need to move their cars to high ground. Parking will be free for those residents.