NWS: Storm surge no longer a worry
Now that Irene has gone by us, and winds have swung around to the west northwest, the danger of damaging storm surge from Hurricane Irene - to the extent it ever was a real worry - is past, according to the National Weather Service.
"I would venture to say, yeah, for Baltimore Harbor and the Western Shore ... [storm surge] will not be too much of an issue now," said meteorologist Kevin Witt, at the weather service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va.
Although city officials and many regular folks worried that Hurricane Irene might deliver the kind of destructive, 8 or 9-foot storm in the Upper Chesapeake we all remember from Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, a big surge was never in the forecasts for this region. Unless your property is vulnerable to flooding caused by rain, most of the sandbags deployed Saturday probably were wasted.
That's because Irene tracked well east of the bay. That meant the wind out of the south, on the cyclone's east side, was blowing over the ocean, not up the bay. Isabel, by contrast, passed to the west of the bay, putting the south winds directly onto the Chesapeake, driving water north and into the bay's creeks and rivers.
Witt said there does remain some risk of high water today on the Eastern Shore of the bay, as the west or northwest winds at 30 to 35 mph slosh water toward the east.
So rather than a storm tide, Witt said, "we're looking at more of a blowout tide," where west northwest winds blow water out of the bay, producing stunted high tides and unusually low low tides. You can see the wind effects on the tide chart, above, for Annapolis. The Saturday morning high tide was more than a foot below predictions.
The prospect is much the same for the ocean beaches, where west northwest winds will begin to calm the waters. "Later this afternoon, east coast tides and waves will be coming down," Witt said.