Hurricane Season Heats Up — With More to Come ~

With the Atlantic hurricane season barely half over, 2011’s weather has started to live up to the hype. But water, not wind, has been the big villain so far — and the worst effects have been felt not on the coast, but far inland. Hurricane Irene, after being downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed on shore, delivered a heavy (and rare) dose of flooding to upstate New York and Vermont; close behind, Tropical Storm Lee brought record flooding to Binghamton, New York, on the Susquehanna River. Below is an image of Hurricane Irene approaching North Carolina, taken by the NASA/NOAA GOES satellite, and a view of the hurricane near Long Island, New York, taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ron Garan. Irene’s damage to coastal areas was less than feared, and in the immediate aftermath, some commentators felt that the media had over-hyped the danger. But a closer look reveals that the effects of Irene were by no means trivial. On North Carolina’s Outer Banks, for example, the hurricane storm surge washed out NC Highway 12 in several locations. The images below, published on PicasaWeb by North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Lisa Schell, show breaches in the highway that cut completely across South Pea Island, cutting off homes from the mainland. According to an NCDOT website, the department is working to restore the highway by filling in breaches and placing a temporary bridge across one gap. But work may not be completed before October (see “ N.C. 12 Recovery Efforts”). While heavy inland flooding dominated the national news, coastal areas also suffered flood damage. The News-Observer reports that one in five families in the village of Aurora (population 583), in Beaufort County, North Carolina, is still displaced by flooding (“ Irene leaves Aurora sodden in mold, misery,” by Mandy Locke). “Residents in this small community heard talk on the national news about all the Hurricane Irene ‘hype’ and wonder why those reporters haven't come to see them,” the paper reports. “They heard complaints about the subway system being temporarily suspended in New York as they stared at their waterlogged cars in the yard. ‘It seems like Eastern North Carolina has been forgotten,’ said Mark Harmon, police chief of Aurora. ‘Maybe it's because we're too poor.’”