I’m not on the East Coast for Irene, but some of my colleagues are. A subset of VORTEX2 vehicles (SMART-R2, TTU Ka-bands, UAH-MAX, and a mobile mesonet or two) and personnel waited on the North Carolina coast for a red-eye landfall. In addition, RaXPol is getting its hurricane baptism!
As of this writing, Hurricane Irene is a Category 1, with sustained winds of 85 mph, and the best damage the TV news crews can seem to find is some siding peeling off beachfront property. Is Irene being overhyped? I don’t think so. In contrast to previous hurricanes, the threat to humans from Irene is more water-based than wind-based. Flooding will likely be exacerbated by the expansive areal coverage of the hurricane and its relatively slow movement. In addition, Irene (or what’s left of it) is progged to make landfall in SE NY around high tide. Evacuating the low-lying areas around the coast is a prudent move.
My former classmate, Eric Holthaus, airs similar thoughts in his WSJ weather blog post.