Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Irene is forecast to turn north into the U.S. on a path similar to 1985’s Hurricane Gloria, threatening as much as $11 billion in insured losses and possibly forcing evacuations of parts of New York City.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a decision on evacuations would be made tomorrow for residents in areas including Coney Island, Battery Park City and parts of Staten Island.
Irene, a Category 3 major hurricane, is expected to grow larger as it moves toward North Carolina’s Outer Banks this weekend before crashing into the Northeast as early as Aug. 28. The storm is 65 miles (105 kilometers) east-northeast of Nassau, the Bahamas.
“This track is eerily similar to Gloria,” said Chris Hyde, a meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “Millions are potentially going to be losing power from North Carolina all the way up to New England.”
Irene may cause $11 billion in insured losses and $20 billion in overall economic losses due to lost hours at work, power outages, interruption of shipping and airline traffic, according to estimates by Kinetic Analysis Corp.
Gloria killed 11 people, according to a hurricane center report. It caused $900 million in damage, according to Weather Underground Inc.
Bloomberg said at a press conference the city is expecting “winds of 60 mph or more” and the storm may be “possibly as strong as a Category 2 on Long Island.” The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
A Category 2 storm has winds of at least 96 mph, and poorly constructed homes are at risk for losing their roofs, high-rise windows can be broken and many shallow-rooted trees will be snapped off or pulled from the ground, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“There is a substantial risk of injury or death to people, livestock and pets due to flying and falling debris,” the center said.
Irene is expected to strengthen later today, the hurricane center said, and could become a Category Four hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, bearing winds of at least 131 mph.
“The core of the hurricane will continue to move over the northwestern Bahamas today, and pass well offshore of the east coast of central and north Florida tonight and early Friday,” the hurricane center said.
A hurricane watch is in force from Surf City, North Carolina, to the Virginia line, according to the center. A tropical storm watch is in effect from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Surf City. A watch means storm conditions are likely to begin in two days.
“Irene is a big storm; it’s packing a strong wind,” North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue told reporters today in Raleigh. “We know there will be strong surges regardless of how close it comes to our coast.”
Perdue, a Democrat, said she was “dismayed that many of the ferries were still empty” at Ocracoke Island, which is evacuating tourists. “We are asking people all over eastern North Carolina to take this storm very seriously,” she said.
The U.S. Navy moved 64 ships away from Norfolk, Virginia to keep them from being damaged by the storm, the Associated Press reported.
Residents along the coast north of the Carolinas will “experience a raging hurricane,” said Jim Dale, a Risk Meteorologist with High Wycombe, England-based British Weather Services. “They will see 70-100 miles-per-hour winds and also copious amounts of rain. Flooding and storm damage from wind is inevitable.”
Irene is ripping through the Bahamas with winds of 115 miles per hour, damaging homes, felling trees and triggering flooding, according to the Bahamas Emergency Management Agency.
The U.S. center warned the Bahamas would experience storm surges of as much as 11 feet above sea level and that up to 12 inches of rain may fall.
Irene’s hurricane-strength winds of at least 74 mph extend 70 miles from its core, and tropical-storm-strength winds reach out 255 miles.
The last hurricane to strike the U.S. was Ike in 2008, a Category 2 storm when it went ashore near Galveston, Texas. The most recent major hurricane, one with winds of at least 111 mph, was Wilma in 2005.
Further out in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 10, which formed in the eastern Atlantic, probably will be upgraded to a tropical storm later today, the hurricane center said. The next tropical storm will be named Jose.
The depression has maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, close to the threshold of 39 mph for a named tropical storm. The center of the system is about 435 miles west- southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest across open waters at 13 mph at 5 a.m. U.S. Eastern time, the Miami-based center said.
--With assistance from Chris Burritt in North Carolina and Lananh Nguyen and Steve Voss in London. Editors: Charlotte Porter, David Marino.
To contact the reporters on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at firstname.lastname@example.org; Conor Sullivan in London at email@example.com.
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