It should come as little surprise to anyone who's been following Irene's track, but the National Weather Service has officially issued a hurricane watch for the Connecticut coast.
The National Hurricane Center's latest bulletin on Irene puts its maximum sustained winds at 110 mph. The storm, now a category 2, is expected to make a gradual turn toward the north-northeast Friday, during which "some re-intensification is possible."
"The core of the hurricane will ... approach the coast of North Carolina tonight and pass near or over the North Carolina coast Saturday," the service warns.
Irene's effects could be felt in Connecticut as soon as Saturday, with winds expected to reach hurricane strength Sunday afternoon and landfall estimated at 5 p.m. that day. The storm is expected to be a category 1 hurricane by the time it reaches the area.
Six to ten inches of rain are possible, the center reports, with isolated amounts of up to 15.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a declaration of emergency Thursday afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s landfall.
According to a statement from the governor’s office, the declaration gives Malloy broad powers to act during an emergency, including:
- The ability to order evacuations of all or part of the population of a stricken or threatened area and take necessary steps for receipt and care of evacuees
- The ability to modify or suspend any state statute, regulation, or requirement (for example: altering work hours, waiving licensing requirements, etc.)
- The ability to order civil preparedness forces into action
- The ability to designate vehicle and person routes and movements
“The forecast path of Hurricane Irene has convinced me that the signing of this declaration is necessary, and will help us react more quickly and effectively in the event of a serious weather event,” Malloy said in the statement.
The governor also announced Thursday that state campgrounds would close at noon Saturday and state parks would close at nighfall that night because of the impending storm.
The state has also launched a website to keep Connecticut residents updated on the hurricane’s potential track and the administration’s public-safety efforts.
On his blog, Way Too Much Weather, NBC Connecticut's Ryan Hanrahan writes that the most likely scenario for Hurricane Irene "is a direct hit as severe or more severe than Gloria."
"Winds of this magnitude will likely be as strong or stronger than what we experienced during Hurricane Gloria," the meteorologist adds. "The wet soil and long duration of winds will make trees very susceptible to either being uprooted or damaged."
Hanrahan also writes that, due to the particularly high tides brought about by the new moon, "we should prepare for a category higher of storm surge than would typically be expected from a cat 1 or 2."
While no warnings or watches have yet been issued for Connecticut, the National Hurricane Center now puts the probability of Fairfield County experiencing tropical storm force winds at 50 to 60 percent.
The storm is still projected to make landfall in the area around 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the latest bulletin from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.