Tollers in mid-Atlantic, NE assist evacuations, some close during Hurricane/Storm Irene, lousy forecasts (ADDITIONS)

August 28, 2011

Tollers on the east coast went from supporting evacuations before Hurricane/Storm Irene through restrictions on account of winds and flooding to closures in some cases. The Chesapeake Expressway, a city tollroad in southeast Virginia played a key role in allowing the North Carolina Outer Banks to be evacuated ahead of the Hurricane making landfall.

Northbound tolls on the 16 mile VA168 tollroad were suspended Thursday morning (Aug 25) to help people crowding the road on the way out. Southbound tolls stopped being taken Friday evening (Aug 26) to allow toll collectors to get out and to speed traffic into NC. The Chesapeake Expressway is the only highspeed link between the Outer Banks and I-64 in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads metro area. Toll taking will be resumed 5:30am Tuesday Aug 30. From I-64 motorists could get out of the path of the hurricane by taking either US460 west or continuing on I-64 through the Hampton Roads area and inland to Richmond and I-95.

Saturday afternoon the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk were closed due to high winds and tides.

Maryland state's toll authority (MdTA) gave no free rides. They advised people leaving the eastern shore to take the land route through Delaware looping north on US113/US13 or DE1 to I-95 to avoid the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (US50/301). The Bay Bridge operated under restrictions aimed first at excluding the most wind-vulnerable vehicles. Then at 19:35 (7:35pm) Saturday (Aug 27) with sustained winds hitting 62mph the Bay Bridge was closed to traffic.

The Nice Bridge on US301 was closed at midnight Saturday night when sustained winds hit 59mph.

Baltimore harbor's bridges and tunnels remained open throughout the storm, although the Key Bridge had restrictions preventing lightly weighted tractor trailers and other wind-vulnerable vehicles.

The Bay Bridge reopened 9:30am Sunday when the worst of the storm was gone.

The eastern portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Valley Forge MP326 east to the Delaware River and the New Jersey state line plus the southern portion of the NE Extension (MP20 to MP31) - 44 miles in total - had a 45mph speed restriction from Saturday evening through Sunday morning. An interchange at MP340 was closed due to water on the road.

New Jersey was hit pretty hard by Hurricane/Storm Irene. The Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River - the coastal portion - was closed. So was much of the Atlantic City Expressway. Although somewhat to the west of the main storm the New Jersey Turnpike was closed in places for short periods due to standing water on the pavement from very heavy rain.

Philadelphia's toll bridges over the Delaware River were closed to tractor-trailers, recreation vehicles and motorbikes for most of the storm.

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission closed the Lower Trenton Bridge and the Center Bridge for a period due to high water on approach roads.

By the time the storm got to New York it had lost most of its energy and had no effect on toll facilities.

Strangest move was to suspend tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike along with warnings to people not to drive.

Bring on the "hurricanes" - we need half a dozen refreshers like that each summer here in central Maryland EDITORIAL

If that's a hurricane we could have done with several more like that this hot dry summer here on the northwest outskirts of metro-Washington DC. Hurricane Irene for us was a refreshing rain that persisted long enough to soak deep into the ground watering the large trees and replenishing acquirers and dams. The winds were moderate to non-existent. Nowhere near damaging velocities.

Entirely positive.

Irene, please visit more often.

What a debacle for the weather forecasters and the state emergency services! These wolf-criers got it very wrong.

Every traffic and revenue forecaster should have a plaque on their desk saying: "At least my forecasts are better than weather forecasts!"

Here's a word for those who were skeptical about all the hurricane hype - the people whose reaction to all the dire warnings was "Maybe, maybe not." You were right, the alarmists were wrong.

We skeptics decided not to go crazy storing water, screwing ugly plywood sheets over large windows and buying dozens of batteries that will now go to waste. We decided to stick around and to "ride it out."

The blowhards like NJ Governor Chris Christie and NYC Mayor Bloomberg called us 'knuckleheads,' 'dopes' and suchlike.  

The derogatory 'dope' we thought was almost dead here in America, these days being in common use only in Britain and Australia.  Good for Chris Christie reviving it, especially since he himself turned out to be the dope in this instance, rather than the ride-it-out objects of his verbal attacks.

Just a day ago all the weather maps had us here in the Washington DC metro area dead center in the prospective track of Irene which was forecast Friday to be a 100mph Category 2 hurricane Sunday morning. As it turned out the storm was centered closer to the Atlantic coast and the DC metro area was on the western fringe of the storm. Also from Virginia north it was not even a Cat 1 hurricane let alone Cat 2 as forecast. It became just a regular Tropical Storm, its energy much depleted.

Forecasts were we'd get 10 to 12 inches of rain from the hurricane. Here in Frederick County we got between 0.8 and 1.69 inches. The District got just over 3 inches, Montgomery Co much the same.  Baltimore got 3.6 inches. Some eastern counties like Prince Georges and Anne Arundel got more - 5 to 7 inches.  None got anywhere near the forecast totals.

Sustained wind speeds of 90mph were forecast. Actual wind speeds were about half that - 41 to 59mph in the District, the same in Baltimore, 41 to 55mph here in Frederick Co. Montgomery Co reported readings between 35 and 72mph. PG Co 40 to 59mph.

National Hurricane Center hyped windspeeds by 50% to 85% in cover-up of its lousy forecasts (ADDITION A)

Robert Lee Hotz of the Wall Street Journal noted the systematic exaggeration of wind speeds by the National Hurricane Center:

"An analysis of Hurricane Irene wind-speed readings in both North Carolina and the New York region, however, shows the winds reported by the National Hurricane Center were well in excess of what most people experienced on the ground.

"While the NHC was reporting sustained winds of 85 miles an hour in North Carolina on Saturday, ground-level monitors show only sustained winds in the 50- to 60-mile-an-hour range, said Tim Doggett, principal scientist at disaster-modeling company AIR Worldwide. Just hours after the storm swept through New York City, Mr. Doggett and other experts monitoring the winds said they had so far seen a similar pattern there.

"Ground monitors show sustained winds around 40 miles an hour, after forecasters had warned Irene was still packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles an hour." (see "Northern Landfall Puts Storm on Map," WSJ 2011-08-29)

Reaction to reader outrage (ADDITION B)

Several readers emailed or called to say we'd been over-influenced by our own experience here on the northwest fringe of the Washington metro area where Irene's visit was so mild. It missed us.


But recall we were warned for days we were right in the center path of a Cat 2 Hurricane. That turned out to be 100% wrong. We got a minor summer rain storm.

Readers drew attention to the real havoc Irene wrought in New Jersey and Vermont, and the widespread power outages in the suburbs of Washington DC and New York.

But here again the best efforts of the weather forecasters and their political mouthpieces like Gov Christie and Mayor Bloomberg turned out to be mostly wrong. New Jersey suffered from inland river flooding, not the hurricane strength high winds that were forecast or coastal flooding. The coasts that were so hysterically evacuated were largely untouched.

The treed suburbs of New York and Washington DC turned out to be the most dangerous places because of trees falling on power lines. This happens every summer and in the winters too.

The low lying coastal areas of New York City and the coasts south that were evacuated were untouched and suffered none of the chaos of the suburbs to which people had fled (see Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal, ordered like many Manhattanites to leave for the "safety" of the suburbs.)

And where was there the most dramatic storm damage? In the northern hills of Vermont and upstate New York - which the pathetic weather forecasters had never put at risk at all - because their flawed modeling had consistently showed the storm as quickly dissipating over land after it devastated New York City.

Of course there will always be widespread power outages after storms in the suburbs so long as people have lovely large trees and aerial electric cabling. If they want continuity of power they have to either underground their power lines, or ruthlessly trim their trees.

The performance of the weather forceasters including the National Hurtricane Center and the antics of their broadcasting mouthpieces demonstrated incompetence of a high order - editor.

TOLLROADSnews 2011-08-28  ADDITION A 2011-08-29 10:00 ADDITION B 2011-08-30 0900

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