Greensboro, NC -- Wind, rain and storm surge are the three main threats expected from a hurricane as it moves ashore, but it was just the wind and rain that left a prominent mark on North Carolina.
As Hurricane Irene moved over the North Carolina coast at 7:30 Saturday morning strong winds and heavy rain had already announced its arrival. In fact, at the time the center of Irene moved over Cape Lookout, NC, hurricane force winds extended out 90 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extended out an impressive 260 miles from the center of the storm.
It was only 20 minutes after Irene crashed into the Crystal Coast that a wind gust of 115 mph was reported at Cedar Island, NC. Fort Macon reported a maximum wind gust of 92 mph and Cape Hatteras reports it's maximum wind gust from Irene at 88 mph.
Wind gusts of tropical storm strength (39 mph-73 mph) were reported as far inland as Winston Salem. Winston Salem's Smith Reynolds Airport recorded a wind gust of 43 mph. The maximum wind gust reported at the Piedmont Triad International Airport was 38 mph.
The rain associated with Hurricane Irene mirrored it's staggering size. In fact it was Irene's large size that caused persistent tropical rains to fall in some places for longer than 36 hours.
Preliminary rainfall totals along the North Carolina coast are being reported as being greater than one foot in some locations. Bunyan, NC recorded a total of 14 inches of rain from Irene with Washington, NC receiving 13.31 inches. Wilmington's initial rainfall total from Irene was 7.60 inches.
Prior to Irene's arrival, nearly half of North Carolina was suffering from some category of drought with the worst drought conditions over the southeast. The rainfall received from Irene, while it did produce widespread flooding along the coast, will likely wipe the drought completely out of most of the eastern half of the state.
WFMY News 2