Hurricane Irene’s foray inland is slowing the storm down, but her direction of travel is allowing her strong right hook to take a final punch at the eastern coast before she crosses back over the Atlantic Ocean. The fastest winds in a northern hemisphere hurricane, spinning counterclockwise, is always to the right of the path that hurricane is traveling. In Irene’s case, her north-northeasterly route makes her east-southeast side the most dangerous.
While her wind speeds are now a Category 1 hurricane churning a steady 80 mph with higher gusts, her forward motion is about 13 mph. That means as the winds circle around the eye of the storm on the east-southeast side they don’t have to fight against that forward direction, they are moving along with it.
In the southern hemisphere, where hurricanes spin clockwise (but not toilets), the winds are most dangerous to the left of a hurricane’s path. And in both hemispheres the path a hurricane takes is dependent on where the low pressure systems are in the atmosphere, not on which way the hurricanes are spinning.
IMAGE: The GOES-13 satellite view of Hurricane Irene on Saturday, August 27. (NASA/NOAA GOES Project)