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Hurricane Irene was actually bigger than hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Irene, which battered the East Coast this past weekend was actually larger, but less intense than, hurricane Katrina.

By Mike WallOurAmazingPlanet / August 29, 2011

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Hurricane Irene made its second landfall in New Jersey Sunday, the first hurricane in more than a century to make landfall in the Garden State.

As Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the East Coast late last week, many commentators warned of its destructive potential by invoking the memory of Hurricane Katrina.

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Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast six years ago today (Aug. 29), flooding nearly all of New Orleans in the process. The storm remains a potent cultural touchstone, serving as a reminder of nature's power — and the importance of planning properly for worst-case scenarios.

Since Irene made landfall and was downgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend, we can begin to take its measure a little better. So how does Irene compare to Katrina?

Birth date and place

Irene: Meteorologists gave Irene its name Aug. 20. At that point, it was a tropical storm about 190 miles (306 kilometers) east of the Caribbean island of Dominica. In the early hours of Aug. 22, Irene graduated, becoming the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season.

Katrina: Katrina was named Aug. 24, 2005, when it was a tropical storm about 65 miles (105 km) east-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Katrina became the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season when it was upgraded the next day.

Storm path

Irene: Irene made landfall in Puerto Rico in the early morning of Aug. 22, then continued to move northwest. As it neared the U.S. East Coast, Irene banked heavily north, churning toward another landfall in North Carolina.

The storm came aground at that state's Cape Lookout around 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday (Aug. 28). Irene then kept moving northward in near-shore waters, hitting New York City around 9 a.m. EDT Sunday (Aug. 28) and New England a few hours later.

Katrina: Katrina took a completely different route. The hurricane made landfall in southeast Florida on Aug. 25, then popped out into the Gulf of Mexico to the west. It churned westward through the Gulf for a while, gaining strength from the warm waters, then arced northward.

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