New York City will apparently face similar conditions. The eye will get in the range of 100 miles east of DC, but the storm has tropical storm force winds out to a radius of 400 miles, so the nation's capitol will get some wind and a lot of rain. New York City will be shut down for the very first time in history from Noon today, soon to suffer from the outer fringes. Best guess now is that the eye will also miss Manhattan, passing slightly to the east and over Long Island (middle of the City is from 5 to 118 miles away) around 10AM on Sunday, then slightly west of Boston by 4PM.
If the city gets more than a foot of rain, subways will be inundated. If the current speed of 15 MPH drops to ten or less, that will be bad, because the grounds are already saturated from the previous storm. Hurricane Connie in 1955 dropped 13 inches over southeast New York. The tall buildings themselves will survive, of course, but the wind speed increases with altitude, so higher floors could suffer from window blow-ins.
The most powerful hurricane to strike New York City was a Category 3 in 1938, called the Long Island Express, killing 682 people (60 in the City) and causing damages of nearly $5 billion (2005 dollars). Also over Long Island, Category 2 Hurricane Donna in 1960 resulted in no deaths and relatively minimal damage. On this basis, as the threatened have been warned and moved, Irene should swiftly move past DC, NYC and Boston without much ado.
But there will be a few deaths, from things like falling trees, and water will cause more actual damage than anything else, especially if the New York subways become unusable for a while. Certainly, millions will lose power. This will not stop CNN, mayors, governors and anyone responsible from hyping the potential. But, as they say, much better to be safe than sorry, making sense to overreact than not.
Current projections show Irene maintaining Category 1 strength all the way to Boston. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if she weakens below hurricane status by New York City, as much of the eye spent some time on land over North Carolina.
Well, watch the Weavers singing, Goodnight Irene at their last concert:
And Good Night Irene in their prime just about 60 ago, where they gave credit to Huddie Leadbetter (who had just passed away, known as Leadbelly) for inspiring them with his 30's Irene Goodnight. The song itself has amorphous roots leading back into the 1800's.