SPECIAL EDITION: A Detailed Look At Sandy

October 28, 2012

Well as you all are well aware by now, Hurricane Sandy is tracking up the East Coast with a vengeance. Many a times, forecasters will sometimes draw the hype parade for a storm as was done with Irene. Big concerns grow when wolf is cried too many times and folks begin to take what forecasters say with a grain of salt. However, this storm is in a league all by itself, deserving every bit of hype that is receiving. This may be the first and last of its kind that many of us will see in our lifetimes and it will be impacting the heaviest populated cities in the US, the Northeast. At this point, we need to knock off descriptor terms such as the perfect storm, a nor’easter, a hurricane, etc. and focus on Sandy’s impacts because on thing is for certain, it will be a very bad, disastrous, life-threatening storm that has all the potential to go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons effecting potentially tens of millions of people.

Latest NHC update on Sandy has it East of the Carolinas and is expected to rapidly intensify through the evening and overnight. Currently, Sandy displays 75 mph sustained winds with minimal central pressure at 951 mb and expected to drop even more. At this point, the windfields of Sandy are beginning to expand incredibly as sustained winds of 55 mph are being reported (as I write this blog) 200 miles west of the center of the storm which is generally the weaker side of the storm…

Latest visible satellite view of Sandy. The shear size of Sandy is incredible…

What the models say….

The GFS model is the American global model and for days it was teetering between an out to sea scenario for Sandy and a southern Maine landfall, but finally it has followed suit with the ECMWF (European Model). The latest GFS is calling for a landfall around Central New Jersey late Monday evening with a ridiculous 947 mb low, equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.

The European Model is showing an almost identical landfall area but maybe leaning toward a South Jersey landfall around 6 AM Tuesday morning with around a 950 mb low on landfall which is far and away an incredible pressure drop for a storm system in that high of a latitude.

The CMC (Canadian Model) goes along with the same story. Landfall around New Jersey late Monday evening with a 948 mb low.

The NAM (North American Mesoscale- Short Range Model) is following suit with a New Jersey landfall late Monday evening with a 953 mb low.

Lastly in the model department, the GFS ensembles (all 20 members) are pretty dialed in on a New Jersey landfall as well.

IMPACTS…

Given Sandy’s incredible size, the windfields will be spread out over hundreds and hundreds of miles. This shows the forecast winds at 900 mb or at an altitude of 1,500 feet. For wind speeds at surface level, subtract about 10 knots and those would be your surface (ground level) winds. Winds will be extreme over the Northeast for a 24 to even 36 hours. Along and north of the storms center is where the extreme winds will occur, especially around Northern Jersey, NYC and points north where 70-80 mph winds are a very real possibility with inland areas seeing 50-60 mph winds. Please take down any halloween decorations that you may outside or any lawn furniture as these will likely turn into projectiles.

These are the forecast wave heights for Monday evening around 6 PM. Wave heights will be extreme as well with forecast heights north of Sandy’s center will likely be anywhere from 22 feet areas closer to land to as much as 40 feet further out to sea. I would expect storm surge to be anywhere from 12-18 feet, especially along and north of the center of landfall, which at this point looks like a New Jersey landfall. When dealing with storm surge, you must realize that surge is in addition of normal high tide, so if normal high tide is 2-4 feet and storm surge is forecast for 12-15 feet, you are looking at total surge of 14-19 feet.

Forecast rainfall totals from Sandy by the HPC. I personally think these rain totals are conservative as Sandy looks to stall for some time over Pennsylvania before moving out to northeastward. Rainfall and flooding will be massive and will affect millions of people over several states. I wouldn’t be surprised to see large areas along the coast with well over a foot of rainfall, even more perhaps.

Here is a look at the snowfall total projects via the GFS model valid late Monday evening through Thursday evening. Blizzard warnings are in effect for parts of West Virginia and Maryland as arctic air is expected to wrap into the west side of the system, coupled with a tremendous moisture core could spell massive snow totals, especially for West virginia where they could be measuring snow in feet.

Here is a graphic I created showing the generalized risk areas…

Overall, please take this storm seriously folks and understand the gravity behind it. I suspect million will be left without power for days, perhaps over an entire week. Make sure you have all your needed medical supplies, plenty of water, plenty of food, batteries, flashlights, make sure your car gas tank is full and your car is running. Make sure you and your family are prepared for the worst if it does happen. 

Travel will be a nightmare if roads haven’t been shut down yet. Air traffic will come to a fault. Expect major airport delays and cancellations across ALL airports in the Northeast.

As I have mentioned countless times before, this storm is dangerous and life-threatening and will do major widespread damage over the Northeast and even areas inland. This is one of those storms you will only see once in your lifetimes, one to go down into the record books. Please heed all state and city officials’ orders! If you are under a mandatory evacuation, leave now! Contact family and friends in the Northeast to make sure they are alright and heading for safety. I am sincerely hoping for the best out of this, but my hopes are becoming thin. I pray for all in the path of this storm and I hope for the best. God Bless. Weather for life. -John

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