Hurricane Sandy’s big size presents huge problems


Richard Moore

Hurricane Sandy’s big size presents huge problems

In most hurricanes, the strongest winds are near the center (eyewall). But Sandy’s wind field has expanded throughout the past 48 hours and now extends over 500 miles.

Hurricane Sandy is the major weather story circulating the globe at present, and it has every right to be. The overall meteorological setup for Sandy is extremely rare. We are not just dealing with a large hurricane. We are dealing with a hurricane that is developing extratropical characteristics and becoming a mid-latitude cyclone. In most hurricanes, the strongest winds are located near the center (eyewall), but not in Sandy. Instead of storing all of the energy near the center of the storm, Sandy’s wind field has continuously expanded throughout the past 48 hours. Tropical storm force winds (39 miles per hour or higher) extend outwards over 500 miles! All of this energy is what truly alarms me. It means, for instance, that storm surge will be much greater. Also, we are talking about millions of people in the Mid-Atlantic and New England who will likely lose power and who will have strong winds in their vicinity for 24 to 48 hours. Sandy is a large and violent storm that everyone should take seriously. This is not your typical nor’easter or weak Category 1 hurricane. Meteorologists will surely be talking about this storm for many decades.

Hurricane Sandy is massive storm that will produce dangerous weather conditions across the Mid-Atlantic and New England beginning Sunday night and through Monday, October 29. Image Credit: NASA

Hurricane Sandy is already responsible for killing 65 people in the Caribbean, with the largest death toll occurring in Haiti (51 deaths). A state of emergency has already been issued by a large majority of the states that will be affected by Sandy between now (Sunday, October 28 at 8 p.m. EDT) through Monday night. According to Accuweather, tropical storm force winds from the northeast to southwest side of Sandy stretch approximately 900 miles. To give you an idea how massive Sandy truly is, 900 miles is roughly the distance from New York City to Daytona Beach, Florida. High wind warnings, wind advisories, blizzard warnings in West Virginia, and so on, span the U.S. East Coast. It is extraordinary and almost impossible to try to comprehend so many weather events occurring all at once across these states.

Here is the latest forecast track of Hurricane Sandy:

Forecast track of Hurricane Sandy for the next five days. Image Credit: NHC

Rainfall potential for the next five days (Starting on October 28 through November 2, 2012):

Rainfall totals for the next five days. Flooding is a huge concern. Image Credit: HPC

If you live in this region, you should be nearly finished preparing for this storm. This is a serious situation, and I strongly urge everyone to take this storm seriously. If you are told to evacuate, do it. Do not stick around. Sandy is a storm that we have never seen before, and, by the way, it does not compare to the Perfect Storm of October 1991. If you live in the U.S. East, your weather will continue to decline during the overnight hours Sunday night and deteriorate significantly throughout Monday, October 29, 2012.

Here are a few things I believe people should understand and realize regarding Sandy:

1) This storm will not be similar to Hurricane Irene from 2011. It will be more powerful and cause a lot more damage. This will easily be a billion-dollar disaster.

2) Sustained tropical storm force winds of 39 mph to 73 mph will occur for a long period of time. Residents across the Mid-Atlantic and New England will experience these winds for over 24 hours. A wind gust of 64 mph was already recorded in coastal North Carolina earlier today, and the storm is no where close to them!

3) The main threat from Sandy is water. All forms of it including storm surge, flooding, and snow. With the addition of a full moon, ocean tides will be significantly higher than usual. Flooding is a huge concern, and unfortunately, it looks inevitable. Storm surge could easily exceed 6-11 feet in New York City, which could result in one of the biggest coastal flooding events in the city.

4) The exact landfall of Sandy is not important because the effects of Sandy will be far reaching. However, it is important to note that anyone on the north side of the center of circulation will experience the strongest storm surge as winds will be pushing onshore.

5) Residents in West Virginia will be experiencing the winter aspect of this storm. Blizzard warnings have already been issued, and some areas could see up to two feet of snow.

6) The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Sandy currently has a barometric pressure around 952 millibars. This is very low. To give you an idea, pressure readings around 950 mb are typically seen in Category 3 hurricanes. Our computer models are hinting that the pressure could drop between 940-950 mb by tomorrow afternoon. You never want to see a storm strengthen prior to making landfall.

Many meteorologists have already shared their opinions on Hurricane Sandy. In fact, the local offices at the National Weather Service are increasing their wording in their discussions to the public. For instance, Meteorologist Gary Szatkowski posted this slide:

Personal plea written by meteorologist Gary Szatkowski from the National Weather Service.

Bottom line: Hurricane Sandy – due to effect the U.S. Mid-Atlantic states and New England beginning Sunday night and through Monday, October 29 – is a large storm that will impact millions. Power outages, flooding, and wind damage is inevitable. Sandy could strengthen prior to making landfall, and many areas will experience winds gusting over 75 mph. Flooding and storm surge will be a major story, and beach erosion will be significant. In West Virginia, this storm will produce heavy snow and strong winds that will create nasty blizzard conditions. Stay safe, be prepared, and if you are told to evacuate, do it. We’ll have more updates about Hurricane Sandy as it continues to push closer to the eastern coast of the United States. Please stay safe!