WRUF Weather

Sandy vs. Florida: Too Close to Call

In this political season of swaying polls and spirited debates, there’s something more than just partisan pundits spinning out there.  This candidate pays no attention to “no-spin” zones  and might just play “hard ball” with the swing state of Florida.  Welcome to the stage, Tropical Storm Sandy.  Who is she up against?  The incumbent and persistent trough of low pressure near the U.S. East Coast.

The Incumbent’s Record

Nearly all of the tropical cyclones that have formed since September 1st have been steered clear of the U.S., mostly due to the increased wind shear that accompanied this quasi-permanent dip in the jet stream.  In recent days, however, the upper-level winds have shifted to the north, making parts of the mainland vulnerable to a land-falling system should one form close to home.  Tropical Storm Sandy formed in the Western Caribbean late on Monday and is quickly strengthening, likely to become a hurricane within the next 48 hours.

Similar storms in location and date to where and when T.S. Sandy formed. Data courtesy of NOAA.

History tells us that storms forming in this part of the world during this time of year are most-likely to move in a north or northeastward direction.  In fact, nearly all of the Sandy analogs moved near or just east of the State of Florida.  Six crossed the peninsula, and four of the remaining six moved over the Bahamas.  This fact alone, though, does not give Sandy a mandate to run on.  Instead, we have to look at the challenger’s plan, or most-likely path.

 

The Challenger’s Path

Sandy will be looking for a weakness in the opponent’s shield to gain some ground pole-ward.   This shield is a large ridge of high pressure that is currently parked over the Mid-Atlantic States, extending down into parts of Florida.  Until this is booted, Sandy will likely remain stationary or only slowly drift north.  A jab at the ridge is expected to be delivered by an approaching cold front Wednesday.  When this happens, Sandy will likely accelerate northward and cross the islands of Jamaica and Cuba, nearing The Bahamas by week’s end.

NHC Forecast Path and Model Variance (as seen on Monday night)

When Sandy emerges back over the water from Cuba, the conflict between her and a reinforcing East Coast trough will escalate the competition.  The question is, will the new frontal system be strong enough to push Sandy out to sea?  Or rather, will Sandy be stronger and able to move right up the East Coast largely unimpeded? If the latter scenario plays out, Florida’s Atlantic Coast could be more directly impacted with tropical storm conditions.

 

We are at least five days removed from any significant influences of Tropical Storm Sandy on our state’s beaches or nation’s coastline.  Recent data suggests Sandy will struggle to maintain strength over The Bahamas and likely be steered out to sea by a new cold front and trough of lower pressure.  Even though chances for direct impacts from Sandy in North-Central Florida are low, we could say they are still within the “margin of error” given our known limitations of long-range forecasting of tropical cyclones.

Do Your Own Fact-Checking

Here’s how to stay informed of the very latest on Tropical Storm Sandy:

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