WRUF Weather

Sandy All About Size Over Strength

The wording out of the National Weather Service is almost unprecedented.   The following was issued from the office in Mount Holly, New Jersey:

IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT [TO EVACUATE], THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES, THINK ABOUT THE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO REACH YOU WHEN YOU MAKE THE PANICKED PHONE CALL TO BE RESCUED, THINK ABOUTTHE RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.

Make no joke.  This is no ‘Katrina’.  Sandy is only a Category 1 storm with sustained winds near the center barely at hurricane strength.  Sandy is just a THOUSAND miles wide.  Yes, the storm’s tropical storm force winds extend 500 miles out in both directions from the center.   In fact, winds gusting to tropical storm force at times were felt Sunday evening as far away from Sandy’s eye as Atlanta, Georgia.

Snapshot of Wind Tracker Monday Evening

The incredible spread in Sandy’s wind field is a result of the transformation taking place between a truly tropical cyclone and one that is more land-based.  If this metamorphosis of sorts was not taking place, the central pressure of the storm would more resemble a Category 3 hurricane.  It’s because of the enormous pressure gradient of more than 80mb from Sandy’s lowest, to a large ridge of higher pressure diving into the Ohio Valley that we have such a large and spread out wind machine.  Our nation’s most-populated cities in the I-95 corridor will likely sustain damage that is the most-widespread in a lifetime.  Power outages totaling the tens of millions are very possible, especially considering much of the mid-autumn foliage is still on the trees.  High rise buildings in many of the urban centers that extend hundreds of feet high will likely have windows punched out by near-hurricane force wind gusts.

Snapshot of the wave predictions Monday afternoon.

But wind is just one of the four major forces Sandy is about to unleash on the Northeast.  Storm surge will be maximized to the right (or northeast) of Sandy’s landfall, likely somewhere along the Jersey Shore.  This places New York City, much of Long Island, and Manhattan under a 24-hour onslaught of waves and water like they haven’t seen in decades.  Irene’s water rise in lower Manhattan, for example was only 4 to 5 feet.  The forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for a storm surge of 6 to 10 feet Monday night when Sandy reaches her nearest point.  Coastal flooding and tidal flooding could carry on for days as Sandy’s remnants linger in the New England through mid-week, adding insult to what will be extreme injury along the Atlantic Coast.

Rain Tracker showing where heaviest rainfall accumulation from Sandy will be.

As with any land-falling tropical cyclone, heavy amounts of rain and inland flooding are a significant concern.  Sandy is no different.  In fact, the interaction with an old frontal boundary will likely enhance the rainfall on Sandy’s west and southwest side, something that is a bit unusual.  Rainfall amounts in parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware could exceed 10 inches, where flooding will likely be widespread.

One of the oddest features of this “megastorm” may be the issuance of Blizzard Warnings for parts of West Virginia and Virginia’s high country.  An extremely cold air mass is plunging southward on the backside of Sandy, likely turning some of the tropical rain bands into an all-out blitz of heavy, wet snow.  Snowfall accumulations of 2 to 3 feet will be possible in the highest elevations of the Appalachian Mountains before Sandy’s warmer side wraps around the storm.

When all is said and done, which may not be until the end of the week, more than 40 percent of our nation’s population will have likely endured some type of life-altering damage or discomfort from Hurricane Sandy.  Whether it be the wind, the surge, flooding rain, or heavy snow, Hurricane Sandy will be remembered by many for future generations as storm that had wide-ranging impact over thousands of miles, lasting days and weeks.

If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross’s recovery effort, or help friends and family prepare for the storm, visit their website here.

Updates on Hurricane Sandy are available at 20 minutes past the hour on WRUF-TV, or frequently also on Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM.

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