The Sandy Paradox

By: Bryan Norcross , 3:38 AM GMT on October 26, 2012

Share this Blog
20
+

Isn't it strange that a hurricane in the Bahamas would somehow turn into a monster mega-storm and slam into the Northeast at the end of October? Aren't hurricanes supposed to weaken as they move north over cold water? What the hell is going on?

The answers are... yes, yes, and we're not completely sure. This is a beyond-strange situation. It's unprecedented and bizarre. Hurricanes almost always bend out to sea in October, although there have been some exceptions when storms went due north, but rarely. No October tropical systems in the record book have turned left into the northeast coast.

The strong evidence we have that a significant, maybe historic, storm is going to hit the east coast is that EVERY reliable computer forecast model now says it's going to happen. The only way we can forecast the weather four or five days days from now is with the aid of these super-complex computer programs run on supercomputers. The two best, the European and the U.S. GFS (Global Forecast System) run by NOAA, are now in reasonable agreement that there IS going to be an extraordinarily unusual confluence of events that results in a massive storm.

The upper-air steering pattern that is part of the puzzle is not all that unheard of. It happens when the atmosphere gets blocked over the Atlantic and the flow over the U.S. doubles back on itself. Sometimes big winter storms are involved.

The freak part is that a hurricane happens to be in the right place in the world to get sucked into this doubled-back channel of air and pulled inland from the coast.

And the double-freak part is that the upper level wind, instead of weakening the storm and simply absorbing the moisture - which would be annoying enough - is merging with the tropical system to create a monstrous hybrid vortex. A combination of a hurricane and a nor'easter.

At least that's what the models are saying. And since all of the independent models are saying something similar, we have to believe them and be ready.

For most people being ready means getting to the store and getting stuff before everybody else gets wise and gets the stuff first. The forecast is for an incredibly widespread and long-duration windstorm, meaning power will likely be out for an extended period of time in a lot of locations.

A transistor radio is your best friend in a situation like this. Get one and enough batteries to keep it going. Your cell phone may or may not be your friend after a big storm.

For people near the coast, it's critical that you pay attention to local evacuation orders and emergency information. This storm, as forecast, will create dangerous and potentially life-threatening storm surge along hundreds of miles of coastline north of where the center comes ashore. Big storms move a lot of water, and this one is about as big as they come.

Right now, it looks like the storm center will land between the Delmarva and New Jersey, which would put the entire Tri-State area of NJ, NY, and Connecticut on the bad side of the storm. The Jersey Shore, Long Island, and New York City itself would be exposed to the brunt of the storm surge due to the "L" in the coastline at NYC. The angle and duration of the wind will keep the water high for an extended period of time, if this comes together as forecast. This means transportation disruptions and widespread coastal damage.

If the storm comes in farther south, the Delmarva, Delaware Bay and maybe the Chesapeake will be at risk. A storm the size that's forecast would cause problems throughout New England as well, even if the center is south of New York. And then there is the threat from flooding rain and the extremely heavy snow well inland.

To make all this worse along the coast, the moon is full on Monday, meaning the high tides will be higher yet.

The hope we have is that the computer models are not handling this unusual situation well, and are predicting a stronger storm than we get. But, we can't bet of it. Even a weaker version will likely mean a nightmare for millions.

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 17 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

17. dialhoang
2:32 AM GMT on October 29, 2012
"Your cell phone may or may not be your friend after a big storm."
Delete "may or may not be your friend" and insert "definitely won't be your friend".
Member Since: October 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
16. jayperkins
7:23 AM GMT on October 27, 2012
Advise from southern ms.

Propane stoves and lots of little propane bottles from walmart.

LED flashlights. Lots of batteries.

Gas up your car. Cell phones can be charged while your drive, engine idles or even engine off.

Generators - Amazon can ship you a basic generator for $299 that will arrive next week. Have gas on hand = 10 gallons per day.

Freezing water bottles and food. Fill your refridge with bottled water too. If you love coffee. Get filters and the Merlina cup top filter holders you can pour hot water thru.

Cook food on propane stoves as freezer defrosts.
Member Since: November 5, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 4
15. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
4:05 AM GMT on October 27, 2012
bnorcross has created a new entry.
14. klaatuborada
10:34 PM GMT on October 26, 2012

Halloween Storm, (Perfect Storm), October 1991
Member Since: August 15, 2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 392
13. Patrap
6:45 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Hurricane Bob
Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)




Hurricane Bob approaching New England

Formed August 16, 1991

Dissipated August 20, 1991

Highest winds 1-minute sustained:
115 mph (185 km/h)

Lowest pressure 950 mbar (hPa); 28.05 inHg

Fatalities 15 direct, 2 indirect

Damage $1.5 billion (1991 USD)

Areas affected North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic states, New England and Atlantic Canada
Part of the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
12. klaatuborada
6:31 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Isn't this similar to the Halloween Storm (Perfect Storm), that happened after Hurricane Bob in 1991? Hurricane Grace was absorbed by a Nor'Easter, only a little more East, no?
Member Since: August 15, 2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 392
11. Patrap
6:00 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
461. Patrap 1:55 PM CDT on October 25, 2012 0
Quoting mojofearless:

Yep, we roll like that, don't we, Pat? It's a perpetual preparation cycle here in Nola.
Ok - for our North East Coasters up in here, lemme give you the run down again of how we deal with this in New Orleans.
Freeze water bottles. Pack your freezer with them, in fact. Two liters, small bottles, doesn't matter. Fill them most of the way up if they're two liters, and freeze them. Cubed ice is good for not a damn thing except cocktails. It's will make a mess and be gone in less than 24 hours. Skip the bags of ice. Freeze bottles. If you have to use them to preserve your food, get the food as snug as possible in your freezer and put the bottles on top and around - since cold air sinks.
Start drawing down your perishable food immediately. Do not allow your family to eat anything non-perishable between now and the storm if there's still perishable food in your fridge. Smack their little grubby hands when they reach for the Triscuits. Make them eat the yogurt instead.
Stock up on liquor, hand sanitizer, baby wipes for personal hygiene (cucumber green tea wipes are my fave), more liquor, cigarettes if you smoke, at least two hundred dollars in cash (the ATM's and credit card machines go down when the power does), gas up your car - keep it full. Buy batteries, flashlights, a good book. Buy shelf stable bacon, cheese and milk (Parmalat is the best UHT milk).
Remember that it'll be easier to text than make actual calls if the phone lines go down. Communicate with your family before the storm hits so they know your plan.
Move anything you value away from windows and off of exterior walls - especially in older buildings. It's common for brick walls to weep massive amounts of water during hurricanes. Mine looked like a demented full-wall water feature during Isaac. Be we were ready for that, and nothing was damaged except one rug.
When you lose power, you should automatically assume that your water is contaminated until told otherwise. Do not use it for drinking, hand washing, or dish washing. Use your bottled water and disposable plates and utensils.
Be aware of the high potential for dog bites - one of the most common injuries immediately post-hurricane. Fences are down, animals are scared. It happens frequently. Be wary of loose dogs.
Ahhh, what else? Boredom - after a couple of days without power, boredom sets in. Invest in a game of Risk or Monopoly.
And last but not least, do not assume that since you personally sailed thru Irene with flying colors, you shouldn't have to prepare for this. Every storm is wildly different.
Anyone have anything to add here? I'm running out of basic advice.

Patrap: Dat's a fine synopsis with Lagniappe fer sho'

..Oh yeah, can and bottle openers that are NOT electric.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
10. Patrap
5:57 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Melbourne Radar
NEXRAD

Base Reflectivity 0.50 Elevation
Range 248 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
9. lat25five
5:19 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Thanks Bryan, among all the other variables going on I'm not sure if the has ever been a Hurricane come ashore in the N.E.at this angle before which is probably worse case scenerio.
Member Since: February 25, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 66
8. georgevandenberghe
3:51 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
I'd like to hear in another post from a dynamic meteorologist on the following.

Most hurricanes have a length scale of a few hundred kilometers.
Eddies this size in a baroclinic region damp out because of
stratification (the circulations created by the geostrophic
adjustments are thermally indirect and convert eddy kinetic
energy to potential energy intensifying the temperature gradient
and killing the eddy.. This energy is eventually released in a
larger scale more classic baroclinic disturbance some time later.
)

If stratification is less or the disturbance is larger though, the
eddy can extract energy from the baroclinicity and grow. This
is common with large areal extent hurricanes that encounter
temperature gradients and transition into large baroclinic waves, which are generally intense (maintain gale strength). The tropical cyclone does not have
to be as large in low stratification (weak static stability) situations.

The energetics of hybrid storms is beyond my current knowledge.

Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 19 Comments: 1941
7. georgevandenberghe
3:22 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Quoting spbloom:
One of those hand-crankable (maybe solar too? - not so relevant for this situation though) radios that includes emergency bands, built-in flashlight and cell phone charger would be even better. As I understand it they don't require all that much cranking.


Cell phones can be charged from the 12 volt outlet in a car
with a suitable charger. These are available in convenience stores and gas stations everywhere for ~$10. Otherwise planning on no power
(plenty of batteries for radios and lights) is indeed a real good idea.
Remember that gas stations rely on electricity so you can't
gas up if your entire area loses power.

I don't know how long cell towers will function without line power.
Hopefully I won't find out this weekend.


Another useful tip for your freezer is to pack it as tightly
as possible. Fill any unused space in the freezer with cheap plastic
water bottles and let them freeze solid. These will keep
it cold longer if it loses power. If you have enough ice and salt
you can keep a small amount of stuff deep frozen with a brine
bath (-10C is easily sustained) but this usually isn't practical.
Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 19 Comments: 1941
6. Rocknj
12:32 PM GMT on October 26, 2012
Here's a look at how a bad hurricane could affect the New York City Area, "How a Major Category 3 Hurricane Would Affect New York City": Link
Member Since: October 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
5. Neapolitan
11:00 AM GMT on October 26, 2012
Quoting weatherhistorian:
I'm working on a blog for WU right now about historical late season tropical storms that affected the Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras. I have looked at all accounts back to 1693 and can not see anything like this ever happening before (if the models bear out). Of particular interest is the forecast of the pressure center falling (possibly) as low as 940 mb (?) when the storm moves close to NJ or Delaware. That, frankly, is beyond belief (it would be a lower pressure than even the great hurricanes of 1938 and 1944 when they were north of Hatteras--the lowest pressure related to any tropical or extra-tropical storm in this region was 943 mb/27.85" when the 1938 hurricane hit Long Island). But even if the pressure falls to 'just' 960 mb it would be almost unprecedented.

Is this for real?!!
I look forward to reading your entry on this, Chris.

As of this writing, the NHC seems increasingly certain that the storm is going to curve into the mid-Atlantic coast and make landfall as a hurricane/hybrid with a massive windfield and abnormally low pressures. This is truly a disturbing--alarming?--graphic:

Sandy
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13613
4. prioris
8:43 AM GMT on October 26, 2012
Hurricanes and tropical storms have been occurring in and intensifying over cold water for a long time. The warm water idea is bogus.

Still no mention of electromagnetic fields in weather forecasts. Nor do we hear about the cosmic events that influence the weather.

Big lies permeate scientific areas by design to dumb down the public. The powers that be not only openly artificially manipulate the weather around the world but do it covertly for very dark and hidden agendas.
Member Since: May 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
3. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
8:01 AM GMT on October 26, 2012
I'm working on a blog for WU right now about historical late season tropical storms that affected the Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras. I have looked at all accounts back to 1693 and can not see anything like this ever happening before (if the models bear out). Of particular interest is the forecast of the pressure center falling (possibly) as low as 940 mb (?) when the storm moves close to NJ or Delaware. That, frankly, is beyond belief (it would be a lower pressure than even the great hurricanes of 1938 and 1944 when they were north of Hatteras--the lowest pressure related to any tropical or extra-tropical storm in this region was 943 mb/27.85" when the 1938 hurricane hit Long Island). But even if the pressure falls to 'just' 960 mb it would be almost unprecedented.

Is this for real?!!
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 312 Comments: 293
2. TinaLouAnn
4:22 AM GMT on October 26, 2012
Curious to know how the blocking high is developing at this stage? Is it as intense as initially predicted and at when is it expected to affect Sandy?
Member Since: October 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
1. spbloom
4:08 AM GMT on October 26, 2012
One of those hand-crankable (maybe solar too? - not so relevant for this situation though) radios that includes emergency bands, built-in flashlight and cell phone charger would be even better. As I understand it they don't require all that much cranking.
Member Since: May 12, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 429

Viewing: 17 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

Top of Page

About bnorcross

This is the official blog for Bryan Norcross, Hurricane Specialist at The Weather Channel.

Recommended Links