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.