Hurricane Sandy to bring widespread impacts to our area

European model showing Hurricane Sandy near landfall on the New Jersey coast this coming Tuesday morning. The purple area indicates hurricane force sustained winds.

Over the last 24 hours, forecast models have come into much better agreement on the eventual track of Hurricane Sandy. Now that she is near the latitude of the Southeast states, there is much less discrepancy amongst forecast models, although there still remains a relatively large spread of solutions for the time frame we are in. Models have honed in on a potential landfall from the Northern tip of the NJ shore (Sandy Hook) to the Delaware beaches or far Southern New Jersey. There are still some outlier models on either side. Regardless of the track, Hurricane Sandy is expected to be a historically strong storm in the Northeast US and will bring a myriad of threats to the NYC and NJ areas. Expect heavy rain, strong wind, dangerous storm surge and wave heights, and the potential for widespread power outages. We detail the threat below in advance of the system.

What’s happening with Sandy now? Sandy is a Category 1 Hurricane off the Southeast Coast this afternoon. Although a Category 1 Hurricane usually doesn’t sound too menacing, sustained winds over 75 miles per hour can cause damage. In addition, the storm is expected to strengthen over the next day or so as she phases with an upper level trough over the Eastern United States. A phasing process and favorable jet stream alignment will set the stage for rapid deepening of Sandy’s pressure — and although the winds won’t match up, Sandy could have a low pressure usually found in Major Hurricanes.

How exactly is Sandy going to turn west to come back to the coast? In a rare turn of events, Sandy is expected to phase (or merge/interact) with another disturbance over the East Coast. Both disturbances are strong, and as they phase the storm will deepen. Usually, even with a phase, the storm could escape to the north and east. But in this rare situation, strong atmospheric blocking high pressure to the north will block Sandy and force her to turn west and back towards the US East Coast.

Do we have a good idea where Sandy is going to make landfall? Yes and no. On a regional scale, we know she’ll make making landfall in the Northern Mid-Atlantic, which is bad news for us because that places her from Delaware to Long Island. But on a local scale, some uncertainty remains. There are two scenarios on the table.

  • Scenario 1: Sandy makes landfall along the New Jersey Shore. This would be a worst case scenario for all of New Jersey, New York, Long Island, and Connecticut. The storm would be retrograding towards the area from the west, meaning a large storm surge would be advecting in from the southeast. In addition, this would place our area in the strongest quadrant of the storms wind field. Heavy rain, flooding, high winds, rain, beach erosion, storm surge would all be threats. Power outages would likely be widespread.
  • Scenario 2: Sandy makes landfall farther south over Delaware or Maryland, or farther Northeast over Long Island/ Southern New England. The area would still be hit hard by the effects of the storm, but to a varying degree. If it tracked south over MD/DE, we would still see strong southeast winds and storm surge. If it tracks to the north over Long Island, widespread heavy flooding rains would be a more of a concern, but the wind direction would shift to the northwest because of the cyclones position to our north and east. This could mitigate the storm surge somewhat.

Okay, so it looks like Sandy is coming. What should I do now? You should immediately begin hurricane preparations if you haven’t already, and this especially applies to everyone who is living along the shore. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. Your well being is at risk in a storm like this. For those of you who are not told to evacuate, there are several steps in hurricane preparation.

If you live on the beach, near the shore, or on a barrier island and are not under a mandatory evacuation:

  • Board up windows
  • Secure boats and docks
  • Remove outdoor decorations or loose objects
  • Clear gutters and drains of leaves and debris
  • Have flashlights, batteries, and essentials available.
  • Charge your cell phone and fill up your car with gas prior to the storm.
  • Have an NOAA weather radio readily available.

If you live inland, in a city or suburb and are not under a mandatory evacuation:

  • Bring in all loose objects outdoors that may fly away
  • Clear gutters and drains of leaves and debris
  • Charge your cell phone and fill up your car with gas prior to the storm.
  • If possible, have a backup power source available.
  • Trim loose branches from trees.
  • Have flashlights, batteries, and essentials available.

Storm Timing: We expect the effects from the storm to begin on Sunday evening, but the worst part of the rain and heavy wind as well as storm surge/etc will come overnight Monday Night into Tuesday morning. During this time, do not travel unless absolutely necessary. The storm is expected to wind down by Tuesday evening.

Where, if at all, could the storm be less ferocious? One thing we are carefully analyzing as meteorologists is the potential for the strongest winds to be relegated to the coasts and beaches. This could spare inland areas the hurricane force winds, but tropical storm force winds would still be likely. Not much of a change, but something worth noting. High wind gusts and high impact from the system is expected area-wide.

We remind you to stay with us for future updates on both our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Also, if you have storm reports, submit them to us via email or social media. We need them more than ever during Hurricane Sandy. Stay safe.