Big storm next week? Not so much and that is something to be quite thankful for

Both the GFS (shown here) and the ECMWF have next week's storm farther away from the U.S. coastline

Both the GFS (shown here) and the ECMWF have next week's storm farther away from the U.S. coastline

I hope I do not jinx the entire Eastern Seaboard with this post but here goes. As of today, the two major global models that I follow, the ECMWF and the GFS, have all but “given up” their idea of a big East Coast storm for next week. To say that this is good news is an understatement but nevertheless, the news is good, so far.

There will still be a storm, but it looks to be weaker and farther out to sea than the Euro was forecasting several days ago. I was really worried on Monday when it looked like a very bad situation was developing for the Mid-Atlantic and New England once again. What changed? As new data comes in and we get closer to the event in time, the models have a better handle on the upper air features and thus the forecast can change. We see this all the time when tracking hurricanes. I think that the fact the the Euro was so incredibly accurate with Sandy has perhaps jaded me a little, giving it a little too much credit in in the longer range forecasts. Still, I think we would rather know the potential is there and at least be in the mindset of dealing with something than having it pop up only 3 days ahead of time.

So the bottom line is this: it appears that a low pressure area will develop off the Southeast coast early next week. Instead of it moving nearly parallel to the coast as it intensifies, it is more likely to move away from the coast. This will significantly lessen the impacts but there could still be some larger than normal breaking waves which may lead to a few problems here and there along the immediate beachfront.

This also means that the heavy travel days of next week will not be plagued by bad weather. In fact, Thanksgiving Day may very well shape up to be a rather nice day along most of the East Coast. Hopefully this forecast will NOT change. A lot of people could use the break from bad weather.

Tomorrow: some thoughts about Sandy as I see quite a bit of chatter about whether or not it was a hurricane, why the warnings were not put up etc. I think I can add something to this seeing as I was there when it all went down.

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Global models in fairly good agreement that another ocean storm is coming for next week

ECMWF model showing the pressure gradient and fetch of wind

ECMWF model showing the pressure gradient and fetch of wind

We are a day closer now to the events leading up to what looks like another potent ocean storm for next week. All of the major global computer models show this happening to one degree or another. The run to run variability that we see in terms of strength and location is inevitable and it’s not time to focus on precise impacts for any one area. Instead, let’s look at what is likely to happen across a broad region of the U.S. coastline.

One key element of this storm, like the most recent Nor’easter, is that it is likely to remain offshore the entire time (at least as far as the U.S. is concerned). While it is possible that high latitude blocking via a large area of high pressure sliding in could send the storm back to the coast, it is not very likely. However, it does appear that quite a strong high will move in across the northern U.S. and across the Canadian Maritimes and this will combine with the low pressure of the ocean storm to create quite a strong pressure gradient.

It is this pressure gradient, the difference in the high and low pressure over distance, that I am most concerned about. The wind will not be particularly strong, nothing anywhere near what we saw with Sandy, but it will be around for several days, blowing across the Atlantic with increasing intensity. This will build the seas, creating large waves off shore. All of this energy will then be translated towards the vulnerable coastline from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to New England. You can clearly see this potential outlined in the graphic that I have posted in this blog. At first the wind will be easterly and directly onshore. Then, as the low tracks north, the wind will shift gradually to more northeast but the fetch will be significant. There will likely be several high tide cycles that will coincide with this event but fortunately, the Moon will not be much of a factor as it will be several days away from being full.

As far as inland snow or rain impact, it’s too soon to tell right now how much cold air will be in place but so far, the distance from the coast leads me to believe that the snow threat is going to be limited to the coast if at all. I do not see any indication right now that this storm will be a big snow maker for any one location. We’ll see as the picture gets clearer in the coming days but I am far more concerned about the coastal impacts of the increase in wind and wave action.

I’ll cover this topic at least once per day as I know many people in the region are concerned, rightfully so, about any coastal storm event that may hamper recovery efforts.

 

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You have got to be kidding me? Another powerful storm possible for Northeast next week?

ECMWF Day 8 showing yet another large coastal storm off the Northeast

ECMWF Day 8 showing yet another large coastal storm off the Northeast

I thought that perhaps I stumbled across some old link and had to refresh my browser. That did not help. The map was the same. It showed something that nearly made me gasp. Once again the global computer models are aligning to bring a large storm in to the region that Sandy impacted followed by the strong Nor’easter just last week. It’s as if the recent warm up and nice weather was just a tease before the siege begins anew from the Atlantic.

Take a look at the latest run of the ECWMF model that I have posted here. Look at the size of that storm! The fetch of wind across so much of the Atlantic is unsettling to say the least. I don’t know how else to put this other than to say: this is horrible! How much more can these people endure? I hope a lot because if this comes to pass, it will surely test the will of the storm-weary people who live along the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast.

Sea surface temperatures in the NW Atlantic clearly running well above normal

Sea surface temperatures in the NW Atlantic clearly running well above normal

What is the reason behind so much storminess? It’s the pattern we’re in. We see these deep troughs of low pressure digging in across the East Coast with plenty of upper level energy diving in which in turn spawns these giant ocean storms just off shore. It is interesting to note that water temps across the northwest Atlantic are running several degrees above normal right now. Maybe this is helping to fuel these storms? What ever the background reason is, it is becoming a real problem. Hopefully this scenario is far enough out in time that the models will change enough and in our favor so as to not have to deal with this. I worry though that the ECMWF, which handled Sandy’s fate very well this far out in time, is on to something once again, especially since the pattern is so remarkably similar – minus the hurricane coming out of the Caribbean of course.

Needless to say we will want to watch the evolution of this potential storm very closely. I’ll stay on top of it and post another update this evening. At least the tropics are quiet with no areas what so ever to be concerned with.

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Storm surge and high wind real concerns for Northeast

Ocean Prediction Center's Extra-tropical Storm Surge Model

Ocean Prediction Center's Extra-tropical Storm Surge Model

You can’t see it yet but a new coastal storm, a typical Nor’easter, is going to form off the Carolina coast tomorrow and track roughly parallel to the Eastern Seaboard and bring with it an increase in wind, rain, inland snows and a coastal storm surge.

All of the regional NWS offices are talking about the storm in their forecast discussions and it looks as though the areas hit hardest by Sandy will again be lashed by this system.

So far, the rain fall looks to be minimal enough to preclude any concerns about inland flooding. The heaviest rains will likely be near the coast which makes sense considering that this is a coastal storm and is not forecast to cross the coast or make a landfall. However, with many homes and businesses sustaining roof damage during Sandy, this rain is a serious issue and could cause further damage. If there is any chance to tarp open roof damage areas, now is the time to get it done.

Wind speeds will also be highest along the coast with gale force winds almost a certainty. From what I have seen, some of the strongest winds will be felt along the New Jersey and New York coasts with winds approaching 60 mph in gusts. This will be more than enough to knock the power back out for people who have recently had it restored. Here too, make sure any preparations to keep warm in case of power loss needs to be done now. Ask local relief agencies for battery powered lights and extra blankets today. The infrastructure is more vulnerable right now and it won’t take much to bring down additional trees and plunge large areas, especially near the coast, in to darkness once again.

Storm surge from extra-tropical storms such as this one can cause moderate tidal flooding which can extend in to back bays along the coast. Sadly, hurricane Sandy removed much of the protective dune system which will allow for more over wash and surge to reach in to some coastal towns. We could be looking at anywhere from two to four feet of flooding but a lot will depend on the track of the low and the duration of the long fetch of wind across the western Atlantic. A faster moving storm would be better, obviously. Again, from what I have gathered by reading the various NWS discussions, it looks as though the Wednesday night high tide will be the one of most concern – especially along northern New Jersey and some areas of Long Island.

As I have mentioned numerous times, utilize your local NWS info by going to weather.gov and inputting your ZIP Code. Read the content of the “Hazardous Weather Conditions” if the local office has put one up for the current storm. Here you will find more detailed information about timing and expected impacts to your local area. Keep in mind this is written by people in your region, not by a computer or from a cable TV news source. I highly encourage the use of the NWS local products, especially when it is important to understand the local impacts of a storm like the pending Nor’easter.

Luckily, the tropics are quiet with absolutely no areas to be concerned with in the coming days. We are nearing the end of a very busy hurricane season that will be remembered for generations to come because of Sandy and its legacy. For the people who are going through the painful and slow recovery process, hang in there. A lot of people are working to provide assistance for what is an overwhelming disaster. This current storm will be a set back for some, but it will not be nearly as intense or widespread as Sandy. That being said, it needs to be taken seriously and precautions taken to prevent further loss of life and even more damage to property.

I’ll post more here tomorrow morning with more specifics about what to expect as the storm begins to develop off the North Carolina coast.

 

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Coastal storm has many in Northeast on edge

Latest GFS run showing strong coastal storm off Mid-Atlantic coast

Latest GFS run showing strong coastal storm off Mid-Atlantic coast

The good news is that the storm that is forecast by the major global computer models for the week ahead is not likely to be nearly as intense, or as large, as Sandy was.

The obvious bad news is that people along the Northeast coast, beginning with North Carolina first, are going to have to deal with another coastal storm.

Right now, the two main models, the GFS and the ECMWF, which were talked about extensively during Sandy’s approach, both show a similar set up. Each model deepens or strengthens the low pressure area considerably while over the fairly warm waters of the western Atlantic. This will result in rain, wind and tidal flooding from the Carolinas to points north in to New England. The precise impacts are not known just yet as the storm system is still far enough away in time that forecasting definitive impacts is really tough to do.

The other issue here is cold air. People dealing with post-Sandy life will have quite a bit of cold air to add to their list of miserable conditions. Relief efforts for the region should concentrate on providing blankets and gloves for people, especially the very young and the very old in the population. There is a chance for snow all the way to the coast though I do not see any evidence of a major snow event except for the usual inland locations that normally see this during a Nor’easter.

For areas right along the coast, the risk of more damage from large waves and a possible tidal surge is there. How much so I cannot say for sure right now. The NWS will likely issue a coastal flood watch and then a warning if conditions warrant. During that time period, assuming it comes, we will get specific tidal flooding info which will include predicted departures from normal and timing. This will help with local planning efforts to make sure people are away from the immediate coast. I assure you, the water rescue personnel are quite happy NOT having a repeat of Sandy anytime soon. Stay away from the coast, it is quite vulnerable now due to the severe erosion and, in some cases, complete loss of the dune systems.

Strong winds, blowing out of the east and northeast at first, could cause more power outages, especially considering the weakened infrastructure. Be ready. If you can access batteries from relief agencies, do so now. Do NOT use candles. I would rather see it dark than have people use candles. I saw first hand in Belmar, NJ how candles can be so dangerous in the aftermath of a storm. Get batteries now if they are available.

It is likely to be an unpleasant week ahead for folks along the coast from North Carolina to New England. It’s part of living in an otherwise fantastic part of the country. Hang in there. Positive mental attitude can go a long way. It’s tough, I am sure, but millions of Americans and indeed people from around the world are thinking about you.

I’ll post another blog update here this evening.

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