Sandy became a hurricane today as it approached Jamaica. In fact a fairly distinct eye is showing up in satellite imagery. It could be that Sandy strengthens more before reaching Cuba late tonight/early tomorrow morning. Obviously people in the region should be ready for the effects that Sandy will bring as it closes in on Cuba.
Once over Cuba we should see Sandy lose some of its strength, especially considering the high terrain of the area. However, the threat of extremely heavy rain is serious all across eastern Cuba and over towards Haiti.
All of this mess will spread northward in to the Bahamas as the very large circulation of Sandy progresses northward. Expect an increase in wind, rain and surf throughout most of the Bahama islands later tonight and throughout the day tomorrow.
As we look at Florida, the main issue will be strong winds along the coast of the eastern portion of the state. Look for winds to gust near 50 mph by Friday and Friday night. This could cause power outages for a large area of the eastern peninsula especially if Sandy takes a more westerly course in the Bahamas.
The other serious issue is going to be beach erosion and the large, breaking waves that Sandy will generate as it approaches and passes by. Keep in mind the astronomical high tides that are going to only increase as we approach a Full Moon. Surfers will need to be very cautious as the ocean will be quite agitated from Sandy’s expanding wind field.
Looking ahead in the forecast it appears now that North Carolina will likely experience serious wind and ocean issues as Sandy tracks northward Friday. The Outer Banks are especially vulnerable and we could see substantial coastal flooding. I urge people to keep tabs on the local hurricane info put out by the National Weather Service. There is fantastic, local information that can help to better understand the impacts expected from Sandy.
Even the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina will experience an increase in wind and surf conditions, possibly leading to beach erosion there as well. So much depends on the eventual track of Sandy and how strong it becomes once in the Bahamas.
Keep in mind too that a lot of heavy rain will spread in to Florida and the rest of the coastal Southeast with Sandy and its huge cloud shield. This could easily lead to localized flooding and the loosening of tree roots which can help to topple trees. Plan on power outages over a wide part of the Southeast coast.
Then we need to be concerned about the Northeast and/or Mid-Atlantic states. It looks like the Euro model’s idea of a powerful storm affecting the region late in the weekend or early next week is plausible if not quite possible. We need to wait a little while longer to understand better what Sandy will be structure-wise. This is where things get very complicated since the hurricane will be interacting with mid-latitude atmospheric energy that a lot of people are not used to hearing about. I’ll talk a lot more about the impacts from Sandy for areas north of the Carolina coast in future blog posts. Right now, we need to see what happens farther south in Florida and the Southeast. Needless to say, it looks very likely that a substantial storm system is headed for areas that normally do not deal with such extreme events. People need to pay attention to their local weather info sources and be ready to act when needed.
I’ll have more here tomorrow morning.