Hurricane Sandy has been an impressive system to watch. It strengthened quite rapidly last night and blasted a small portion of southeast Cuba with near category three hurricane conditions.
Today, Sandy is weaker but still quite formidable. The cloud mass is enormous with the cirrus canopy extending all the way up in to the Southeast U.S. Near the core, winds are near 105 mph and the pressure is beginning to drop again. Ocean heat content values are fairly high meaning there is quite a bit of energy for Sandy to tap as it moves through the Bahamas. With quite an impressive outflow pattern established, it is possible that Sandy could intensify some before the pattern changes and begins to affect the structure of the hurricane.
People in the Bahamas will be in for a long duration of tropical storm and then hurricane conditions, depending on exactly where the center tracks. Luckily, hurricane force winds only extend out some 30 miles from the center and this will limit the geographic area affected by hurricane winds.
On the other hand, tropical storm force winds reach out to 140 miles from the center and this puts a large area of the Bahamas within some fairly stormy conditions. As long as we do not see any significant strengthening, and keep in mind the forecast calls for some weakening, I think the Bahamas should be prepared enough to withstand this hurricane without too many issues. People are used to hurricanes for the most part and Sandy is not an extreme case for the region. However, it is still a hurricane and it needs to be respected as such. We’ll see how things go with the intensity situation over the next 12 to 24 hours.
As for Florida’s east coast, there are some rain bands moving in that are well out ahead of the main circulation of Sandy. So far, this rain is confined to the southeast part of the state. A general increase in wind and rain is forecast but it looks now as if Sandy will remain far enough east of the peninsula to avoid any hurricane winds.
It should be noted that the surf will be quite rough as the long fetch of tropical storm winds will continue to build the seas offshore. Breaking waves that are much larger than usual will lead to some beach erosion, especially at high tide. I think that Florida is looking a lot better as of late with the forecast track keeping Sandy farther off the coast. Keep in mind though that the large wind field is expected to expand and this means that there is a chance for tropical storm conditions, winds of 30 to 40 mph with higher gusts, for a good deal of the eastern coast and just inland of Florida. Conditions will improve quickly later in the weekend as the hurricane pulls away.
Next up we have concerns for North Carolina, especially the Outer Banks. Here too, a long period of tropical storm force winds will drive the ocean onshore and with each high tide, the water levels will just go up and up. Wind is not a big factor here, though it will cause its share of issues. I think the biggest concern will be from ocean and soundside flooding. This region was heavily impacted by hurricane Irene last season and can ill afford another large storm event. Unfortunately, it looks like Sandy will cause additional flooding concerns – particularly in the usual spots where over wash takes place. We will know a lot more about the specific impacts for North Carolina in another day or so as Sandy moves out of the Bahamas. Obviously, people in the region need to prepare for what could be a significant storm surge/wave event. How bad is tough to say this early. I will be in the Outer Banks tomorrow evening to begin reporting on conditions from Hatteras to Kitty Hawk. I’ll talk more about my plans, which include working with long-time friend and colleague, Jesse Bass, this evening.
The next big question is what happens with Sandy along the mid-Atlantic and Northeast? Well, as much as I would like to jump in to details right now, I simply cannot except to say that the potential is there for a very disruptive coastal and inland storm event. A lot will hinge on exactly what the structure of Sandy is. This is very complicated and I want to address it separately in another blog post. Right now, we know that the official forecast aims what is left over of Sandy the hurricane right at the New Jersey coast. This is very serious as we are looking at the chance for a region that is simply not used to hurricanes at all having to deal with something that is far more complex than the public realizes.
My advice for people north of Cape Hatteras within the cone of uncertainty is this: begin preparing now. Think about how you will deal with the power being out, what you will do with kids, family members, pets. Stock up on some items now and be ahead of the situation. Get some gas cans just to be safe. Use this time as we await the future track and intensity to be more prepared. As we move through the next day or so, we’ll know much more about what to expect in terms of conditions, storm surge, rain, snow, wind and rain. Yes, I said snow. You see, it is THAT complicated and even I need to research this to better explain what is going to happen….at least what we think is going to happen.
I’ll have another major update posted here this evening and will have my first video blog posted to our iPhone app within the hour. I’ll then post another video blog to the app later this evening.
Speaking of our app, if Sandy does in fact hit the U.S. East Coast, you will absolutely want to get our app to keep up with what is going on right where it is happening. We will have video posts, live weather data, web cam images and even live tracking of where we are. There is simply no other app with this kind of landfall information directly in the teeth of the storm. This is what we do, we’ve done it for 15 years and now the power of our landfall reporting and info is available in our app. Click here to learn more. I’ll talk more about the app and what it is capable of in another blog post soon. If you have our app, may I please ask you to review it? Good or bad, we need feedback. So please take a moment to leave a review, what ever you think of it, let us know.