Warm Gulf Stream could provide shot of energy for Sandy

The Gulf Stream awaits Sandy as it tracks northeast and then heads back towards the coast

The Gulf Stream awaits Sandy as it tracks northeast and then heads back towards the coast

There are many factors involved with what will ultimately shape the intensity and track of Sandy as it affects the Eastern Seaboard over the next few days. One of these factors is the location and strength of the Gulf Stream.

Take a look at the graphic. You can clearly see the outline of the current position and temperature of the Gulf Stream. Sandy’s forecast track has been added to the graphic but this is just the center location forecast. Sandy is obviously a huge hurricane and will have its circulation over a great deal of warm water for the next several days.

Then, the track will actually cross a portion of the Gulf Stream before Sandy heads for the coastline. All of this heat energy, water temps in the low 80s, will add fuel to aid in the deep convection of Sandy that, combined with upper level energy being injected from the massive trough digging in, should lead to a period of intensification before landfall.

The main thing to consider is to not focus on “what” Sandy is structurally. Sure it’s fascinating from a meteorological perspective but the result is practically the same: there will be wind, rain and surge that will affect millions of people. That’s the bottom line no matter what Sandy is called in the end.

The warm waters of the Caribbean gave rise to this enormous storm and now the western Atlantic and its Gulf Stream could provide the last piece of energy needed to energize Sandy once more before it makes a run for the coast.

I’ll have more here throughout the day.

Understanding Sandy in places where hurricanes are mentioned only as legend

Few people along the Mid-Atlantic really know what it’s like to be in a hurricane. There have been many that passed through as they traveled up the East Coast but it is rare to have one come in and hit the region from the east. This is why Sandy is a very dangerous hurricane event- the lack of experience in how to deal with it could be the biggest issue.

The very latest forecast track takes the large hurricane in to extreme southern New Jersey as a category one. Forget about that for a moment. Think of it like this: a very large wind machine with inches of rain, coastal flooding, huge waves, snow in the mountains and relentless onshore flow is headed for S New Jersey and vicinity. That is what Sandy is likely bringing with it as it travels from the Atlantic, without hitting land mind you. This is what makes it far different. The ocean is plenty warm all the way up to Cape Hatteras’ latitude. Sandy will have only a short time over cold waters near the coast but it won’t matter much. The surge will be put in to motion and the wind and rain will have been battering the region for a day before the center ever arrives. Remember Ike? This is like Ike but in October and on the East Coast.

Tomorrow is an important day. People need to use the time to prepare for Sandy. It won’t be long until we see a hurricane watch go up for some portion of the East Coast. Being ready now will help big time later.

Do what you can to read up about Sandy in the various forecast discussions. Leave the Facebook musings about it alone for a while. Go to the NWS sites and read what they say. The more you know, the less fearful you will be of the unknown. Sandy is the enemy, you need to understand the enemy as best you can. I’ll post more here in the morning with some graphics to try and explain what impacts to expect along the forecast track and the wide swath either side of it.

I will be departing Wilmington, NC, my home town, for the NC Outer Banks some time tomorrow afternoon. From there, I will work with Jesse Bass to bring you reports as often as possible. After we set up some equipment along the Outer Banks Saturday, we will likely head for Maryland or Delaware and possibly New Jersey to catch Sandy at landfall. We’ll provide wind data via Twitter and our Facebook page. We’ll also stream live video to our subscriber site which will include remote cams that we place out in the worst of the conditions. There numerous ways to keep up with our progress and I will post a special blog just about our capabilities later on tomorrow. For now, read up on Sandy, get to know the enemy.

Carolinas get ready for wind and rain as Sandy turns your way

Latest GFS forecast showing Sandy in 48 hours off the Southeast coast

Latest GFS forecast showing Sandy in 48 hours off the Southeast coast

I wanted to post an update about the next 48 hours and what the GFS model is showing with Sandy.

As the hurricane turns more to the north after leaving the Bahamas, it looks as though a large area of heavy rain will develop along the western side. This could bring several inches of rain for portions of coastal Georgia, South Carolina and especially eastern North Carolina.

In addition, the wind will pick up to tropical storm force as the overall wind field of Sandy continues to expand. It looks as though all of eastern North Carolina, from around I-95 and points east, will feel the strong winds. And, any heavy convection that develops will help to bring even stronger winds down to the surface.

As Sandy passes North Carolina to the east, the wind will shift to the north and drive the Pamlico Sound southward. This places a good deal of Downeast North Carolina under the threat of storm surge flooding. People who live in the area know the risks already as they have dealt with this type of event many times in recent years. However, Sandy’s wind field will be so large that the duration of these near-storm force winds (50 mph or higher) mean that with each high tide, water levels will increase. Please consult your local NWS site, weather.gov, input your ZIP Code, and read any/all local warnings and statements. These are written by real people who live in your community! They will provide much more specific information as to the impacts expected from Sandy. This holds true for any area that is in the path of the hurricane.

I will post another update later tonight and will begin to address the potential issues for storm surge for the Northeast.

Note: I am adding another video blog to our iPhone right now. It should be in the app within the next 30 minutes. Don’t have our app? Search “hurricanetrack” in the App Store. It will provide you with our blog posts as well as our field mission videos and live data.


Bahamas getting the worst of Sandy now, then it’s time for East Coast of U.S. to be ready

NHC 5-day track map for Sandy puts a large portion of U.S. coast at risk

NHC 5-day track map for Sandy puts a large portion of U.S. coast at risk

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.

Hurricane Sandy lashes Jamaica on its way to Cuba, the Bahamas and then where?

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.