Damaging storm forecast to rock parts of East Coast

Winter is about to make a grand appearance for people in many states east of the Mississippi River and it won’t be all fun and games – not by a long shot.

Energy coming in from the Pacific (outlined in gray) will drop south and east over the coming days and become a strong coastal storm

Energy coming in from the Pacific (outlined in gray) will drop south and east over the coming days and become a strong coastal storm

After a very warm December and tranquil start to the winter storm season, it looks as though time will run out and things will turn nasty later this week. The culprit is a low pressure area still over the Pacific just off of California and Oregon that is forecast by the major global computer models to dive south and east for a date with destiny. I know that sounds rather over the top but what happens to that piece of energy over the coming days is quite remarkable.

By Friday morning, the evolution of the pattern will be such that snow will begin to break out across parts of North Carolina and Virginia. By this point in time, the energy from the Pacific has carved out a sharp trough of low pressure over the Mississippi Valley region – indicating a lot of energy gathering in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, a surface low will develop in eastern North Carolina by Friday afternoon that is the match that lights the fire. From there, things become very interesting and even concerning as the storm begins to fester over the warm water of the western Atlantic.

GFS depiction of the coastal storm and all of its impacts affecting many states along the East Coast and inland

GFS depiction of the coastal storm and all of its impacts affecting many states along the East Coast and inland

All of the available model guidance suggests that a fairly strong low pressure area will move up the coast from around Cape Hatteras to just offshore of southern New England. This classic Nor’easter pattern is set to bring phenomenal amounts of snow to a lot of people, especially away from the immediate coast. I am no weather winter expert so trying to decipher how much snow and where is beyond my ability. What I do know a lot about is impact and I see this storm as bringing potentially major impacts to people across more than a dozen states.

The snow will be excessive in places, again, impossible to know precisely where. Travel from many major airports will be snarled and people will be stranded. Highway travel will become a matter of taking your life in to your hands when the insane snow begins. Best to just stay put.

The storm will have a lot of energy with it, due in part to the very warm ocean temps as compared to normal. Also, the atmosphere will add plenty of energy and force the storm to intensify and crank up the wind. This will be an especially important impact since high wind coupled with feet of snow never makes for a happy ending.

Along the coast from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and points north, the potential is there for coastal flooding not seen since Sandy in 2012. Luck is not on our side either because the moon is full this weekend and that will add to the overall storm tide that sets up. Make no mistake, this part of the storm will go vastly overlooked by major media who will focus on the blizzard conditions inland. Meanwhile, the coastlines of New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware will get pounded by coastal flooding, potentially causing significant damage in surge prone areas.

Farther north, strong winds and heavy rain in the warmer sector of the storm will mean miserable conditions for areas such as eastern Long Island and southern New England. Once the cold air mixes in enough, the snow will come, though it’s hard to say how much and for how long.

When all is said and done, this storm will likely be compared to some from the mid-1990s that battered the region with near hurricane conditions. Yes, it could be that bad.

Or, it might not be.

As the case seems to always be, enough uncertainty exists this far out ahead of the event that there is still room for something to happen that changes the outcome significantly. Remember, weather is about the probability of something happening in most cases. Right now there is a rather high probability that a major Nor’easter will develop and impact a lot of people. This is not the same as a certainty. Even when it is unfolding on top of the East Coast, timing, track and other factors will determine the final result. I am here to make sure you realize the totality of the storm. It’s not just fluffy white snow that will make for some pretty Instagram pics. Some places will be slammed with more snow than they can handle. Again, coastal areas of the Mid-Atlantic are likely to be blasted by near hurricane force winds and possible major coastal flooding. In other words, as much as we like winter storms (most people do I guess) they are a deadly part of weather not unlike hurricanes and tropical storms. Don’t let the enormous snow totals being thrown about blind you to the other hazards and prepare accordingly.

I am most likely going to head out in to the storm myself with some of the same equipment that we use during hurricane landfalls. I will wait until tomorrow to make the final call and will post more about my plans and what equipment I will be putting out. It should be one heck of a storm and I will do by very best to immerse you in to it like no one else can.

One last bit of advice. I mention the NWS a lot in my blogs when something big is about to go down. If you want straight-up info without any bias thrown in for website clicks or page likes, simply go to weather.gov and input your ZIP Code. From there scroll down to where you see “Forecast Discussion”. Click that and read it. It’s technical in nature but you can get an inside look at precisely what your LOCAL forecast office is thinking and why. No hype, no agenda, just raw analysis based on the best available data. Use it and be informed!

I’ll have more tomorrow morning.

Hurricanes out, winter storms in

GFS model output showing possible significant storm system next week moving across the Southeast and then off-shore of the East Coast

GFS model output showing possible significant storm system next week moving across the Southeast and then off-shore of the East Coast

Even though we still have a few days left in the official hurricane season, it is, for all intents and purposes, over. The United States had a remarkable season with only one minor landfall in Florida and that was Alberto back in early June. Ever since, hurricanes have been scarce and have stayed well away from U.S. coastal interests.

Now it is time to focus on winter storms and as I mentioned in a recent post, HurricaneTrack.com will be covering major winter storms starting with this season. And when I say cover, I mean in person, just like we do with hurricane landfalls. Not every winter storm will be within our financial or logistical reach but for the ones that are, I believe the coverage we can provide will be both helpful and informative for those who follow winter weather.

With all of that being said, it is time to begin looking for the first major East Coast event and I see a chance of that happening next week.

Both the ECMWF and the GFS global models agree on bringing quite a bit of cold air in to the country over the coming days. In fact, a large chunk of high pressure is forecast to move south out of Canada and bring with it some very cold temperatures.

With the cold comes the chance for storms and the models are beginning to show what may be a significant winter weather event coming up for next week.

It all starts with a low pressure area developing in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, a typical genesis region for big-time winter storms. Along the I-10 corridor, heavy rain and possibly even severe weather looks possible as the low tracks eastward across the northern Gulf Coast states.

After the low makes the turn to the north, which is what is generally forecast by the models right now, things get potentially very interesting.

As we see with hurricane threats, it all has to do with timing and track. It’s not quite winter yet so the cold air is not as stout as it will be in a month or more. However, there may be just enough cold air in place so that a major snow event shapes up for interior areas of the Northeast. It is way too soon to pin down any specifics but from the looks of things, next week could be nasty for travel across parts of I-10 across the Gulf Coast and then up I-95 and in to the big cities of the East Coast.

Wind, rain, severe weather and possibly heavy snow may make next week quite a memorable one considering it’s also Thanksgiving week – a time when millions will hit the road for travel. It is also worth noting that this cold snap and accompanying storm system could impact the ability for people to shop at brick and mortar stores either pre-Thanksgiving or on so-called Black Friday. We’ll have to wait and see about timing, etc. but be aware that next week may not be a picture postcard holiday period.

Stay tuned – I’ll have more updates in the days ahead and if conditions warrant, this may be the first attempt at covering a major winter storm with live video, weather data and field reports. The way I look at it, why not? We have the technology and as such, we might as well put it to use and provide a unique perspective as winter weather moves in.

M. Sudduth 7:00 AM ET Nov 20

Coastal storm bringing rain, wind and rough seas to Mid-Atlantic

Potent coastal storm situated just off the North Carolina coast this afternoon

Potent coastal storm situated just off the North Carolina coast this afternoon

The left over energy from Karen has made its way in to a potent coastal storm that is giving portions of the Mid-Atlantic states quite an unpleasant few days. Unfortunately, it is going to take another day or two before things change significantly.

Right now the surface low appears to be just off the North Carolina coast south of Cape Lookout. Since this is not a tropical cyclone, the highest concentration of energy, and in this case that means wind, is spread out well away from the low center. Winds will be in the 30 to 40 mph range across a wide area from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to parts of Delaware and Maryland. This will cause some minor coastal flooding, especially near each high tide cycle.

Rain is also a major issue with several inches falling from this storm system. Obviously, the result will be some flooding of typical low lying areas and other poorly drained streets. Use caution when driving in this mess. The worst of it will move in within the next day or two and finally clear the pattern by later in the weekend, bringing very nice fall weather back to the East Coast.

Elsewhere in the tropics, we are watching invest 98L way out in the deep tropics. It has a shot at becoming a tropical storm over the next several days but conditions in the central Atlantic are not that ideal right now so don’t expect much to come out of this. What ever does manage to develop will not affect land areas.

In the east Pacific, a new area of concern has developed off the coast of Mexico – invest area 94-E. It is forecast by what model guidance there is to move away from Mexico at first, followed by a sharp turn to the north and then northeast ahead of a strong trough of low pressure off the west coast of the U.S. Interest in Mexico should closely monitor this system. It has some potential to become a hurricane over the still quite warm waters of the east Pacific.

In the longer term, the global models show nothing of any significance developing in the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. We are getting closer to the point where development chances really begin to go down but are not quite there yet. It’s been a remarkable season in that no hurricanes have even come close to affecting the United States. We may just make it until November 30 with that record intact. Time will tell but it’s looking good so far.

I’ll have more here tomorrow, especially concerning the east Pacific system.

M. Sudduth 1:05 PM ET Oct 9

Strong coastal storm now in progress but after this, a nicer pattern

Coastal storm off shore of the Northeast United States

Coastal storm off shore of the Northeast United States

The much-talked about Nor’easter is now raging off the coast of New Jersey and New York with strong winds, cold, snow, sleet, rain and coastal flooding all on the list of issues that people in the region will face today and tonight.

There is not much to add in terms of what people can expect. I think the heightened awareness of this storm because of Sandy’s aftermath situation means that as many people know about this as can be expected.

I do think that this afternoon’s high tide, coming in now, and then the one late tonight, will have the biggest impacts on the area with minor to moderate flooding possible. Luckily, the storm is not coming inland, pushing all of that water with it as Sandy did. Instead, we have a fairly long fetch of wind blowing across the open Atlantic for a few hundred miles and that piles up the water along the coast, not allowing the high tides to recede much.

Once past the high tide cycle late tonight/early tomorrow morning, the danger of coastal flooding will diminish. The issue will then become snow, cold and wind. For areas where power has not been restored in the wake of Sandy, the cold air will be a problem and people need to be prepared with extra sources of warmth.

By later tomorrow, the storm will be moving away and the region can finally begin to really dig in and put their energy in to recovery – from both storms.

The weather pattern next week changes to one of less storms in the East coupled with a nice warm-up. This should bring plenty of hope for the area since people will have a respite from having to look over their shoulder for the next menacing coastal storm. Perhaps it will be a while before we have to worry about that again.

As far the tropics go, there is really nothing to discuss of any significance anywhere in the Atlantic Basin. This time of year we see activity wane considerably and while it is possible that we’ll see one more named storm, I think it is more likely that we’re done until 2013. We’ll see, nothing is showing up in the long range models and that is the best news of all.

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.