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.

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Winter storm coverage in North Carolina begins today

I mentioned at the end of last hurricane season that I would like to begin reporting from and studying winter storms. Good timing. This season has featured numerous such storms for the eastern United States and this latest one looks to be quite potent.

My plan is similar to that of a hurricane field mission: get to an area, set up equipment, report from that area using live streaming video. As such, my plan is to head to the North Carolina piedmont/foothills area – specifically Statesville. In fact, I will be set up where I-40 and I-77 intersect, a major traffic corridor. I feel this is an important area to report from due to the interstate system there coming east-west via I-40 and north-south via I-77. I will report on snow depth, air temperature and wind speed using our fantastic new “everywhere cam” on our Ustream channel. In addition, I will set up a “SnowCam” somewhere in the area to monitor conditions via one of our remotely operated cameras normally used to monitor hurricane storm surge. I’ll determine the best place for that cam when I get there later today. Both of these live feeds will be available free for anyone to watch or share.

I will also push video updates to our iOS/Android app – Hurricane Impact. If you have it, now is a great time to check out the video section under field missions. I can post video clips anytime, anywhere and they show up in the app within a minute or two. This is a great way to test that feature of the app and I plan to post at least two dozen video reports throughout the event.

Tune in periodically to check on conditions as I travel from Wilmington, NC via I-40 to Statesville. I will have the cam running 24 hours a day and it will literally go everywhere I do. I think you will be very pleased with the results of this incredible technology and I hope to provide some useful information about this very serious winter storm. Any questions? Email me: mailroom@hurricanetrack.com or follow on Twitter: @hurricanetrack

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Winter storm taking shape with high impacts from ice, snow and wind

Winter storm to affect large portion of the Southeast this week

Winter storm to affect large portion of the Southeast this week

It’s not a hurricane but the disruption to travel and daily routines is going to seem like one for parts of the Southeast this week.

A complex winter storm is beginning to take shape today throughout the next few days as another round of very cold air makes its way south out of Canada. This Arctic air, combined with a low pressure area forecast to form off the Southeast coast, will likely bring heavy snow, periods of sleet and even freezing rain to areas that are not used to this type of event.

Since I am not a winter storm expert, I am not going to even begin to try and speculate on possible snow totals. After reading numerous National Weather Service forecast discussions from around the region, it is clear that this storm is going to be quite challenging. The main issue is how much snow falls versus how much sleet and freezing rain. The colder the air column is higher up in the atmosphere, the more snow will fall – making total accumulations potentially over a foot in some areas. However, if warmer air runs up and over the top of the cold, dense Arctic air, then it’s more likely that sleet and freezing rain will fall, cutting down snow accumulations. The bottom line is that areas within the winter storm warning are in line to receive enough snow and ice to cause major travel issues and even power outages.

Another problem is going to be the wind. A tight pressure gradient, or the difference between the Canadian high pressure and the Atlantic low pressure, will force the wind to increase across the Southeast- especially near the coast. This is the main reason behind the possible power outages as ice and snow will weigh down trees and powerlines only to be toppled by winds reaching 30 mph or higher. Coupled with the bitter cold, this issue can be a real problem for those who are not prepared to stay warm.

I am going to provide live coverage of this event from across a good deal of southeast North Carolina beginning this evening. My plan is to have a live streaming cam set up and running throughout the event. It will go where ever I go. I’ll take it with me in my Chevy Tahoe, the same one used for hurricane intercepts. I can provide live wind and temperature readings and of course, video and audio along the way.

I will also set up one weather station out near the airport here in Wilmington to capture wind and pressure readings (sorry, no temp on this one since we don’t typically record temperature readings during hurricanes). The unit will also have a live web cam image that will be posted every 60 seconds from the site. All of the data and the web cam image will be available via our app – Hurricane Impact. I will also post occasional screen shots from the app to Twitter and Facebook to keep those who do not have access to the app up to date on weather conditions.

In addition, I will post video blogs to the app throughout the event as I travel around southeast North Carolina. I will take snow measurements from time to time and will report in to the NWS here in Wilmington with that info – including wind gusts and temperature readings. This will be an interesting change of pace since I am not used to this type of weather.

I will have the live cam up and running by early this evening from my home office in Wilmington. Then, tomorrow morning, I will head out to provide live coverage of the winter storm from around the area. You may follow the live stream here: http://www.ustream.tv/hurricanetrack

Our app is available for iOS devices and for Android devices

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM ET Jan 27

 

 

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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

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