Friday, November 2, 2012

Update on Storm System to Affect the Northeast Next Week...

Computer forecast models continue to indicate the likelihood of a significant storm system across the Northeastern U.S. next week.  Please keep in mind that when I say "significant", I mean with respect to normal.  This system will be no where near as severe as Sandy.  With that said, I do believe the situation needs to be closely monitored, as it will take less "effort" than normal for a storm to cause real problems in this already hard hit region.

With respect to impacts on the area affected by Hurricane Sandy, there are 2 aspects of this upcoming storm that concern me the most:  (1). an increase in tidal water levels and (2). strong winds.  Yes, there will be precipitation as well, but I think the potential for coastal flooding and high winds are the greatest concerns at this time.  We'll be able to nail down the precipitation forecast better over the weekend.

Today's European Model (ECMWF) run shows an area of low pressure already well organized off of the North Carolina coast at 8am EDT on Wednesday:

This is very close to the same position that it showed the system on yesterday's run valid at the same time:

Today's run slows the system down, which is not good news, and tracks it almost parallel to the coast, which is also not necessarily good.  Here is the ECMWF forecast valid 8am EDT on Thursday:

...compared to yesterdays run valid at the same time:

The reason that I don't like seeing the shift more toward the coastline is that it gives the system more of an opportunity to push water up into the coastal bend from the Delmarva peninsula through New Jersey and New York (including Long Island).  While we will not see a "surge" anywhere near what we saw with Sandy, we don't need any amount of water being pushed up into this region at all.

Consider this, many (if not all) of the the sand dunes and other natural barriers have been washed away across this region.  Take a look at this startling satellite image provided to us yesterday by NOAA:

The barrier island on that part of the New Jersey coast just to the East of Brick, NJ has been completely washed away (before on the left, yellow circle "after" on the right).  The point of reference is shown by the red bubble on the map below:

Scenes like that one are playing out all along the coast in the areas impacted by Sandy.  Unfortunately this means that it will be that much easier for seawater to flow into these already hard hit areas with any upcoming storms, including the one next week.

The second concern I have with this storm is wind.  The incoming computer model data implies sustained surface winds of 30-40 mph with gusts of 40-50 mph.  If the storm system intensifies more rapidly than presently indicated, these values will likely be higher.

While that type of wind may not seem like much after the widespread 70-95 mph speeds that we saw with Sandy, it doesn't take much to bring down already weakened tree limbs, power lines, etc. after beating that was just taken a few days ago.

We still have time to monitor this situation, and many variables remain in play, but I strongly encourage folks in this region to try and prepare as best they can for the possibility of a significant storm for mid-week next week.  

We'll continue to monitor this situation and issue updates at least once daily, and we'll be able to become more specific as to the likely impacts as the days pass.

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