Communities up and down the east coast of the United States have been watching Sandy and the computer models closely over the past few days hoping for any sign that the storm would not be as bad as forecast. Unfortunately, I do not bring good news on this Saturday morning, Sandy is still forecast to phase with an upper level trough and move inland somewhere on the Jersey Coast.
Sandy is a weak category 1 hurricane but the rain surrounding the storm is easily seen on Radar along the east coast. One thing that must be noted is how large Sandy is; clouds associated with the system stretch from just north of Miami to almost Boston! Some other features on the visible sat image are the cold front and some, what I assume are, foggy conditions in Iowa.
Rainy conditions located in the region around Lake Erie are associated with an upper level jet entrance region; this is NOT the upper level energy which will cause Sandy to transform into the hybrid system we expect to see over the next few days. Jet winds currently located over the Panhandle/ Mountain West are the final ingredient that will make this storm the monster it will be. This energy will continue to propagate eastward and will “absorb” Sandy in the next 36-50 hours.
Unlike in some systems we will be forecasting this winter which seem to change each and every forecast cycle, this has been a pretty “easy” forecast. The low pressure center should pass somewhere over New Jersey (likely along the North Jersey Shore) and bring with it VERY strong winds. Gusts in excess of 75-80 mph along the coast are expected with the potential for record setting low pressure readings.
In more inland locations, winds will be gusting into the 70 mph range while being sustained in the 40’s. Heavy rainfall will also be a big concern with Sandy, especially on the southern side of the pressure center. HPC (Hydrometeorologcal Prediction Center) forecasts for the Lehigh Valley are in the 2-5 inch range while locations in Southern Delaware could see rainfall exceeding 1 foot over the next 4-5 days.
Lehigh Valley Impacts
There seems to be confusion as to what inland locations can expect in terms of impacts from this system. I need to stress that local impacts will vary from one place to the next based on topography, vegetation, and very small scale meteorological phenomena. Communities along the coast will take the full brunt of this system, and that is where a lot of focus will be in the coming days.
With rainfall in excess of 3-4 inches, there is no doubt that flooding will become an issue, but I do not anticipate it being catastrophic A logical comparison is last year when hurricane Irene impacted the region but I do not anticipate the flooding from this system will match what was felt in late August last year. August 2011 set an all time monthly rainfall record so many of the rivers were already quite high. All of the major rivers and tributaries in the region are currently at normal to slightly below “normal” flows right now.
Public enemy number 1 for flooding is loose leaves clogging storm drains. Moderate to severe street flooding is possible as drains become clogged by the falling leaves around the region. If you can, please take some time to clear drainage area that become clogged.
By far, the biggest concern with this system is the strong winds. Winds in excess of 40 mph and gusting into the 60’s and even some local 70 mph gusts will cause wide spread tree damage. As is typical, with tree damage comes power outages. In tiny regions this again would not be a big problem, the trouble comes in with the power companies ability to restore power across their entire service area. Rural areas could go more than 3-5 days without power, and that is being conservative. Take care of your power workers in the coming week, they will be working VERY long hours and as we all know, during stressful situations citizens can being to get bossy and mean to these workers.
I hope to update again tomorrow morning but until then, please take precautions in clearing anything that can blow off your property and have an emergency kit prepared. Try to remember that as stressed as you are…there are others (my wife is due any day now) out there that could be far more impacted than your minor inconvenience of not being able to watch the latest episode of the Jersey Shore. Enjoy some time to yourself, and my hopes are that your able to make it through the storm with no property damage or injuries to you or any of your loved ones.
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