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Step by step breakdown of impact from hurricane Sandy

Posted by David Epstein  October 27, 2012 08:33 PM

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winds watch.png
High wind watch up for all of Southern New England as hurricane Sandy continues to move very slowly towards the northeast and will eventually make a sharp left had turn at the New Jersey coastline Monday. You have no doubt been hearing about the large wind field that the storm has and that is what will affect southern New England the most Monday. Sandy clouds.pngSince the storm is moving so slowly and we will have winds coming from east this will cause beach erosion and some coastal damage. Buzzards bay, the Islands and the outer Cape will be most susceptible to the wind and ocean water. I am trying to find that balance between respecting a very large storm and not creating undo alarm about what will happen locally. I'll be updating throughout the storm on Twitter at @growingwisdom that is the best way to get the latest information from me. The storm is going to hit all of New England and it will be windy with rain Monday. However, if the track holds and the storm goes into New Jersey, those of you who don't live on the water won't feel the brunt of the storm, that will stay to our south.
Sandy 11am Sat.gif

It's important to remember that a few miles makes a huge difference with coastal storms. What I am referring to is not so much the track, but where you live. Someone living on Plum Island or at the mouth of Buzzards bay is going to experience a very different storm than someone in Newton or Acton. For those coastal communities a storm like this one can do moderate or severe damage. What matters is how long the wave and wind action last and the exact direction of the wind. Sandy will give the rest of us a very windy rain storm. There won't be any winter weather anywhere with this situation.

Watches and warnings
The national hurricane center is wrestling with what to put out for warnings and watches as the storm is changing its structure. This is similar to the perfect storm in that the storm was damaging but there were no hurricane warnings issues. I don't want to folks to get bogged down with semantics. It's a big storm and whether it stays a hurricane or changes to a cold core non-hurricane storm the effects will still be there.

The coast
First, we are not looking at a repeat of the damage seen in a storm like the Blizzard of 1978. That storm stalled in a position that allowed the storm surge to occur for multiple high tides. In this storm, Sandy will hit the coast Monday and the noon tide that day is expected to be the worst. Monday night's high tide will have to be monitored closely in conjunction with the storms position at that time. I expect there to be damage along the coastline that is moderate and perhaps severe, but not historic. The surge of water looks to be around 4 feet. Wave action is another factor with 25-35 foot waves and swells over 10 feet eroding the beaches.winds.png The map shows the winds for Monday early afternoon. You can click it make it bigger. Winds will be strongest at the coast ranging from 35-55 knots with higher gusts to hurricane force. The peak of wind will be Monday afternoon and evening. Winds will be strong as far north as the mid-coast of Maine!

Inland
Here it's difficult to broad brush inland areas with one forecast. I will put forth some ranges of wind, and you can expect that if you are further south, up high on a hill, or near the water, that your winds will be on the stronger side. Those of you in a valley, far inland and up north will be on the lower side. I expect winds inland to range from 25-50 knots with higher gusts. If winds stay on the lower end of the range the power outages will won't be as bad. I don't expect hurricane force winds inland. Winds like this can cause power outages and how long your power is out is anyone's estimate. Hopefully, the power companies learned from the mistakes made in Irene and the October snowstorm last year and we won't have days and days without power. Some of you may not even lose power. I think when the storm is over, it will be the wind you remember more than anything.

Rain
The track of the storm will be such that the heaviest bands of rain stay south of New England. This is not to say it's not going to rain. However, I am not forecasting major flooding from freshwater rainfall. The map below shows the projected rainfall from the storm. As you can clearly see the big rains are hundreds of miles away. I would clear your gutters if possible just because the rain may be torrential when it does fall.
Rainfall_Days_1-5.gif

Temperatures
I am thinking that it will actually become very mild here Monday with winds turning more southerly. I also think that you will notice the humidity in the air as well. Highs should reach into the 60s along the coast and 50s well inland. As I mentioned, no winter weather with this storm.


Prepare
So what should you do to prepare for the storm. Someone asked me on Twitter this morning this very question. If you live in an apartment in the city there is probably nothing to do beyond have a flashlight and something to eat and drink for a couple of days in case the power goes out. If the power stays on this will, for you, just be an inconvenience or perhaps a day off from work.

If you live on the coast, chances are you already have or are in the process of getting your property ready for the storm. I would say prepare for this as you would a very strong nor'easter. Hope for the best and that the storm isn't as intense as forecast. If you are like me and you live in the suburbs I am putting away the table and chairs, taking down my umbrella and making sure I have a flashlight and food to eat when the power goes out. In my area, we lose power if a car drives by too fast so I fully expect to be without it at some point during the storm. If you did buy a generator make sure you have gas and don't be stupid and run it inside an enclosed room. You can kill yourself from the exhaust and inevitably someone does, don't be that person.

School and work
My thinking is that schools and many businesses will close Monday. Part of that reasoning is past experience with these storms and keeping folks safe. Of course, listen to your local favorite media outlet to find out what is indeed open or closed Monday.

Tuesday
On Tuesday the storm will be back over Pennsylvania and while it will still be windy and there will be showers I am not expecting that day to be as severe. Additionally, the winds will shift enough so coastal flooding shouldn't be an issue anymore. Temperatures will remain in the 50s and I am not looking for any cold air for several days.

Low pressure
The pressure of this storm is forecast to be very low on the order of 950millibars or less. What that means is that the air is rushing off the planet and creating a spot in the center of the low with less air. Low Pressure.pngSince you can't take air off the earth without replacing it, air rushes in from all directions to fill the void. The deeper the low, the lower the pressure, the more air has to move to replace it and the faster the wind. That is why meteorologist are so concerned with the wind from Sandy.

Conclusion
This is a big storm no doubt about that. The rainfall will be surprisingly light but the winds will be the main issue for non-coastal residents. Those folks along the coast will have the wind but also the waves. Be safe and respect the storm.

Gardening this week
There are many plants that bloom in the fall. Toad lily, asters, mums, joe pye weed, roses and many others wait or continue blooming into late fall. It's a good idea to have a garden with plants that bloom in all different season. When I design my gardens I select plants that bloom from February to November here in the northeast. Additionally, but adding some special evergreens, I can bring color to the garden all year long.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog or any others. Please follow me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at GrowingWisdom.com

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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