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Hurricane Sandy forecast to strike southern New Jersey next week

Posted by David Epstein  October 26, 2012 10:20 AM

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Currently, hurricane Sandy, with winds around 80 mph, is moving north along the east coast and affecting portions of Florida and Georgia with tropical storm force conditions. Over the next couple days the center of the storm will remain over the ocean before making a sharp curve to the west and eventually make landfall on the New Jersey coast. For a storm to make a curve like this is almost unprecedented in known meteorological history. Not only is the projected track highly unusual but the forecast pressure of the storm is going to be exceedingly low. There are some estimates that the storm could go as low as or lower than 950mb. That would be many times as strong as the Blizzard of 1978 and one of the lowest pressures ever recorded in that area. I will be tweeting often on this storm and its impacts. Please follow me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at GrowingWisdom.com
When Sandy hit Cuba as a category 2, it did some major damage to parts of the Island and killed nearly two dozen people across the region. There were buildings destroyed that had stood for over 200 years.
Sandy Track Friday.gif

Next three days
The weather today and Saturday looks very nice with sunshine and just a few clouds. Afternoon temperatures will rise well into the 60s. On Sunday skies will turn cloudy and rain and drizzle will begin late, most of the day will be dry. It will still be mild Sunday and there will be some humidity in the air especially south of Boston.

Sandy
Sandy, a hurricane at that time will be undergoing a change in the internal make-up of the storm. A hurricane is a tropical system and as such has a tight wind field. Later this weekend, a very strong jet stream along with a a cold front will move over Sandy and change the storm from a tropical one to an extratropical system. As this happens, the wind field will greatly expand to cover 100s of miles. wind field.png Normally, a hurricane's greatest impact is 20-50 miles from the center. As Sandy undergoes a change from a warm to a cold core storm her impact will expand. The wind field of winds over 40mph may eventually reach out over 250 miles. Although the storm is now forecast to hit south of New England, areas from the north shore through Connecticut will see and feel the effects of the storm. Tracks can change, but with each passing forecast, the chances of major damage here lessen greatly.

Both the European and American models as well as the hurricane models have come into better agreement about the eventual track of Sandy. They take the storm into the area around the New Jersey shoreline. This can still change but meteorologists are becoming more confident in the track. Over the weekend the track will become even better refined. Right now, the models are forecasting 5-10" of rain from this storm. Some heavy rain could move into our area but the heaviest should stay south.

Rainfall_Days_1-5.gif

What can you expect?
Monday night and Tuesday will be stormy but if the projected track holds not a bad storm. I would say expect this to feel like a strong nor'easter without the snow. The trees will bend a lot and some may fall especially the closer to the storm's landfall you are located. Coastal areas are going to see beach erosion and some homes could end up damaged significantly, again closer to the system. Rainfall will be heavy in the order of 2-5" and that is enough to cause urban street and basement flooding. I still think the power could go out for many of us and it could be days before some areas see their power turned back on. Tides are high around noon and midnight both Monday and Tuesday. The tides are also astronomically high especially the tides at noon.
Remember, someone reading this in Fitchburg will feel less of the storm than someone reading this on Martha's Vineyard. If you are in the direct path of the storm there will be significant damage and power will be lost for many days.
Could this miss us?
We won't miss the storm, but the impact of the storm could be quite minimal, think big rainstorm. A southern New Jersey landfall would give us a moderate storm. If the storm hit Maryland or Virginia the impact would be even less severe in southern New England. If the storm's landfall shifted southern Connecticut, would we see major damage to much of the coast and widespread tree damage. The trend the past few model runs has been to keep the storm in the mid-Atlantic region, good news for us, bad news south. You can see on the map below showing all the models predictions how they are converging on one solution south of New York City. That said, those of you on Nantucket and the Vineyard are have the greatest chance of damage.
spaghetti today.png

What to do

Those of you with boats and homes on the coast should prepare as you would for a very strong nor'easter. For the rest of us think about the chance you lose power. Many of us lost power last year in Irene and the October snowstorm. Remember what you did then and what you wish you had done. Don't stock up on things that go bad if you lose power for two days or more. Longer power outages are less likely now. When this is all said and done, I think that scattered power outages will be the main affect to area as well as some minor tree damage. Heavy rain could be an issue as well. The other good news is that many of the weak trees got taken down last year in those two major weather events. The better news for New England, the storm is forecast to hit south of here.

Why this very unusual track?
The track of the storm is forecast to be highly unusual. I have to say that until it happens, it's almost difficult for me to believe it's so strange. However, the models are clear that the jet stream will carry the storm into the coast around New Jersey late Monday. The map below shows the forecast, based on the GFS model, of the jet stream. I have tried to illustrate how everything comes together to move the storm west.
Jet stream forecast.png
Past History
This storm is so unusual in its track meteorologists are hard pressed to find many others that have moved this way. There are two storms that come to mind that affected our area that formed in the Cuba/Jamaica corridor.Hurricane-Hazel.gif The great gale of 1878 and hurricane Hazel in 1954 both impacted New England and caused significant damage. Great Gale of 1878.png Sandy will take its own path but it is worth noting where other storms have gone this time of year.

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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