The picture above tells the story this afternoon, Sandy is one large storm. Winds of tropical storm force are being felt 3 times further away from the storm than would be typical. The storm is so large that hundreds of miles to the north of where the storm hits, coastal flooding will be the issue and some places along the New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut coast could see historic flooding.
Winds around storms move opposite to the hands on a clock, which means the sweeping winds will pile water against the coast north of the storm. To the south of the storm, the winds actually push the water away from land so flooding is not a concern.
A storm surge is not a big wave, rather it’s a bubble of water that moves inland over time caused by the wind and pressure configuration of the storm itself. Inlets, bays, and harbors will see water levels rise for many hours and several high tide cycles. I update the forecast often on Twitter at @growingwisdom during the next few days I will be giving you my latest thinking there often. You can also ask me questions about the storm or weather and gardening.
The entire State and much of the eastern third of the United States is under a high wind warning. There is a hurricane force wind warning for the south coast of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. ( A bit of inside information, the National Hurricane Center didn’t issue a “hurricane warning” for the area, rather the “hurricane force wind warning” came from the local Boston office. The warning we have issued is suppose to be used for non-hurricane events. It’s been very confusing for those of us in the meteorology community. I would venture there will be some major policy meetings after this storm.) At any rate, the coast is going to see the brunt of this storm as they would in any coastal storm like Sandy.
For Massachusetts I don’t feel this storm will create a repeat of the damage to east facing beaches like that 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. The center of Sandy will hit the New Jersey coast tomorrow and the noon tide that day is and the one Monday night will be the worst. I expect the damage along the eastern Massachusetts coastline to be minor to moderate. The south coast will see moderate to severe damage boarding on historic in localized areas. 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. Areas around New York or New Jersey could also see historic flooding in places. We won’t have a good handle on that situation until early Monday when we see the exact position of the storm. Also, if the storm’s peak hits a low tide, then the flooding is much less.
The map above gives a good idea of what type of flooding coastal locations are predicted to receive.
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 25-40 knots with higher gusts in the 45-55 knot range. 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.
The wind concerns me the most because it will impact the most number of people. High winds take down trees and those fallen trees will impact the power situation. I am already mentally preparing for no power for two days based on what I see for the winds Monday. I believe our winds will be similar to Irene last August inland but stronger at the coast. The one saving grace may be that the leaves are off the trees in many areas and this will help to prevent as much damage to the trees as if the leaves where on still. Leaves act like little sails to catch the wind and without them, the air can pass through the branches easier. The map shows the sustained wind and gusts forecast for Monday. Click to make it bigger.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since 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.
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