Saturday morning Hurricane Sandy update

Chief meteorologist Paul Huttner prepared a superb summary of the science behind this upcoming “Frankenstorm” and the scope of likely widespread impacts and posted it here in Updraft on Friday evening. I encourage anyone interested to read it, below.

This morning I want to update the situation with the latest information.

First, after weakening a bit to tropical storm strength, U.S. Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft found that Sandy had returned to Category 1 hurricane status by early this morning with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. Hurricane force winds extend up to 100 miles from the center, mainly to the southwest. No significant change in intensity is expected over the next couple of days.

The main area of deep convection is near and northwest of the center as the storm moves to the north-northeast at 9 miles per hour. Heavy rain and gusty northeast winds have been hitting the coastal Carolinas, including the highly susceptible Outer Banks. Tropical storm warnings are in effect.

Here’s what Sandy looks like from a weather satellite, courtesy NOAA:

Sandy vis sat.jpg

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center analyze all the forecast models and publish their best estimate of the future track of tropical storms. The thinking remains that Sandy will track northeast, then more to the north, and then bump into a stalled blob of high pressure that will push it northwestward toward the coast. The new forecast track shows landfall of Sandy’s center to be around Delmarva on Monday night or very early Tuesday:

Sandy forecast track.gif

Remember that the white cone shows the range of probable paths but not the full extent of this large storm.

That track will shove a very nasty storm surge toward the mid-Atlantic states, especially north of the storm center where the winds will give the surge an extra push. A full moon on Monday will increase the normal high tide and provide a scenario for really serious coastal flooding and damage.

Inland, Sandy will combine tropical and extra-tropical characteristics to cause widespread wind and heavy rain. Rainfalls of 4 to 8 inches are likely in the Mid-Atlantic states including the Delmarva Peninsula. Isolated amounts up to 12 inches are possible.

Trees still in leaf will be quite susceptible to wind damage. Wet ground from persistent rain will make it easier for the wind to topple trees over a very large area.

The U.S. Navy has sent ships out to sea to ride out the storm. Major airlines are asking passengers to reschedule flights that might be through storm-targeted areas. And several oil refineries in the path are likely to shut down as a precaution. The list of likely impacts goes on and on.

Although the strongest winds will be mainly close to the center of the storm, Sandy is a very large and growing storm that likely will have major impacts from Virginia to Maine.

Stay tuned.

Bill Endersen

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