Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy May Be A Dandy

All eyes are on Hurricane Sandy as she moves north in the northern Bahamas this morning. (See image from NHC above.) Sandy is forecast to track north, then northeast, and then do something rather unprecedented- turn back towards the northwest and make landfall somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Given the current forecast, Sandy could generate a devastating storm surge in the Mid-Atlantic States, New York City area, Long Island, and the southern coast of New England.

It is unusual for storms to curve back to the northwest or west once they track from south to north and pass the Carolinas.

This unusual path may be a worst-case track for some areas, at least for storm surge generation. Given the current forecast, coastal New Jersey and New York would be on the strong side of the storm with strong onshore winds. Typically, hurricanes curve to the northeast, keeping these areas on the weak side of the storm.

It is important that coastal interests do not look too much at the storm category and compare Sandy to storms like Irene (2011) or Gloria (1985). These storms tracked along the coast, but did not curve back to the west like the forecast for Sandy. Even if Sandy becomes a tropical storm or a sub-tropical system, under the current forecast, this event could pile up considerable water along the coast, including in the New York City area.

Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service and local media for updates. SCIPP is not involved at this time with surge models for this area, but other universities and agencies may produce interesting surge models/ forecasts, particularly because this event could be potentially catastrophic for this highly populated coastline.

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