Reliable computer models have been forecasting a devastating blow delivered by Tropical Storm Sandy to the Northeast early next week for several days now. In the computer model scenarios, Sandy, which the National Hurricane Center forecasts to become a hurricane later today, may come ashore anywhere from New Jersey to Cape Cod but would do damage to a wide swath of coastline and many inland locations as well.
As of Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service in New York City issued a preliminary public advisory:
THERE IS LOW POTENTIAL FOR A MAJOR COASTAL STORM WITH HEAVY RAINFALL…HIGH WINDS…COASTAL FLOODING AND BEACH EROSION EARLY NEXT WEEK. THIS WILL ULTIMATELY DEPEND ON THE EVENTUAL TRACK AND EVOLUTION OF TROPICAL CYCLONE SANDY AS IT INTERACTS WITH A DEEPENING UPPER LEVEL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM APPROACHING THE EAST COAST. THE STORM MAY VERY WELL JUST MOVE OUT TO SEA…AND HAVE LITTLE IF ANY IMPACT ON OUR WEATHER.
That the NWS wants to avoid worrying the public over a “fish storm” made perfect sense for the initial two or three days that Sandy began to be seen by the computer models. However, as of this writing, the great majority of members of NOAA’s Global Forecast System climate model are indicating a curve toward New York City and the densely populated I-95 corridor.
With Arctic air rushing south on the western edge of Sandy as it makes landfall, the potential exists for an unusual (though not unprecedented) one-two punch, with the dire effects of a hurricane on the coast (and well inland) and a crippling snowstorm 250 miles to the west.
A full moon early next week, and its attendant astronomic high tides, stands to increase the effects of beach erosion and storm surge.
In this observer’s opinion, preliminary preparations for the tens of millions living in the region that would be affected by Sandy should be begun before the weekend, with unusually long power outages among the risks posed by the storm.
There’s a reason that the NWS avoids making forecasts too soon: It can’t afford to cry wolf. But it’s time to let the public know that something is in the offing here.
The situation is that serious.