If Sandy Becomes 'Frankenstorm,' It Could Be Worst In A Century

Oct 26, 2012
Originally published on November 14, 2013 9:52 am

"We're not trying to hype it," National Weather Service meterologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. "What we're seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century."

So get ready, mid-Atlantic states, the Northeast and New England: Hurricane Sandy, which has already caused 40 deaths in the Caribbean, is still on track to turn toward you on Monday. And if that happens, it will meet up with a winter storm coming from the West and cold air coming down from Canada to become what could be a horrible "Frankenstorm" (Halloween is Wednesday).

Oh, and there's also a full moon on Monday. As that affects tides, the concern about storm surges along coastal areas grows.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning folks from Florida to New England to "update your family communication plans, check your supplies, and stay informed."

The storm that Kocin and some other meteorologists are saying this could rival was a 1938 hurricane that hit Long Island and New England hard — more than 500 people were killed, Bloomberg notes.

At 5 a.m. ET today, Sandy was about 485 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C. The National Hurricane Center's latest "5-day forecast cone" shows Sandy grazing the coast of North Carolina around 2 a.m. ET on Monday, then turning to the northwest and making landfall around Delaware at 2 a.m. ET on Tuesday. It would then head across the Mid-Atlantic and toward the Great Lakes.

Update at 3:25 p.m. ET. NASA Images Of Sandy:

The space agency has put together a video of satellite images showing Sandy as the hurricane moved north from the Caribbean the past two days.

Update at 3 p.m. ET. "Strong Winds Will Spread Out."

At Weather Underground, meteorologist Jeff Masters writes that:

"The trough approaching from the west will inject into Sandy what is called 'baroclinic' energy — the energy one can derive from the atmosphere when warm and cold air masses lie in close proximity to each other. This transition will reduce the hurricane's peak winds, but strong winds will spread out over a wider area of ocean. This will increase the total amount of wind energy of the storm, keeping the storm surge threat high. This large wind field will likely drive a storm surge of 3-6 feet on Monday and Tuesday to the right of where the center makes landfall, on the mid-Atlantic or New York coasts. These storm surge heights will be among the highest ever recorded along the affected coasts, and will have the potential to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage."

Update at noon ET. The Storm Could "Explode":

The warnings coming from weather experts are intense, to say the least. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog has a discussion of how low the pressure could go as Sandy moves inland — bringing with it very strong winds. And when it meets up with the other systems, watch out:

"The clash of the cold blast from the continental U.S. and the massive surge of warm, moist air from Hurricane Sandy will cause the storm to explode and the pressure to crash." Many of the nearly 67 million people living in the superstorm's path "will likely contend with tropical storm force winds — 40-60 mph, if not somewhat greater."

And Capital Weather Gang points to this, from a blog written by AccuWeather Senior Vice President Mike Smith:

"A very prominent and respected National Weather Service meteorologist wrote on Facebook last night, 'I've never seen anything like this and I'm at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do.' "

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Now to a storm that's already been dubbed Frankenstorm. Hurricane Sandy has been barreling across the Caribbean, where it killed more than 20 people. Now, it's headed toward the East Coast. It's big. It's powerful, and it's expected to stick around for a long time. High winds and heavy rain are forecast in the Carolinas to Maine, along with snow in higher elevations and storm surge and massive flooding along the coast. Henry Margusity is a meteorologist with AccuWeather. He joins me to explain what's so rare about this storm. And, Henry, this has been called an unprecedented convergence of weather systems. What's going on? What's headed our way?

HENRY MARGUSITY: Well, what's happening is that Sandy now is coming north. And at the same time, the jet stream is now dipping down into the center part of our country, and it's going to all merge together. And you're going to have all this warm air merging with cold air. And when those two mix together, bad things happen. You know, a thunderstorm happens when you have cold air aloft and warm air at the surface, you get a big thunderstorm.

And so think of Sandy as this gigantic thunderstorm developing because it's going to be cold aloft, tropical air at the surface, and a storm that's actually going to become stronger as it comes in. And the wind field is going to spread out. So people up in New England, New York City, Baltimore, Washington, all the way back to Ohio are going to deal with this massive windstorm that's going to develop when this thing comes in. And that is the big problem with power outages, trees being blown down and a lot of heavy rain coming with it as well.

BLOCK: We should also mention another factor and that's that there's a full moon on Monday, which means even higher tides.

MARGUSITY: Yeah, when the storm surge starts to come in, you know, the waves out there right now are actually 20 to 30 feet. And that wave action is already started to come northward. You're going to start seeing these, what we call spring tides, whether in not in fall we call them spring tides as well during the full moon. And these spring tides are actually higher than normal. Then you got the storm coming in. You got the wave action coming in. I would imagine that places like Atlantic City all the way down to Cape May, even up into Long Island, are going to have lots of flooding problems when it's all said and done.

BLOCK: We mentioned snow, Henry. Where are you projecting snow?

MARGUSITY: Snow is going to be at the higher elevations of West Virginia towards Snowshoe, West Virginia, then back into the Southwestern Pa. Maybe some of the Smoky Mountains might get a little bit of snow. But the biggest snows will be in West Virginia. And they could see up to a foot of white snow there, which is going to cause all kinds of power outages for them across that state.

BLOCK: And Sandy, the storm is moving slowly, right? It's going be here for some time.

MARGUSITY: Yeah. Oh, it's going to stick around through Wednesday and Thursday. It's not going to be as strong though. The strongest part is when she is coming in. During that time, there's going to be tremendous high winds. I mean, New York City, I think the wind is going to gust probably at least 60, if not 70 miles an hour. The wind field is going to be moving out away from the center, so those high winds are going to be coming well-ahead of the storm. And so places like New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, those winds are picking up Monday afternoon and Monday night before it even comes ashore.

BLOCK: What are you telling people to do to get ready as best they can?

MARGUSITY: Well, I've been telling people, you got, look, the weekend to get yourself prepared for this storm. It's coming Monday and Tuesday. Go check your trees out there. Don't park your cars under trees when the storm comes because if trees fall down or branches fall down, they fall on your cars. You know, take your screens off the window. Anything that can fly around with those high winds, take care of that.

BLOCK: That's Henry Margusity, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania. Henry, thank you and good luck.

MARGUSITY: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.