...Sandy Frankenstorm! If an October surprise is a news event that has the possibility of influencing an upcoming election, the storm barreling up the East Coast surely fits the definition. And coincidentially, there is a second major winter storm now swooping in from the west. The confluence of these two weather systems could not only make a huge mess in the Mid-Atlantic states, with four swing states somewhat in the vicinity: NC, VA, NH and possibly OH if it gets really messy.
Right now the projected storm track has shifted to make a Delaware landfall.
"Unprecedented" - My metro NYC area weather reports are suggesting that these two weather systems could mix and, in another coincidence, a high pressure system over Greenland might push the Sandy toward land instead of moving out over the Atlantic. This is a set up to create one heck of a "Nor'easter" and a unique situation where the storm stops moving and hangs out over the Mid-Atlantic states for quite awhile. High winds, heavy rainfall and a storm surge for a period of perhaps 24 hours, together with leaves still on the trees like last year's Halloween storm, could do a lot of damage. Any place on the right hand side of the storm will feel the highest impact from the weather. For the current tract, that means New Jersey, metro NY and Eastern Pennsylvania. And let's not forget that by the time it gets to land the size of the storm could be as much as 1000 miles wide.
Bill McKibben writes about Hurricane Sandy in light of Hurricane Irene's record rainfall:
"Watching Sandy on her careening path toward the eastern seaboard scares me more than it would have 15 months ago. That’s because my home state took the brunt of Irene, last year’s “sprawling,” “surly,” “record-breaking” Atlantic storm—I know now exactly how much power a warm sea can contain and how far that pain can spread....[snip] It turned our streams and rivers into cataracts that took out 500 miles of state highway. A dozen towns were left completely cut off from the rest of the world, relying on helicopters to drop food."Voter turnout - Rainy weather always depresses turnout. Truly bad weather will be worse on all levels. Obama has the advantage right now with early voting. The storm/s will hit at peak early voting time, the last week before the election.
Potential political effects of the storm:
Power cuts - Impacting polling places as well as homes and businesses.
School closings - The site of many polling precincts, and having children home will cause parents' to change their schedules
Trees down - Damage to property will slow regular daily life and put non-essential activities (voting) on a back burner
Roads impassable - If we get an Irene-type of action in the northeast that isolated Vermont villages last year it could be devastating to voter turnout in affected states
Air traffic - Closed airports and slowed air traffic will not only affect general business and pleasure travel, but it will also impact both campaigns' ability to have wrap-up rallies in the East.
My MD/DC/VA area friends also remind me that even "a modest thunderstorm" can sometimes make them loose power for days. Beyond normal preparation for a big storm (water, food, candles, batteries, etc.) we need to step up early GOTV efforts as well as plan what to do in the political aftermath.
Following the storm we potentially will have a new political terrain: President Obama will have to deal with emergency measures instead of finishing his planned campaign. And will Republicans try to score political points over the government's storm reactions right before Nov 6th?
The weather situation creates many unknowns. When it comes to October surprises, it's best to be prepared for anything.