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There are some folks in the media and weather community (both professional meteorologists and amateurs) trying their damnedest to hype up what some weather models are hinting could be a very major storm hitting the northeast late this weekend into early next week.

90% of what you're hearing about this is hype.

Here are the facts:

  • Tropical Storm Sandy is developing in the Caribbean Sea this evening. In anticipation of the system strengthening into a hurricane either tonight or early tomorrow morning, the respective governments of several islands in the Greater Antilles have issued hurricane warnings for their coastal areas.
  • As noted in the image above, the official track from the National Hurricane Center has Sandy curving out to sea.
  • Here is what the National Hurricane Center said about their forecast track of Tropical Storm Sandy, as of 5PM Eastern:
    THE INITIAL MOTION IS ESTIMATED TO BE SLOWLY NORTH-NORTHEASTWARD... OR 020/5.  NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE PREVIOUS TRACK FORECAST.  AS A MID-TROPOSPHERIC RIDGE TO THE NORTH OF SANDY CONTINUES TO WEAKEN...THE TROPICAL CYCLONE SHOULD MOVE ON A NORTH-NORTHEASTWARD TO NORTHWARD HEADING WITH SOME INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.  IN 2-3 DAYS...A SHARP UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH JUST TO WEST OF SANDY IS EXPECTED TO KEEP THE STORM ON A NORTHWARD TRACK...NEAR THE NORTHWEST BAHAMAS.  LATER IN THE FORECAST PERIOD...INCREASING MID-LEVEL WESTERLY FLOW IS EXPECTED TO CAUSE A TURN TOWARD THE NORTHEAST.  THE OFFICIAL FORECAST TRACK IS SIMILAR TO THE LATEST GFS AND ECMWF SOLUTIONS THROUGH 72 HOURS...AND CLOSE TO THE DYNAMICAL MODEL CONSENSUS.
  • Many of the horrific model forecast images being circulated are one run of one model. To get a good idea of what the models are thinking altogether, it's wise to look at what's called a spaghetti model plot. This takes all the major model runs and plots their forecast storm tracks on the same map, creating an image that looks like someone plopped spaghetti down on it.

    It's important to keep in mind that this is 5-6 days out. Things can and do change. Do not take the models as gospel -- only use the forecasts issued by the National Hurricane Center.

    Here's the latest spaghetti model plot:

  • It's also important to remember that the models are having a hard time resolving hurricane paths this year. Think back to Isaac -- the models struggled with that system from formation right up until landfall. Hurricane track and intensity forecasting is a very imprecise science. Things can and will change over the coming days.
  • Regardless of what happens (I'm strongly aligned with the current forecast of the system recurving out to sea), it's important not to fall into the hype trap and start to panic. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeastern US, make plans on what to do in case a prolonged high wind/high rain/high surge event takes place. If you live in a flood prone area, review your plans to evacuate. If you live along the coast, review what you need to do in case of a surge. If you live inland, look around and make sure you take care of things that could blow around/blow down in high winds.
  • Nothing is set in stone, however as of this evening, it's looking increasingly unlikely that the northeast will have a storm-of-the-century type of event. Approach this and all potentially significant weather events with a level head, and remember that people trying to unnecessarily hype up stuff like this are in it for the ratings and little else.

Here's a link to the National Hurricane Center to keep track of the system for yourself.

Here I am on Facebook and Twitter if you want to keep up with me offsite.

9:01 PM PT: 11PM EDT NHC update (as well as the 00z spaghetti model plot) shows that the track is pretty much the same -- a northeastward curve is expected to take the system out to sea. Still an evolving system with lots that can change.

Here's the 11PM forecast:

Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 7:51 PM PT: In hindsight, I was so wrong. Sooooooooo wrong. C'est la vie. At least the warning got out.

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