This is my take on Hurricane Sandy. I know it's the 12,000th diary on the storm today. If you've got a problem with it, your browser has a back button, haters to the left.
This storm will focus on the meteorological side of Sandy. For safety and preparation tips (as well as a more in-depth look at certain aspects of the storm), see terrypinder's awesome mothership diary.
There really isn't a delicate way to put it anymore: Hurricane Sandy is the equivalent of Mother Nature typing in ALL-CAPS. There will be damage, there will be injuries, and there likely will be more fatalities (in addition to the dozens already killed in the Caribbean).
The surge with Hurricane Sandy is expected to be upwards of 11 feet
ABOVE GROUND LEVEL above mean low sea level (thanks to terrypinder for the correction) in places along the coast. The countless evacuation orders are there for a reason. If you receive an evacuation order and ignore it, write your Social Security Number on yourself in permanent marker so rescue crews can identify your body if they find it.
There are only three times in my life I remember well-respected, seasoned meteorologists issuing such dire warnings about an impending storm:
1) The 1999 Oklahoma City, OK tornado, where Gary England said "you will die if you are not underground during this tornado."
2) "The Bulletin," issued by NWS New Orleans during Katrina.
The storm surge will range from 1 to 12 feet depending on where you live. I've illustrated by hand a map of the NHC's surge forecast as of 200PM EDT today. This is nothing to mess around with. This will cause unbelievable damage and, for those who either couldn't or wouldn't evacuate, fatalities.
The extremely large wind field, long duration of the high winds, and the surge occurring during the full moon's high tide will cause this to be unlike the region has experienced in recent memory. The hype around this storm is warranted, for once.
The wind from Sandy will be very strong -- tropical-storm- to hurricane-force winds will occur over hundreds of miles for several days before, during, and after landfall. This kind of wind will stress to the point of failure trees and structures that are typically fine during shorter storms. There will be immeasurable amounts of trees down, and unfortunately many of them will fall on power lines, structures, and vehicles.
Be prepared for millions of power outages -- one engineer speculates that there might be 10 million power outages because of this storm -- that will last for days, and maybe weeks.
Remember the derecho that hit in June? Take the wind damage from that and extend it. That's what we're dealing with here.
For an idea of how big a 550 mile wide wind field is, everything in the orange shading can (and likely will) experience winds between 45-75 MPH, with higher gusts:
Rainfall from Sandy will exceed a foot in some places, and will exacerbate flooding caused by wind and surge. NWS Mount Holly, in the above-linked PDF, says that some areas in the Mid-Atlantic will experience record flooding from this system.
Here's the HPC's rainfall forecast for the next 5 days:
In addition to everything else, the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to North Carolina can expect a record-breaking blizzard from this storm. Cold Arctic air is meeting moisture from the system right over the mountains, which will lead to snowfall totals in excess of 2 feet in some spots. The sweet spot will be in eastern West Virginia. This is the 12z NAM run's forecast snow depth by Wednesday night, shown in inches:
Given that Sandy will not be a tropical system at landfall, the tornado threat is very low.
No, this storm is not being hyped. Trust me. This really is "The Perfect Storm" in that everything came together just perfectly to screw millions of people in the most heavily populated stretch of land in the United States. This is what we learn in meteorology classes as the worst possible thing that could happen in this area -- instead of a compact tropical cyclone that only impacts a small portion of the area, a large extra-tropical hybrid storm rakes half a thousand miles with hurricane-force winds and a storm surge taller than two houses stacked on top of each other.
It's that bad. You need to take this seriously.
HURRICANE VS. NOT A HURRICANE
Don't worry about the fact that it won't be called "Hurricane Sandy" in a day or so. It's transitioning from tropical to extratropical, meaning that instead of being warm throughout the storm, it'll have temperature advection (cold and warm fronts, essentially) and undergo a structural change.
It's all technical mumbo jumbo. Its effects will be just as bad as a hurricane. A flower by any other name would smell as sweet. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by the meteorological jargon.
As much as I try to avoid politics in weather diaries, the presidential election in about a week is an 800 pound gorilla in the room when talking about this storm. I honestly have no idea how it will impact the results of the election. Power outages, damage to polling places, flooded roads, and evacuated persons will obviously affect turnout and perhaps the results.
The results will be impacted by what areas are impacted. If heavily Democratic areas are flooded out, that will obviously help any Republicans. The same goes for lower turnout in heavily Republican areas. When the storms clears out, politicos will have a better idea of how Sandy will have impacted the election.
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National Weather Service says wind gusts up to 70 mph poss in DC area, up from 60-65 in earlier update
2:52 PM PT: OPM: Federal Government is CLOSED on Monday.