Timing Couldn’t Be Worse For Garden State Residents Trying To Recover From Sandy
Hurricane Sandy couldn’t have struck at a more worse time for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The monster storm, which put a devastating hit on the Jersey Shore as well as Staten Island, Long Island, and Coastal Connecticut hit late in the hurricane season, and just as the winter season is beginning to wind up. Nor’easters are becoming more commonplace now including one that is taking shape to give Jersey and its neighbors a good pounding starting Wednesday and lasting into Thursday.
Forecast model guidance in the late afternoon on Monday hinted at not only a storm that would bring two inches of rain, 60 to 70 mile per hour winds along the coast, and coastal flooding, but also the first significant snowfall of the season according to Tri-State Weather. As much as 8 inches of snow was forecast for parts of the area with the heaviest snowfall occurring at around rush hour. Inland areas were going to get winds between 40 and 50 miles per hour, which is still not good for dangling power lines, weakened trees and telephone poles. Thankfully the late night and early morning model runs have the storm a little bit farther to the east, and not giving as big a blow as earlier.
There is still concern though. Forecasters are closely watching how this storm develops, and everything rides upon how the upper level low and the surface low come together. A vort max over the eastern part of the country has not dug far enough south, which is putting the storm on a forecast track further east. If the surface low can catch up to the upper low, then we could have a track more toward the coast, which would be insult to injury. If they do not come together, then the storm moves further to the east. Some towns along the Jersey Shore are not taking any chances.
In Brick Township, located in Ocean County, a mandatory evacuation has been issued in advance of the storm. Expect more of these to start rolling out as the day progresses on Tuesday. With much of the Garden State coastline in shambles, and another storm on the way, municipalities and the state government will take extra measures to ensure people’s safety. Hurricane Sandy and this approaching nor’easter could be the opening salvo in what could be a brutal winter. A few months ago, seasonal forecasts came out for the winter season in the Northeast, and there were indications that it would be a very bad winter in this region. Not the type of news residents along the Jersey Shore and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic need to hear right now while they try to pick up the pieces.
While There Are Glimmers Of Normalcy, There Is Still A Good Deal Of Struggle
Thursday was the third day of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy around the Tri-State area. It was a day of some progress. Commercial trains began to run through my hometown of South Plainfield as well as the local 7-11 re-opening, and South Clinton Avenue opening to traffic after being closed for the past two days. More traffic was on the road around Northwestern Middlesex County. More businesses were re-opening again. Beneath these signs of normalcy, there were still signs of struggle and frustration.
Starting with nearby towns in Northwestern Middlesex County, there remained open wounds from the devastation wrought by Sandy three days earlier. A long walk through the towns of South Plainfield, Piscataway, Dunellen, and Middlesex revealed that to me. There was still a good deal of tree and telephone pole damage along with dangling power lines, especially in the town of Dunellen. One of the smallest municipalities in Middlesex County, the Railroad Town was hit harder than many bigger towns in the county. The stretch of road from the New Market section of Piscataway into Dunellen had a number of trees uprooted and telephone poles either severely leaned over to one side, or down, which caused wires to hang dangerously close to the ground. It was probably the most treacherous part of my walk today.
Middlesex and Piscataway had some tree and telephone pole damage with the home of the Blue Jays experiencing the most significant damage with a good portion of Warrenville Road closed to traffic since there are several trees and telephone poles down in concert there. The cascade of these poles and trees have large power lines hanging close to the ground. The sight in Middlesex and Piscataway that drew my attention was the long lines of car traffic, and people with gas cans waiting to get gas. Some people were literally pushing their car up Route 28 to a gas station near the restaurant Tim Kerwin’s that happened to have power and gas. In P-Way, there were lines at the Getty on Stelton Road near Columbus Park. Another long line stretched from Hamilton Boulevard in South Plainfield around to Stelton Road past the Stop and Shop on that road.
South Plainfield appeared to be the town in the best shape. However, I didn’t go through a great deal of Piscataway outside of the New Market Ave section, and neighborhoods along New Brunswick Ave bordering with South Plainfield. Tigertown still has some problems though. Trees were uprooted at a PSEG Customer Facility on Century Road in town so things like that will make it difficult for the utility to get the power back on for the rest of us. During my journey, I took many photos, which I’ve added to the Hurricane Sandy album in the GWC Photo Gallery. Conditions are improving in quite a few places including Hoboken, which has FEMA boots on the ground, and is now nearly clear of the flooding that has plagued it for the previous two days. New York City is starting to resume some train and bus service thanks to the efforts of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is talking tough to the utilities such as Con Edison and LIPA so that they can get power back running for residents. The lights came back up on Broadway as theaters reopened. In addition, people seemed to show more patience and courtesy when driving through the traffic filled streets of NYC.
Power is also starting to come back up for many in New Jersey. The number of people without power across the Garden State is down to 1.7 million from a high of 2.7 million at the peak of the storm. Governor Christie has attacked this monumental problem head on by demanding results from the three major power utilities in the state: JCP & L, PSE & G, and Atlantic City Electric. While Christie understands that this is a very challenging situation for them, he still has the expectation that the job gets done. He also shut off the natural gas system that runs from Mantoloking to Seaside Heights in an effort to stop the fires that have broken out in the wake of the terrible damage from the surge along that stretch of Garden State shoreline. He also is getting electrical workers from all over the country as well as Canada to get the power back up and running. Arrangements have been made to shelter and feed those workers at Fort Monmouth.
There are signs of frustration though. Much of Staten Island and Queens is still in the dark and flooded. In addition, residents in Staten Island are living in fear because of looting. Residents in both boroughs expressed their anger and demanded that something significant be done to help them begin to make progress like all the other parts of New York City. Some residents pointed to the fact that many on Staten Island and Queens are working class, or the little people, and more priorities are being spent on those in Manhattan that are better off. To make matters worse, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the New York Marath0n, scheduled for this coming Sunday, is going on as scheduled although it will be run as a different route. Some critics charge that resources needed for dealing with the storm’s aftermath are being misplaced while others feel that this is insensitive to those still struggling to get power and rid themselves of the flood waters.
Further north in Westchester County, Mount Vernon is still struggling with significant damage from Sandy including downed trees, telephone poles, and power lines while the mayor in the town was out of the area for a reunion in North Carolina, and nobody else took charge to get the town prepared for the storm and its aftermath. On top of that, the death toll is climbing around the New York City area as well as New Jersey. In NYC, there are now 40 deaths including 20 from Staten Island alone. Approximately 159 people have died including 88 in the United States, two in Canada, and another 69 in the Caribbean. The key to this whole situation is the restoration of power. Once power is restored, people can return to their homes, flood waters can get pumped out, chainsaws can cut downed trees, polluted waters can be treated, and gas stations can get back online and to fueling customers again.
This report used information compiled from news reports from NJTV, WNBC4, CNN, and the New York Daily News.
Price Tag For Damage From Sandy Will Be Even More Staggering
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Northern Gulf coast with a ferocity that devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the price tag of that storm was $108 billion dollars. It stands as the costliest natural disaster in United States History surpassing that of Hurricane Andrew, which cost South Florida some $27 billion dollars in damage. Hurricane Ike became the second costliest storm on record with $29.5 billion dollars in damage to the Houston and Galveston area of Texas in 2008. However, the damage produced Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will dwarf them all. For those, who don’t think that the cost of this storm will surpass Katrina, think again.
It’s very early in the game. The aftermath of Sandy is just two days old, and the recovery process is in its infancy, but the scenes of damage along the Jersey Shore, New York City, Long Island, and Coastal Connecticut alone has been overwhelming. The storm produced record storm surges at Battery Park in New York City (13.88 feet) and Sandy Hook (13.3 feet). Here in South Plainfield, New Jersey which is far inland in the Northwestern corner of Middlesex County, there is significant wind damage. The scope of Superstorm Sandy’s impacts are so vast with blizzard conditions in West Virginia, and as far south as the mountains of Eastern Tennessee (Mount Leconte had 34 inches at last count), waves of 20.3 feet on the south shores of Lake Michigan near Chicago, and severe thunderstorms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Earlier this year, Hurricane Irene was ranked as the seventh costliest storm ever after the devastation it produced across the Northeast in late August of 2011. The price tag for that storm was $10 billion, and the storm only produced a storm surge of 4 to 5 feet in New York City, and along the Jersey Shore. Irene was no Sandy either. While Irene was a storm that was fading as it came through New Jersey and New York last year, Sandy was a much more energized storm. I was in South Amboy’s Waterfront Park for both storms, and Sandy’s surge was already at the same level that Irene was when it was coming up the Jersey coast last year, and Sandy was still a number of hours from landfall. Furthermore, Sandy was a much stronger and larger storm with size that was almost twice that as Irene, and a barometric pressure that was 946 millibars at landfall, a good 14 millibars lower than Irene was when it came up through Jersey. Sandy’s path also resulted in a more direct impact to the Jersey Shore and New York City.
By making its landfall in South Jersey, Sandy was able to deliver the brunt of its power to the very expensive properties that lie along the Jersey Shore in places such as Long Beach Island, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Sea Bright, and Rumson as well as the financial capital of the world in New York City, and the casinos and entertainment hot bed of Atlantic City. Very expensive homes also lie along the coast in both Long Island and Coastal Connecticut, which were hit hard by the surge coming in from the Atlantic and Long Island Sound. These places were also hit in the post-Katrina era where insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the wake of that monumental storm. In 2001, the site also discussed the studies by insurance companies that indicated that a major hurricane hitting the Jersey Shore would cause some $50 billion dollars in damage, and this was almost five years before Katrina. Back in 2006, Hurricaneville had written an article that discussed another article by the Newark Star-Ledger that pointed out the building of multi-million dollar homes along the Jersey Shore in spite of the changing weather patterns and insurance climate.
This storm’s effects were also felt well inland. Entering the third day of the aftermath of this storm, and there were still numerous traffic lights down around South Plainfield, and many adjacent municipalities in Middlesex County. Many secondary and tertiary roads in New Jersey are still closed, especially in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Ocean County. Many trees have been uprooted, telephone poles snapped, and cell phone towers have been damaged. Power is still out for many in the Garden State, and cell phone communication has been spotty at best. Add to all of this the other events that have occurred as a result of the storm such as the 130 homes that were destroyed by fire spread by the winds from Sandy in the coastal community of Breezy Point, New York, and you have a very staggering price to pay for this storm.
The devastation along the coast in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut as well as significant damage to inland areas to those states and others from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will ultimately dwarf that of Hurricane Katrina when it hit the Northern Gulf Coast in 2005. In a climate where weather patterns have made places such as the New York City Metropolitan area, the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and Connecticut more vulnerable, and insurance premiums in these areas as well as New England have risen significantly in a post-Katrina world, the cost could easily be billions of dollars alone. Add to that the cost of damage further inland to communities far away from the coast and as far south and west as West Virginia, Illinois, and Tennessee, and we could have our first 100 billion dollar storm.
Daylight Reveals A Forever Changed Jersey Shore
A much anticipated first light for Jersey residents brought visions of disbelief and heartbreak. From the tidal flooding in Hoboken to levee breach and raging Hackensack river in Bergen County to the downed trees, dismantled traffic lights, and mangled street signs in Middlesex County to the heavy damage to many towns along the Jersey Shore, there is no way to put into words how devastating Hurricane Sandy was to the Garden State. A weary Governor Chris Christie was emotional when speaking about the Jersey Shore, especially Belmar, Seaside Heights, and Island Beach State Park, places where he has spent summers during his childhood and the past several years.
I’ve been to Island Beach State Park twice since April. Those two visits were my first ever to that beach. A friend had brought it up to me when I was considering places to travel to during my off-season from covering high school football and basketball. I enjoyed both of my trips there, and have pictures from both visits that you can see in the GWC Photo Gallery. I was particularly impressed by the size, shape, and quality of the dunes there. They had a majestic quality to them, and it comes out in the pictures I took of them. In June, I traveled the whole length of that beach to Barngeat Inlet, and viewed Barnegat Light. To hear that the beach there was significantly damaged was sad to say the least.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve made many trips to the Jersey Shore. Originally, I traveled mostly to Sandy Hook and nearby Sea Bright. Six years ago, I began taking trips to Waterfront Park in South Amboy and the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge. However, over the past year I’ve visited many coastal communities from Avon By The Sea, Belmar, Keyport, Keansburg, Manasquan, Port Monmouth, Red Bank, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and Union Beach. I had made plans to make more visits in the future. While I’m disappointed that I will not be able to get down there in the near future, I intend to head down there once things return to normal, and the iconic features that make those locales so special are rebuilt better than before.
I traveled around South Plainfield by foot and by car, and was amazed by the damage here even though it pales in comparison to places such as Hoboken, Moonachie, Sayreville, and the Jersey Shore. Traffic lights ripped off their supports, and thrown to the street like toys. I noticed several of them down and disfigured just around the Stelton and Hadley Road areas alone. Leaves, tree limbs, and large branches scattered about like rubbish. A number of large trees were uprooted with some lying in the street. Other trees such as the ones in the front of the hotel I’m staying at were bent over by the force of the high winds on Monday night. Roads were cut off, or closed to traffic. Street signs were bent over, mangled, or even uprooted while store signs were ripped apart. Some of the store signs were thrown many yards from where they originated.
I’ve taken pictures of much of the damage, and plan to take more over the next couple days. Like many of the recent disasters that the Garden State has endured, the devastation was almost surreal. After 9/11 I felt like my life and the way we live was altered forever. Following Hurricane Irene a year ago, I understood how these disasters are more than just numbers, pictures, and video on television, and what it was like to have to endure what others have been enduring from disasters across this country. This time, I find myself not really surprised by what happened, but in awe. The damage is almost surreal. Even though New Jersey lies in a position along the East Coast of the United States that leaves it relatively immune from tropical storms and hurricanes, Irene and Sandy are reminders that even the Garden State is like any other coastal state in the U.S., and vulnerable to tropical cyclones.
Back in 2001, I had put together a special series of reports on the state of Tri-State Preparedness for a tropical storm or hurricane. Then, I had mentioned how insurance companies had studied the possibility of a major hurricane making landfall along the Jersey Shore and producing a devastating surge to many of Jersey’s coastal communities as well as New York City, and possibly causing tens of billions in damage. Eleven years later, I’m sad to see that this scenario has become reality.
Hurricane/Nor’easter Makes Mark Comparable To Superstorm ‘93
Hurricane Sandy is done as a tropical cyclone, but it will be a storm long remembered by many, especially in the Mid-Atlantic States of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and even Pennsylvania. Of all the storms that I have lived through including Irene last year, this was the worst. Not just the worst tropical storm or hurricane, but the worst storm period. The legacy of Sandy here in New Jersey, New York, and Long Island will be the wind and surge.
This large and powerful storm produced tremendous winds by Jersey standards with winds whipping frantically for several hours on Monday night. The winds had been picking up during the afternoon, but then around the 5:00 PM hour, they appeared to abate in Atlantic City and New York City. About a hour later though they dramatically picked up again, and increased to as high as 100 miles per hour. Here at the hotel that I am staying at, the winds have been relentless, and it felt like they were going to bust through the window in my room.
By the way, the winds aren’t going to slacken for a while either. The slow moving storm will cause the high winds to linger for at least another 24 hours. Along the coast, there was the surge. A record surge was set in New York Harbor at King’s Point (13.3 feet) and Battery Park (13.7 feet). Sandy Hook also was hit with a record surge of 13.3 feet. The previous record for surge in New York Harbor was from the 1821 hurricane. The barometric pressure fell to 940 millibars, or 27.76 inches of Hg before the storm turned post-tropical and came ashore. At GWC, the barometric pressure fell to 28.42 inches of Hg (Mercury) or 962 millibars, which shattered the record of 970 millibars set in Hurricane Irene last year.
The storm has left New York City as well as many locales around New Jersey reeling. Flooding has occurred in many parts of the area, especially near the coast. Trees have fallen on people. A crane has partially collapsed in Midtown Manhattan. Water poured into the PATH station in Hoboken. Fires have broken out. Transformers have blown all across the region. Almost 5 million people have been left without power around the region. Trees were down across Route 18 near Sayreville. Power was out throughout much of Sayreville, Old Bridge, South Amboy, and Colts Neck. This storm could end up making Hurricane Katrina look like a walk in a park.
It was a very well predicted storm. Much like Superstorm ‘93 was almost 20 years ago, Sandy was picked up quite well in the models, and even in terms of its intensity and conversion from a tropical to post-tropical system. The storm lived up to the hype and was well behaved from a forecast standpoint. The similarities between Sandy and Superstorm ‘93 didn’t stop there. Sandy was a storm that had winds stretch across some 1,000 plus miles at peak size. It covered not only the Mid-Atlantic, but also New England, and the Great Lakes States. Approximately 60 million people were affected. Similarly, Superstorm ‘93 affected some 26 states when it was all said and done. Like Superstorm ‘93, Sandy brought a variety of weather including a record storm surge, tornadoes, and blizzard conditions to some of the affected areas.
Keep in mind that we are still scratching the surface of this weather event. The true scope of the devastation from this storm will begin to be revealed with daylight on Wednesday. Many things will not sort themselves out until later in the week. Nevertheless, if we are just talking the shear meteorological numbers, Hurricane Sandy, or Superstorm Sandy has truly been a historic storm. Something I as well as all of you will long remember.
Storm Strengthens, Makes Turn Toward Mid-Atlantic Coast, And Picks Up Speed
Upon waking up this morning, I could hear the winds picking up. The pressure had dropped to 29.38 inches of Hg, or about 995 millibars. However, that was a drop of nearly a half an inch since yesterday morning. The bigger news awaited me as I got to my computer and got on the internet. Sandy had strengthened. Winds had increased to 85 miles per hour while the barometric pressure had dropped to 946 millibars, or 27.94 inches of Hg. The storm had tightened up much like a figure skater does when he or she pulls in her arms. Hurricane force winds still extended some 175 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds only reached out about 485 miles after being at 520 miles on Sunday.
Over the next few hours on Monday morning, another couple ingredients with Sandy began to come into play. The storm began to make its westerly turn toward the coast, and pick up in forward speed. So basically, we have a strengthening storm that is now moving toward the Mid-Atlantic coast as predicted, and is picking up in forward speed. The thing you don’t want to hear when trying to evacuate ahead of a hurricane is a strengthening storm that is moving faster. As of the 8:00 AM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Sandy was located about 265 miles to the Southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Now moving to the North-Northwest at 20 miles per hour, we are anticipating a landfall sometime within the next 13 hours.
A record surge is expected in places such as New York Harbor, Sandy Hook, and other locations along the Jersey Shore. The forecast is calling for a surge between 6 to 11 feet in New York Harbor, Raritan Bay, and Long Island Sound. If the storm hits within the next 13 hours, it will make an impact around the time of high tide, which is already enhanced by the presence of the full moon. You couldn’t ask for worse timing. Another thing to keep in mind with the surge along the Jersey Shore, Raritan Bay, New York Harbor, and Long Island Sound, and that is the fact that the coastline of New Jersey and New York meet at right angle, which will help funnel in the water to New York City, and Northeastern New Jersey. Winds are expected to gust between 60 and 80 miles per hour, and the National Hurricane Center has indicated that Sandy could strengthen to 90 miles per hour.
The worst of the weather is expected to begin around mid-afternoon, or about 2:00 to 3:00 PM EDT. Winds, which are already gusting between 30 and 50 miles per hour, are expected to ramp up significantly at that time along with the rain. Here in South Plainfield, the pressure has fallen further to 29.21 inches of Hg, or about 989 millibars. Already about a quarter of an inch has fallen from the storm. Winds have been steady at 20 miles per hour with gusts to 40 miles per hour. Oh, by the way, if you are in the Great Lakes region, you’re not going to be immune from this storm with cold air being pulled down, the storm is expected to bring snow to parts of the Appalachians including West Virginia and Western Virginia.
You know this is a different animal when a tropical system is going to bring snow on its western flank.
Storm’s Track And Strength Much Different Than Irene Was
Hours away from what could be an historic landfall along the Jersey Shore, Hurricane Sandy is expected to be a devastating storm. However, there are those around the Garden State and neighboring states that think it would be as bad. They will ride it out just like they did with Irene. There is just one problem with that, and that is Sandy is a much different animal than Irene was.
The storm’s track, size, momentum, and intensity is expected to be much different than Hurricane Irene was when it came up the coast. Differences between the two storms range from minimum central pressure, storm surge levels, and maximum sustained winds. Here is a breakdown of how Sandy is a much different threat than Irene.
Sandy’s projected track is going to be much different than Irene’s was. Normally, tropical storms and hurricanes run along the East Coast of the United States, and don’t directly impact New Jersey. Irene was a rare exception last year with two landfalls near Cape May and Little Egg Harbor. However, the bulk of the Garden State remained on the western side of the storm, which is traditionally not as strong due to the counterclockwise flow around the low.
Unfortunately, Sandy’s track will be much different and unprecedented, which could cause a lot of trouble. Right now, Sandy is moving to the Northeast, parallel to the Mid-Atlantic coast. However, there is a blocking pattern in place with an area of high pressure to the northeast of Sandy, which will prevent it from escaping into the Atlantic. On top of that, there is a cold front moving in from the west that will also pull the storm in. In response, Sandy will make a left turn into the Jersey Shore anywhere from Toms River south to Atlantic City.
What this projected landfall along the Jersey Shore means is that a lot of the Garden State including my hometown of South Plainfield in Middlesex County will face the storm’s notorious right front, or northeast quadrant. This is the part of the storm that has the strongest winds and roughest weather.
Storm Strength And Momentum
The strength of both Sandy and Irene are pretty much the same if you are looking at just the maximum sustained winds. Irene ended up being a tropical storm upon landfall with 70 mile per hour winds. Sandy currently has winds of 75 miles per hour, and could further strengthen to 80 mile per hour winds by landfall. However, Sandy is a much deeper storm in the sense that its pressure is very low than a typical Category One Hurricane.
Similar to Hurricane Isaac, which affected Louisiana back in August, Sandy is not your typical minimal hurricane with a minimum central pressure currently at 950 millibars, or 28.05 inches of Hg. This is crucial because remember there is a high pressure system to the north, and that is creating a very strong pressure gradient with the hurricane. A pressure gradient is a difference in pressure over a particular distance. The pressure gradient will also add to the wind while the low pressure itself will also help stir up the tide levels slightly.
Another difference between Sandy and Irene is the momentum each had prior to landfall. If you recall, Irene limped her way to the finish line last August thanks to the entrainment of dry air into the system. Irene was a ragged storm just hanging on to hurricane strength by the time it made land in Jersey. On the other hand, Sandy has been not only able to maintain its strength, it has also been able to deepen with a drop of 10 millibars in pressure alone on Sunday. It should be further energized when it moves across the Gulf Stream, and morphs into a hybrid storm as forecast.
Irene was a very large storm in its own right with tropical storm force winds stretching another 300 plus miles beyond the hurricane force winds. Compared to Sandy though, it is much smaller storm. As of the most recent advisory on Sunday night, Hurricane Sandy had hurricane force winds extending some 175 miles while tropical storm force winds extend some 520 miles.
What that means is that Sandy is about 1,000 miles wide. The storm is the second largest tropical cyclone in the Atlantic since 1988. Hurricane Igor, which occurred during the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is the largest in the last 25 years. Hurricane Gilbert was the vast Atlantic storm in 1988 when it was as big as the state of Texas after making landfall in the Yucatan and coming ashore again near Matamoros, Mexico.
The size is important because that will play a role in determining the duration of the rough weather conditions. It will also cover a broader area. The entire state will feel winds of 60 to 80 miles per hour at the height of the storm. Conditions will be felt as far west as Ohio and Indiana.
One Final Note
Besides the heavy rain, wind, waves, and storm surge being stirred up in the Mid-Atlantic from the Delmarva to New England, this system will also be unique in the sense that it will help produce heavy snowfall in Southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, Eastern Tennesse, and Western North Carolina along the Appalachian Mountains. In terms of its size, scope, power, and variety of weather, Sandy could equal and even surpass Superstorm ‘93.
Government Agencies And Media Give Hybrid Sandy A Halloween Feel
People love to give names to storms. You’ve heard it before. Back in 1993, it was Superstorm 1993, or the Storm of the Century. Same thing was said of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The winter storms of 2010 were given the name Snowmageddon by President Obama, and then this time last year, our little October Snowstorm was given the moniker of Snowtober. Now, we have Hurricane Sandy, which is now a minimal hurricane, and soon to be less of a tropical entity, and more of a hybrid entity.
On Thursday night and early Friday morning, I was watching the news on several different media outlets, both local and national, and heard the term Frankenstorm used to describe Sandy. Then, on Friday morning, I take a look at the front page of the newspaper, and I see the title of “Rise of Frankenstorm.” Why not call it Young Frankenstorm? I say that facetiously, but there is some truth to it because the storm is still evolving. Obviously some people feel that by calling Sandy a Frankenstorm, it makes the storm sound more sinister and dire, which could help getting the word out to people about it. In addition, Halloween is around the corner so it gives weather, which is not as popular or sexy a topic to most people as say sports or entertainment can be, more appeal to the masses.
There have been other terms given to Sandy over the past 24 hours as well such as The Perfect Storm after the 1991 storm that had Hurricane Grace as a component, and was a subject of a book by Sebastian Junger, which eventually became a movie starring George Clooney. There is also the term hybrid that I’ve been using since it has a little of both tropical and mid-latitude cyclone characteristics. Snow hurricane, or snowicane is another term although, I would find that a bit unlikely here in Jersey since temperatures aren’t going to be cold enough to produce snow. It could produce the white stuff in more mountains areas along the Appalachians such as West Virginia, Virgina, and Central Pennsylvania, where you have higher elevation.
And with a storm like Sandy, a potentially unprecedented weather event bearing down on the largest and most densely populated region of the country, using the moniker of Frankenstorm is an attempt to capture people’s attention. Using names for hurricanes and tropical storms have become commonplace now. These storms come in stages so it is appropriate to use names to describe them. It also makes it easier for people to identify with and remember, especially in the Caribbean and Central America, where English is a second language.
There has been some backlash to the use of the term, Frankenstorm to describe Sandy though. CNN announced on Friday that it will not be using the term Frankenstorm in its broadcasts. One of the lead meteorologists, Chad Myers indicated that it “trivializes” the storm, which is already responsible for 20 deaths in Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Myers and CNN’s reasoning for this policy is a valid one because it may give people the idea that the storm is a joke, or shouldn’t be taken seriously. With the potential damage and destruction from this storm, a possibly difficult aftermath to follow in a part of the country that has been quite lucky during this active cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes, and a population that tends to be more cynical about such storms in this part of the world, the last thing you want to do is trivialize it.
Continuing on the idea of naming storms, the Weather Channel is taking things a step further by using names to describe significant winter storms, which has caused some controversy in recent days. TWC recently announced that it is going to begin giving names to winter storms this coming season. Forecasters and specialists there believe this is a good way to get the word out to the public on the severity of a snowstorm. When I was younger, there was a weatherman at FOX5 in New York named Hurricane Schwartz that used to give nor’easters and winter storms names. One problem meteorologists have with this though is that Nor’easters and blizzards don’t form in stages like tropical entities do. They are also hard to predict in the sense that a winter storm might not always bring snow. Sometimes, temperatures will be warm enough for the precipitation to come down as rain instead.
Sandy’s Potential Visit Brings Back Memories Of October Snowstorm
The past two years have brought all kinds of extreme weather to New Jersey. From powerful snowstorms to floods and hurricanes to rare weather events, the Garden State has seen it all. Following a summer of numerous severe weather events, Jersey residents are preparing for what could be another historic October storm. Around this time last year, a rare snowstorm developed in New Jersey. The storm knocked out power for days in some parts of the Garden State. Snowfall amounts ranged from a few inches to over a foot.
This storm was a rare snowstorm for Jersey. It was the first significant snowstorm in the month of October in my lifetime. The storm brought 3.5 inches to South Plainfield and other locales in Northern Middlesex County, and caused power outages in the northern portion of South Plainfield, which left traffic lights out, slushy and icy unplowed roads, and houses in the dark and cold into the following morning. Further north in places such as Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties, snowfall amounts were much higher, and left many residents in those places without power for a number of days to over a week.
If Sandy does happen to come up into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast like some of the computer models have been suggesting, it will be a much different, but still a very rare and powerful storm. The storm has been projected to become a weather system along the lines of the 1991 Perfect Storm, a hybrid storm combining the elements of a tropical storm or hurricane with that of a nor’easter. What is left of Sandy is expected to bring a lot of rain, wind, waves, and surge into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The storm could end up being more damaging and devastating than Hurricane Irene was. A potentially very large and powerful storm, Sandy could make a harder hit on Jersey since it forecast to make a left turn into the Mid-Atlantic coast from Delaware Bay to the Jersey Shore.
The path into Delaware Bay and the Jersey Shore could bring the brunt of this hybrid storm system into the Garden State, and at a different angle than Hurricane Irene. The wind field with this storm will also be larger, and its effects could be longer lasting since it will track westward, and move fairly slowly. The slow motion will compound the effects of the wind as well as produce significant rainfall. The good thing is that there hasn’t been as much rain this month, or even this year for that matter. Less than three inches of rain has fallen so far this month. Rainfall amounts with Irene here in Northwestern New Jersey were only about five inches. However, prior to the storm, there was another 10 inches of rain in August 2011. As a matter of fact, the last six months of 2011 had more rainfall than the year to date total in 2012.
Last year’s October snowstorm was an example of how the weather has become wild and extreme here in the Garden State since September 2010. Over the last 25 months, we have seen all kinds of severe weather from hurricanes to blizzards to tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, derechos, torrential rains, and even stretches of dry weather and brush fires. A visit from Sandy early next week would be just another difficult blow for New Jersey residents to endure.
Hurricane Sandy Highlights Big Month In Atlantic
Statistically speaking, the Atlantic Hurricane Season usually begins to ramp down in late October, but not this year. Over just the past few days, there have been two named storms with one of them becoming a strong hurricane. The development of Sandy and Tony have capped what has been quite an active October for the Tropical Atlantic. With six days left in the month, there have been five named storms and two hurricanes.
While October does have a second peak in tropical activity towards the middle of the month, the chances of storms and hurricanes does diminish. The peak of the season usually occurs in August and September, and perhaps the first week or so of October. The 2012 season has been an unusual one though with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes, but only one major hurricane. Looking deeper into the numbers, August had 8 named storms and 5 hurricanes. September only had two named storms and hurricanes with one of them being the only major storm of the year in Michael.
This October was more active than September was with Rafael and Sandy being the month’s hurricanes. Most of the storms this month have been benign such as Oscar, Patty, and Tony. Rafael did go through the Windward Islands with a blow, and came close to Bermuda. Sandy could make this a memorable October by tropical standards if she lives up to her potential. Not since the Perfect Storm in 1991, has there been such a powerful storm to threaten the Northeast. Keep in mind that the Perfect Storm also didn’t make landfall anywhere. Accompanied by astronomical high tides, an approaching cold front, and a strong dip in the jet stream, what is left of Sandy could make an indelible mark on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast for years to come. The 2012 season has been unusual throughout with October only being the latest example.
Despite being an unusually quiet month by Atlantic tropical standards, September did produce Hurricane Nadine, which was one of the longest lasting storms on record at 23 days. In that same month, Michael became the strongest storm of the season at minimal Category Three intensity with 115 mile per hour winds, the weakest major hurricane in a season since 1994. Among those eight storms and five hurricanes in August was Hurricane Isaac, the first landfalling hurricane in the United States since Hurricane Ike in 2010. Isaac was also unique in the sense that it was a powerful Category One storm with a minimum central pressure on the order of a strong Category Two system. Isaac ended up hitting the extreme southern parishes of Louisiana harder than the devastating Hurricane Katrina did. The 2012 season was supposed to be average to below average. Instead, it has defied the odds, and provided some interesting trivia.
The season began prematurely with two storms in late May, and two more in the first month of the season for four by the end of June. Things appeared to return to normal with none in July, which was still unusual in the sense that during this active stretch from 1995 until now, there always has been some sort of storm to develop in July. However, by the end of August, there was the second fastest J and L storms. Then, there was a quiet September followed by a busy October. For a while, the 2012 season challenged the historic 2005 season in terms of the number of named storms. It has equaled the mark for named storms, and almost has the same number of hurricanes as the 1995 season did.
There is still a bit more than a month left in this unusual season. Could more surprises be on the way? With how this season has gone so far, I wouldn’t be startled in the least if more were to occur.
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