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Monthly Archives: November 2012

That potential follow-up coastal storm that I mentioned on Friday — not a tropical system, and nowhere near as intense as Hurricane Sandy, but still a quite strong and colossally ill-timed Nor’easter — is looking more and more like a significant threat for later this week in some of the same areas hit hardest by Sandy. With each successive set of computer model runs, the storm looks stronger, and the likelihood of a hard coastal hit greater. Check out the latest European model, courtesy Ryan Maue:

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That’s the model’s forecast for Wednesday evening. Some models bring its strongest impacts ashore 12 hours earlier, Wednesday morning. (Mercifully, it appears that the storm will not move fast enough to seriously disrupt the election Tuesday.) Those orange and red zones on the map represent hurricane-force winds in the upper atmosphere. Down at the surface, the wind speeds won’t get that high — but we could potentially be looking at winds as high as 25-50+ mph along the coast, maybe with higher gusts. It depends on the exact track and intensity. (Some models now expect the system to “bomb out” and have its barometric pressure drop into the 970mb range, maybe even the high 960s. Certainly the low-to-mid 980s seems like a safe bet. The lower the pressure goes, the higher the winds can potentially get.)

And yes, there is a coastal flooding threat in New Jersey:

AccuWeather.com Meteorologists are concerned that a storm system riding up the East Coast could lead to a devastating water rise along the New Jersey coast on Tuesday Night into Wednesday. … [thanks] to a prolonged period of northeasterly, onshore winds for the New Jersey coastline.

A couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to this event. Had Hurricane Sandy not occurred earlier this week, we would be talking about a typical nor’easter with minor coastal flooding and a minor rise in water.

But, because of the destruction and erosion to the New Jersey coast that occurred, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno is concerned this could be a moderate to severe coastal flooding event.

The concern comes because of the fact that the protective dunes along the coast were basically wiped out from Atlantic City, N.J. on northward. This in turn, allows for any water rise to have free reign to flow into coastal communities with no barriers.

Though we aren’t at a time of astronomical high tide due to the phase of the moon, a more typical high tide is expected along the New Jersey coast after midnight Tuesday night and again Wednesday afternoon. And that could be the time when coastal flooding is at its worst.

Right now, if the track holds and the storm rides up the Eastern Seaboard and into southern New England, residents along the New Jersey coast can expect a water rise of 2-4 feet, which is on top of the normal tide cycles.

That means during high tide, Wednesday afternoon, water levels could reach upwards of 8-9 feet. While not as severe as during Hurricane Sandy, a rise like this could once again flood coastal communities with no dunes to protect it.

New York City should be in better shape because of the wind direction, which won’t pile water into New York Harbor the way Sandy did. That said, the rough weather will add insult to injury, particularly in Staten Island. Meanwhile, along the northern coast of Long Island and southern Connecticut, “minor coastal flooding” is possible. But the big coastal flooding concern will be for Sandy-devastated New Jersey.

Here is a National Weather Service graphic summarizing the storm’s potential impacts:

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The Weather Channel — which may name the system “Winter Storm Athena,” although they haven’t done so yet — adds:

If the low tracks close to the coast as our current forecast maps show, we will be dealing with a very windy, rainy and cold Wednesday into Thursday along the Northeast I-95 corridor. The strength and duration of the winds would be dictated by the exact track and strength of the low. The winds will kick up high surf along the coast that could lead to additional coastal flooding.

Across the interior Northeast or New England, there may be enough cold air for snow to go along with the windy conditions, particularly from the Poconos to the Catskills, Upstate New York and interior New England.

The snow zone could move further east, perhaps even impacting the major coastal cities, if the storm’s center is a bit further offshore, as some models suggest. On the bright side, that could lessen the wind/surge threat a bit, though regardless, this isn’t going to be pleasant for folks in its path, particularly those without power and whatnot.

Dr. Jeff Masters notes:

The storm is still four days away, and four-day forecasts of the path and intensity of Nor’easters usually have large errors. Nevertheless, residents and relief workers in the region hit by Sandy should anticipate the possibility of the arrival on Wednesday of a moderate-strength Nor’easter with heavy rain, accompanied by high winds capable of driving a 1-2 foot storm surge with battering waves. The surge and waves will potentially cause moderate to severe erosion on New Jersey coast, where Hurricane Sandy pulverized the protective beach dunes.

Joe Bastardi, on the premium WeatherBell site, calls the nor’easter a monster in its own right:

The Saga of Sandy continues as we are left with an exposed population in coastal areas with a powerful storm in its own right coming. Let me be clear, this is not tropical but will develop a warm core within the cold pool it’s embedded in … The development of the warm core in a colder pool means that there will be an area of high winds focused fairly close to the center with an eye-like structure likely off the mid atlantic coast by Wednesday night and Thursday morning. This is important since it means not only will there be fetch induced water backup but even a bit of the process that produces a “surge”…higher winds closer to the center rather than well removed.

Connecticut meteorologist Geoff Fox points out:

Unlike Hurricane Sandy there’s nothing really unusual about this storm. Weather patterns have begun their shift toward winter. This is a type of storm New England and the Northeast get often.

It just seems unfair it’s coming now!

Indeed.

After Sandy … Athena?

November 2nd, 2012 - 11:47 am

As you may have heard, it appears another coastal storm — more of a garden-variety November nor’easter this time — could impact the Northeast sometime in the middle of next week. Initially, this looked like an Election Day threat, but now it appears that it will hold off until Wednesday or Thursday before having its biggest impact. Here’s the current European model forecast for Wednesday evening, courtesy of Ryan Maue:

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The storm, which could be (unofficially) named “Athena” pursuant to The Weather Channel’s decision to name winter storms this year, will be nowhere near as intense or damaging as Sandy, but it could bring rain, snow and wind — perhaps as high as 40 mph — to an area that surely doesn’t need any more weather-related misery right now. Already it’s getting colder, making the widespread power outages more and more of a problem. They don’t need snow and wind, too.

As the National Weather Service’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center puts it:

THE GLOBAL NUMERICAL MODELS SUGGEST NO REST FOR THE WEARY ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, WITH…THE POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER SLOW-MOVING CYCLONE ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST COASTS. THE EAST COAST SYSTEM WOULD BE A MORE TYPICAL NOR’EASTER, WITH THE SAME SET OF [COMPUTER MOEDL] GUIDANCE SUPPORTING ITS GENESIS AT DAYS 5 AND 6 AS WITH THIS WEEK’S SPRAWLING HYBRID STORM… ANY SYSTEM THAT PRODUCES SIGNIFICANT WIND AND
PRECIPITATION IN THE MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST IS OF NOTE IN LIGHT OF THE CONTINUED RECOVERY FROM SANDY AND ITS POST-TROPICAL TRANSFORMATION.

The Wall Street Journal’s Weather Journal has more.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Hurricane Sandy continues to rise. It’s now at 98 in the U.S., with 40 of those in New York City. Hardest hit, it’s increasingly clear, is the “forgotten borough” of Staten Island where — even as the city’s failed mayor preps for an unnecessary marathon that should obviously be postponed — the situation remains dire:

The residents of Staten Island are pleading for help from elected officials, begging for gasoline, food and clothing three days after Sandy slammed the New York City borough.

“We’re going to die! We’re going to freeze! We got 90-year-old people!” Donna Solli told visiting officials. “You don’t understand. You gotta get your trucks down here on the corner now. It’s been three days!” …

One of the devastated neighborhoods was overwhelmed by a violent surge of water. Residents described a super-sized wave as high as 20 feet, with water rushing into the streets like rapids. …

Staten Island officials sounded increasingly desperate today, asking when supplies will arrive. They blasted the Red Cross for not being there when it counted.

“This is America, not a third world nation. We need food, we need clothing,” Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro said today. …

Molinaro urged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday to cancel Sunday’s New York City Marathon. The race’s staging area is on Staten Island and Molinaro said it would be “crazy, asinine,” to have the race after what has happened.

“My God. What we have here is terrible, a disaster,” Molinaro said Wednesday. “If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade. Now is the time to put your shoulder to the wheel. If they want to prepare for something, let them prepare for the election, not a marathon.”

“Do you realize how many police officers you need for a marathon?” he asked. “There are people looting stores on Midland Avenue. There is looting taking place in the homes on the South Shore that were destroyed. That is where we need the police.”

More here on the situation in Staten Island. Money quote: “We are in a post-apocalyptic state. … Looting, oil spills, floods, the whole city is underwater and there is no help on its way.” There’s also a reference to “hundreds still missing,” which is entirely unconfirmed, though it matches my fear that “the eventual death toll may shock some people.” I’m not sure we really have any idea yet how bad it is.

On the subject of looting, and human suffering in general (particularly in places like Staten Island and Hoboken, where the flood isn’t over yet) it’s always hard to separate the truth from the Fog of War — remember New Orleans in that regard — but a series of tweets last night by National Review‘s John Podhoretz expresses my sense of foreboding as well:

[More after the jump.]

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No time for a full storm aftermath update right now, but as I read this article from tomorrow’s New York Times about the devastation in New Jersey, I am struck by a parallel to Hurricane Katrina. New York is playing the role of New Orleans — the big city hogging all the attention (and, yes, this blog is as guilty as anyone) — while New Jersey plays the role of Mississippi, as the state where Sandy’s greatest impacts were felt, and the most severe destruction directly caused by the storm occurred. Excerpt from the Times:

Though the storm raged up the East Coast, it has become increasingly apparent that New Jersey took the brunt of it. Officials estimated that the state suffered many billions of dollars in property damage. About a quarter of the state’s population — more than two million people — remained without power on Wednesday, and more than 6,000 were still in shelters, state emergency officials said.

At least eight people died, and officials expressed deep concerns that the toll would rise as more searches of homes were carried out. …

One of the most pressing crises was unfolding here in Hoboken, a city of 50,000 that is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

“This is flooding like we’ve never seen,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, where National Guard troops on Wednesday were trying to rescue thousands of residents trapped by sewage-laced floodwaters.

“It filled the city like a bathtub,” she said.

There’s a lot of talk about power outages and transportation inconveniences, the latter mostly in NYC, and those are certainly important angles to this story. But let’s not forget that many lives have been lost — now 74 and counting nationwide — and more remain at stake (in New Jersey but also in Lower Manhattan and other places). That human toll has still got to be the headline nationally — not when the subway will be back online.

Speaking of which, I have some concerns about Staten Island, itself overshadowed within New York City by coverage of the other boroughs. Yet Staten Island is the borough with the highest proportion of low-lying “Zone A” territory, and I’m picking up a vague sense, bubbling up from Twitter, that the eventual death toll there may shock some people. (I have the same concern about New Jersey.) I don’t know this to be true, and I certainly hope I’m wrong — and also, I am cognizant of the need to take unconfirmed reports about possible death tolls with heapings of salt, recalling those “10,000 body bags” after Katrina. Still, I’m worried. I fear we don’t really have a good handle on Sandy’s human toll yet, and I worry that it may be worse than most of us suspect.