Monday 1 p.m.
Hurricane Sandy, with 90-mph winds, is heading for a landfall early this evening in southern New Jersey. As winds have increased, power outages have multiplied, and some neighborhoods are littered with branches and whole trees that have come down. However, the worst is yet to come. There will be more inundation of coastal communities, and areas where the beach erosion is so severe, details of the shoreline will have to be re-mapped even as record books are revised. Torrential rain is spreading westward through Pennsylvania and Maryland as the cloudbursts continue nearer the coast. All that and more will continue to be covered by our stories and videos.
Here is the storm as of late morning:
As the storm approached the coast, the pressure gradient (change of pressure with distance) tightened. This analysis is from noon. Near the coast, the lines should really be closer together because the surface pressure in the center of the storm is not captured by the data set used to make this map.
The map is an experimental National Weather Service model forecast of what the radar should look like along the East Coast at 4:30 p.m. today (Monday). Maps are generated for times only 15 minutes apart. Note how much the rain diminishes east of the storm center.
In the wake of a devastating storm like Sandy, the people who live in the affected area will have to deal with big disruptions in their lives. Little things we take for granted become major inconveniences, and some of them are potentially dangerous. These effects last long after the TV crews have departed and the sound bites are stored away for station promos. Some examples:
1. The hurricane-force gusts and flying debris cut thousands of power lines. These have to be restrung one at a time... and in cases where there is structural damage, there's nothing to string them to.
2. Many water systems are affected by contamination from flooding and seawater.
•Pollution from overtaxed storm sewers enters waterways, lakes and beach areas.
•In the hardest-hit areas, just the simple act of finding a bathroom and maintaining cleanliness becomes a major chore.
3. Without power, there is no refrigeration, and tons of food end up worthless. Restaurants without backup power have the same problem, and health officials have to monitor to make sure tainted food is not served.
• Sump pumps don't work and basements get flooded.
4. Thousands of carpets, drapes and articles of clothing received water damage; mold and mildew become widespread where the items can't be dried fast enough.
5. Where businesses have been destroyed, employment is disrupted as well as schedules for just about all other activities.
6. There's a day care nightmare. Parents have even more to do because of the cleanup and the efforts to secure food and water. At the same time, all the debris adds extra danger for children picking through the rubble and shattered shards of glass. The normal routine of calling friends and relatives or arranging for day care becomes a frustrating experience as phone service is disrupted.
For all these reasons and many more, effective disaster relief is so important. The next few days and weeks will bring trying times for those affected by Sandy.
Conserve cell phone power by lessening screen brightness and making shorter calls. If your phone is using other resources (such as searching for LTE service in an area not covered by LTE), turn them off.
7. The building trades and home improvement stores enjoy boom times as repairs get underway.
At midnight, the temperature will be in the 50s to low 60s from Virginia to Southern New England... more like late spring than Christmas time. Meanwhile, cold air will be advancing into western parts of Pennsylvania and New York, driven by strong winds. Earlier, this "cold" air mass looked like it would be more potent than it has turned out to be. This map shows the pressure pattern and some temperatures at 9 a.m.
Temperatures are likely to be in the 50s from Boston to Washington, D.C., during the nighttime hours of Christmas Eve. Dry chillier weather will arrive during Christmas Day, with dry weather lasting until at least Saturday.
This picture, which may or may not have been taken very recently, has a red dot near the North Pole. I cannot confirm that a red dot is there on the ground or that it means anything. We will monitor the area for any signs of activity and advise everyone to maintain the spirit of being nice and not naughty.
Rain with areas of fog should spread from Virginia to New Jersey Monday or Monday night then spread into New England for Tuesday. From the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania into the interior of New England this could at least start as snow or ice. The GFS for 1 AM New Year's Day looks interesting. See the map below. Whether or not this storm develops and where it will snow or rain cannot be precisely predicted two weeks in advance using these models.
This map is a spaghetti plot showing the upper air currents predicted by members of last night's GFS ensembles. In looking at each line, you see variations, but they all show the idea of major trough centered east of the middle of the country on Christmas Eve.
Any storm in the Northeast could be disruptive for travel, whether it turns out to be rain and fog or snow and ice. If a strong storm develops, the best chance for snow on Wednesday will be over the central or northern Great Lakes region. This map is last night's GFS operational solution for 7 p.m. ET Christmas Eve.