Tuesday, 11:30 A.M.
Wow! As expected, a truly historic storm, one for the ages. I have heard some described it as New York City and New Jersey's version of Katrina. Record flooding in some areas. Flooding rains. Destructive winds across much of New England into eastern North Carolina. Cementlike snow crushing the high ground of the central Appalachians. Superlatives just don't do it justice. The snapshots and videos and reports I've managed to look at are all jaw-dropping.
The storm roared inland through extreme South Jersey last evening with 90-mph winds and a pressure close to 28.00", or nearly 940mb, one of the strongest lows ever seen at this latitude. Millions remain without power this morning, and the economic impact of this will easily roll into the billions and may ultimately approach $100 billion in time. It will have lasting effects into next year for shore communities devastated by Sandy's roaring winds and epic storm surge, if not years into the future. No doubt the coastline will be different when aerial views can be matched with pre-Sandy images.
And the storm is still not over for many. It is still snowing hard in southwestern Pennsylvania down through the Maryland Panhandle and across much of West Virginia. Farther west, strong winds gusting to 50 and even 60 miles an hour are lashing the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley as the storm has moved into south-central Pennsylvania this morning. Weakened as it is, there's still a very tight and large pressure gradient between it and the surface high over northern Ontario. Lakeshore flood warnings remain in effect for southern Lake Michigan into tomorrow as the strong and persistent northerly winds pile the water up against the south shore of the Great Lake. At last check, I saw wave heights of 20 feet over the lake, and it may get worse this afternoon.
There are some who are 'disappointed' by this storm. While I am somewhat dumbfounded by those statements, I do realize that the impact of Sandy in some areas was not as great as had been forecast. Still, in the grand scheme of things, this storm did virtually everything the European model had been forecasting from the beginning of last week, more than a week ago. When others were latching on to the GFS model and buying the idea it would harmlessly sail out to sea even as late as Thursday, the evidence was steadily mounting throughout the week that this would truly be an historic storm, one the likes of which most of us have never seen in these parts. It delivered, and then some.
Perhaps the areas most impacted by Sandy in terms of wind and coastal flooding were from the Jersey coastline up into New England. That's where the highest winds were observed, with some gusts clocked over 90 miles an hour. And the storm surge combined with high and damaging waves submerged portions of the coastline and brought unprecedented flooding to the New York City area. From all the scattered accounts I've been able to gather, the coastal flooding in southeastern Connecticut last night was worse than last year, worse than Gloria, worse than Hazel and even worse than in the '38 Hurricane.
All that from a storm that was dubbed 'post tropical' at landfall, with nary a hurricane warning north of North Carolina in advance of the storm. If you watched the recon reports yesterday, as well as satellite images and buoy and ship reports, it was quite clear Sandy was not giving up its tropical characteristics without a fight. It regained an eye for a time during the late morning and early afternoon hours and maintained it to within a couple of hours of landfall, and that was easily discernable from satellite imagery as the storm traversed the Gulf Stream and picked up a little more of its usual fuel needed for deepening. Once Sandy made that turn to the northwest, it accelerated inland.
Another thing that has befuddled me is that some reports of an expectation of the waters from yesterday morning's high tides to escape to allow plenty of room for the evening high tide cycle. I can't really recall that ever happening before. When a storm is on final approach to landfall, the water from one high tide cycle is hemmed in by the increasing winds and the lowering of the surface pressure, and the subsequent high tide, for all intents and purposes, adds on to what was already in place. And that led directly to the historic coastal flooding north of the point of landfall.
Today, the storm is still going. Look at the latest surface pressure analysis:
The center of lowest pressure is now near Johnstown, Pa., and while the storm is now around 29.00", or approximately 985mb, it is still quite capable of generating a lot of wind, especially when you see the strength of the high in northern Ontario at 1032mb. Still almost a 50mb pressure difference between the two centers, which is why the strongest winds are now generally on the western flank of the storm, rather than to the east and northeast of the storm, as was the case yesterday. That means destructive winds and power outages are still of concern in and around the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, with still some heavy snow in store for mostly the high ground of West Virginia into extreme south-central and southwestern Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, east and northeast of the center, it's actually quite balmy! Temperatures are generally in the 60s across a large part of New England. In fact, where there's some sunshine, it's so mild and moist the air is getting increasingly unstable, resulting in bands of severe thunderstorms in Maine at this hour! How unusual is that? Unreal.
Once we get past early tonight, clearly the worst of Sandy will mercifully be over. In fact, the surface pressure gradient will rapidly decrease south and southeast of the storm tonight. Look at a closeup of the surface pressure forecast from the NAM for 6z Wednesday morning:
Aside from the Great Lakes and maybe Maine, most areas will have much, much lighter winds. The cleanup beginning in some areas today can really get going in earnest tomorrow as the weather settles down. Don't look for a lot of sunshine across the interior mid-Atlantic, northern and eastern New England and back into the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley and central Appalachians through Thursday. It will improve with time later Thursday and Friday.
In summary, a storm for the ages that delivered on its forecast, and then some, in MOST areas. It's not quite done yet packing a punch, but for most areas, the worst is behind them.
Heavy rain will soak drought-stricken areas of the mid-Atlantic over the next couple of days. Focus will then shift to Matthew and its potential to impact the Eastern Seaboard with more heavy rain later next week.
Summer has ended astronomically, but from a meteorological standpoint, there's plenty more warm weather heading into October from the Plains to the East.
Two strong cold fronts will charge across the country in the next week, eventually taking out the current hot and humid air mass from the Plains to the East Coast.
Over the next three days, hot and humid air will expand across the Mississippi Valley all the way to the East Coast. This will be followed by even more heat and humidity leading into the weekend.
Hermine will head across the Florida Panhandle late tonight, then cut across the coastal Carolinas and become a headache for the mid-Atlantic and southern New England over the Labor Day weekend. It will be followed by a heat wave later next week.
The heat and humidity will be erased from much of the East later this week, but warmth will spread from the Plains eastward over the weekend. The tropics could still play an important role in the weather along the Eastern Seaboard this weekend.