Friday, 11:35 a.m.
The massive cleanup effort continues across the mid-Atlantic and southern New England today in the wake of the devastation left behind by Sandy. In some places, the power will be out another week or more as power crews have the unenviable task of trying to clear their way to all of the downed poles and wires and get order restored. Cleaning up all of the debris will take even longer. And repairing all of the homes, businesses, boardwalks, roads and everything else much, much longer. Every time I see a new set of photos or a video of ravaged areas, I get sick to my stomach.
There are so many things that stand out when I view these images. One of them is the coastline that has literally been rearranged. To be more specific, the protective sand dunes are largely gone. Not compromised, not affected, just plain GONE. Thanks to Craig Allen for posting pictures of Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach and the Ocean Parkway that were hammered by the storm. The story there is far too common for coastal areas that count on that barrier of protection during winter storms.
Which leads me to a growing concern about the one next week. I will readily admit I initially thought the storm would form but develop far enough away from the coast so as to impact mostly New England, but that thinking is clearly in error. If this storm develops as now seems likely, it would probably bring gusty winds to the mid-Atlantic coast as well as southern and eastern New England. There are some caveats to that, but, for all practical purposes, what would normally be a run-of-the-mill nor'easter with some wind and rain could be a significant problem with overwash and more beach erosion.
There are a couple of things that may help with this. For one, it won't have a hurricane running into it. In other words, this storm won't have a head start on churning up the water and producing 25- to 30-foot waves over the open ocean. For another, we'll be between the full moon and the new moon next week, so there won't be that added range to the top end of the tide cycle. And three, I don't see anywhere near the same pressure difference between this developing storm off the coast or any high pressure area surrounding it. It looks like the strongest high will be over New England Tuesday, maybe a 1028mb high. The storm will gradually deepen Tuesday night and Wednesday and could get to 988mb near the southern New England coast. That's a 40mb difference - less than half what was seen with Sandy, but plenty to generate strong winds. Here's a snapshot of what that might look like Wednesday morning:
That's from the Canadian model, which tries to split this into two lows Wednesday. Regardless, you get the picture. North of the storm, there will be a growing wind and tightening pressure gradient, and that means tide could be a few feet above normal. If this were a normal storm without Sandy having roared through a week ago, it would cause some minor tidal flooding, rain, wind and then it would be over, end of story. But it comes right on the heels of Sandy. Without the protection of those dunes.
Now, in the end, it may not cause a lot of problems, especially in light of what just happened, but ANY problems with flooding, and winds and waves lapping at structures that have already taken a beating and may be compromised, is just plain unwelcome.
This will largely be a rain storm. There can be some snow in the mountains of North Carolina, but as the storm reorganizes along the Southeast coast, it may leave the central Appalachians high and dry. There can be some snow in the high ground of western New England, but it's more of a concern west of there, west of the Hudson and into the higher ground of eastern Pennsylvania should the storm hug the coast long enough.
Following the storm, a couple more days of cold weather followed by some warming next weekend.
Two systems will delay the onset of warm weather in the Ohio Valley and the East over the next week or so, but then it should get warm all across the country heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
A turn to much colder air over the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states will set the stage for a rain and snow storm later this weekend before it turns much warmer later next week.
It's warm now, but will turn much colder this weekend, with a storm threat later Saturday into Sunday. Warmth will return by the second half of next week.
Though it is cold now east of the Mississippi, with a couple of opportunities for snow into the weekend, a blast of warmth is due for much of the country east of the Rockies next week.
Warm air will once again surge eastward from the Plains to the East Coast this weekend and early next week. A strong storm next Tuesday and Wednesday will then be followed by colder air later next week.
A storm in Southeast Texas will generate severe thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight, and some wet snow on its western flank as it heads into the Ohio Valley tomorrow.