Joe Lundberg

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The Storm Debate Rages On

October 23, 2012; 9:26 AM ET

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

It's 24 hours later, and there's still no real change on the storm debate. There are two distinct camps that are set up right now, with variations within those camps. The first is for Sandy to creep northward and cross Jamaica, then eastern Cuba, then the southeastern Bahamas. Over the weekend, it continues a slow, steady course to the north and northeast and eventually is ushered gently out to sea by the approaching upper-level trough and cold front coming into the East this weekend. The other camp is for the storm to come northward, closer to the East Coast, then get wrapped inland somewhere in the mid-Atlantic or southern New England early next week.

As far as Sandy is concerned, the storm is getting better and better organized. The latest recon report estimated a surface pressure of 993mb, signs of a slowly deepening system. It is inching along on a wobbly northerly course and is likely to cross Jamaica tomorrow, then eastern Cuba sometime tomorrow night and early Thursday. The path from there becomes a little cloudier, but the separation of model forecasts into Sunday morning is becoming less and less.

For example, the latest NHC position estimate 12z Sunday morning is at 31.0 North, 70.5 West. If you look at the operational runs of the various models, they're not too far from that point. The GFS model is probably the farthest southeast of that position on its 0z run; the 6z a little farther west. The European model on its 0z run is more around 72 West, and about 27 or 28 North. The Navy Nogaps model is probably about 28 or so North, and 73 or 74 West, while the Canadian model is more around 29 North and about 70 West. The JMA has it over Hatteras at that time, Sunday morning, and it looks like the UKMET would have it somewhat farther east.

One of the keys to whether Sandy quietly slips away from the coast or gets drawn inland could well be the evolution of the upper-level ridge bringing the warmth to the eastern half of the country this week. Look at the projected 500mb forecast from the GFS model for tomorrow morning:

By the end of the day Thursday, that bulging ridge into Quebec appears ready to link up with the strong ridge over the North Atlantic. In the process, it cuts off an upper-level low near Newfoundland:

Saturday night, that same upper-level low is sliding eastward out of the way, making room for Sandy to come farther north, but the upper-level high is still in place off the coast of NewFoundland and Greenland:

The GFS and its ensembles are largely consistent with themselves in allowing Sandy to turn more to the east next week into the vacuum created by the departing upper-level low and keeping it a separate feature from the advancing upper-level trough:

The Canadian ensembles, however, suggest Sandy doesn't escape Saturday night into Sunday morning:

The European ensembles pretty much show the same thing.

So, what's the final verdict? It's still to be determined. However, given the weight of all I am seeing, and factoring in the tendency for the pattern to go to some level of extremes in the past several weeks, I lean more toward this coming inland, probably in the vicinity of Long Island or northern New Jersey. I will openly root against that solution, if for no other reason than of my great concern for such a scenario to result in an economic and human disaster on multiple levels. Forget how it would wipe out my ability to get outside and ride for a couple of days - utterly meaningless. I'd be much more worried about things like a storm surge coming at a Full Moon on Monday; gale and possibly hurricane-force winds along the coast, as well as inland over a very large area as the storm begins to unwind; torrential rains and inland flooding; power outages; downed trees; and the potential for a cementlike snow to cripple areas southwest of the storm, mainly in the high ground of the central Appalachians (essentially, northern West Virginia and Pennsylvania). No, I don't want to see all of that, as it would do considerable damage all around.

This type of thing is not without precedent. We can look back to the Perfect Storm in 1991 as a relatively recent example, but if you read the diaries of early Americans through the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as in more recent times, there are numerous entries of powerful early season storms of such a nature. And how about 1963? The latest hurricane - Ginny - to strike New England.

There's still much to look at and study in the coming days. One thing is certain. While it will be balmy into the weekend, next week will be much, much colder. Period.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran AccuWeather.com forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.