Sandy Leaves Coast Vulnerable to Nor'easters

By , Senior Meteorologist
November 2, 2012; 4:19 AM ET
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Hundreds of miles of sand along the Atlantic coast have been greatly displaced during Sandy, leaving some coastal communities vulnerable to future storms.

Storm surge and waves from Sandy have damaged or destroyed protective dunes and sea walls along portions of the Atlantic Seaboard.

Dunes act as a natural buffer from the ocean, during high astronomical tides and storm waves.

A lack of dunes, or damaged sea walls could lead to lowland flooding inland of the coast, if anything other than an average nor'easter were to come around. (There is no strict wind, precipitation or pressure criteria for a nor'easter, but generally this is a storm that tracks northward or northeastward along the Atlantic coast of the U.S., producing a partial wind component from the ocean; a northeasterly wind).

While some winters bring very few storms to the Atlantic coast, during the average winter, there are a half dozen to a dozen nor'easters that bring some rain, snow and wind causing minor disruptions or inconveniences.

Of these, a couple storms tend to pack a stronger punch during a typical winter. It is primarily these storms which meteorologists are concerned about bringing major impact to the now very vulnerable coastline.

The lack of a blocking pattern, or bucking of steering winds high in the atmosphere, last winter greatly limited the amount of nor'easters, take away the Halloween Weekend storm.

According to Paul Pastelok, Expert Senior Meteorologist and head of's Long Range Forecasting, "We are likely to have a blocking pattern for at least part of the upcoming winter, which could lead to more coastal storms in general, when compared to last winter, and an opportunity for a couple of potent nor'easters."

Lingering warm water along the Atlantic coast could play a role, by amplifying the intensity of some of the storms. Setting aside rain versus snow, stronger storms bring more wind.

While the exact number, track and timing of these storms is beyond present day forecasting ability, the ingredients are there for strong winds with some of the storms. And storms moving up along the coast tend to bring a period of onshore winds. meteorologists are monitoring a potential storm for the middle of next week.

At this time, the storm does not appear to be a severe nor'easter, but it may bring a period of rain, wind and perhaps some snow to portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England.

Winter is coming, of course, but indications are this winter will not be so mild-mannered as last winter in terms of the number of storms and their intensity along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Prompt repair of dunes and sea barriers could be essential to minimize risk of future damage and impact as these storms come calling this winter.


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