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Hurricane Sandy forecast to hit just south of New England

Posted by David Epstein  October 25, 2012 02:00 PM

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As of early afternoon our latest computer guidance takes the hurricane into the mid-Atlantic region somewhere around New York City early next week. If this path holds, this would put southern New England on the side of the storm that would produce very strong east winds. This would cause moderate to major damage along east facing beaches and shoreline. You might think that the storm hitting south of New England means we won't see the worst of the weather however, on that path we get torrential rain, strong winds and a very strong storm surge. Right now, that east wind battering the coast gives me the most concern.
I will be tweeting frequent updates about the storm on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at
Sandy will continue to parallel the East Coast and will affect the Bahamas as a strong hurricane. Florida and southern Georgia, further away, will feel tropical storm force strength wind from the storm. Basically, heavy rain, winds and a rough seas will be the rule for the next twenty four hours in that part of the country.
Sandy 11am.gif

Hurricane Sandy appears that it will hold its tropical characteristics as it comes onshore along the northeast coast early next week. Sometimes, these storms morph into something that is part tropical and part non-tropical. Storms that originate in colder climates are called cold core storms. Tropical storms, as they move into colder water, often transition into a cold core storm. We still debate the "perfect storm" from 1991 and whether that should have been named a hurricane and what type of storm it actually was in the Atlantic.
Sandy 2pm.JPG
This morning, both the European and American models are coming into better agreement about the eventual track of Sandy. They take the storm into the area around New York City, give or take a few hundred miles. Over the next day or two the track will become even better refined. Right now, some of the models are forecasting 5-10" of rain from this storm. That heavy rain could move into our area or stay just south. Again, we won't be able to nail this all down for another day or two.

The models
Until the storm hits you will hear a lot and see maps that show something called the 'spaghetti' plots. These plots show a map, like the one below with several different lines on it. Each line is a different model or prediction. You want to notice where most of the lines converge or trend over time to make a forecast. I explain the plots to my students like this. It's like asking who will win the world series in April, August and October. The closer you get to the actual event the more the lines converge on one solution. The closer we get to Sunday and Monday the more these plots are going to show one consensus forecast. Below is one of the latest maps showing several of the models.

spaghetti Thursday Sandy.gif
Here in the United States, one of our models, the Global Forecasting System or GFS is run nearly two dozen different ways to get even more tracks. This is called ensemble forecasting when you basically use one model tweaked several different ways. In some ways this is what Cooks Magazine does when they test a recipe for something like brownies. They make slight variations in temperature, type of butter etc. and see how it all turns out. ensemble thursday.pngAs of this morning, the GFS model has very good agreement with itself. Eventually, all the ensemble members move the storm into New England. You can see this in the map showing all the lines ending up somewhere in the six state region.

Jet Stream
In the end, it's the jet stream that will carry the storm. The map below shows the forecast position of the jet Monday. Notice the block up over the northern part of the Atlantic. This is like a traffic jam preventing the storm from moving eastward like normal. While this block is in place the jet stream is coming along and may capture the storm and move it northward. The exact configuration of the jet will determine exactly how the storm moves. It could go into the mid-Atlantic region or come into New England. It still also may move under the block and curve away. That scenario is looking less likely as of this writing.

Past History
We can get some idea of how Sandy will move by looking at some past storms that have developed in that region. There are two storms that come to mind that affected our area that formed in the Cuba/Jamaica corridor.Hurricane-Hazel.gif The great gale of 1878 and hurricane Hazel in 1954 both impacted New England and caused significant damage. Great Gale of 1878.png Sandy will take its own path but it is worth noting where other storms have gone this time of year.

At the very least New England is going to clouds increase Sunday and then drizzle and light rain will ensue. Monday into Tuesday will be the peak of the storm before we clear out Wednesday. Worst case scenario is that the coast experiences winds gusting to hurricane force, inland areas have 3-6" of rain causing some flooding and power outages become widespread. Coastal beach erosion and even damage could be a problem as well. For now, if you have a boat still in the water it might be prudent to get it out of the water and I would spend time this weekend cleaning out the gutters. Remember, if you lose power it could be out for days, don't spend money stocking up on perishables.

Gardening this week
There are many plants that bloom in the fall. Toad lily, asters, mums, joe pye weed, roses and many others wait or continue blooming into late fall. It's a good idea to have a garden with plants that bloom in all different season. When I design my gardens I select plants that bloom from February to November here in the northeast. Additionally, but adding some special evergreens, I can bring color to the garden all year long.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog or any others. Please follow me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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