Folks out on the East coast of the United States and Canada are bracing themselves for what could be a remarkably severe storm, one that has been dubbed 'Frankenstorm' on account of its tripartite composition. The mega-storm is expected to make landfall early next week just as three major weather systems collide — including Hurricane Sandy which is currently ravaging parts of the Caribbean. Here's what you need to know about the storm of the year.
What is it?
The Frankenstorm, which got its name from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, will be the result of three major weather systems coming together.
The primary engine fueling the storm will be the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, a Category 2 storm that is currently making life miserable in Haiti and Cuba. Once it makes its way up the East coast, it will be reinvigorated by an early winter storm coming in from the West, and a blast of arctic air from the North.
And as if to add insult to injury, the storm will co-incide with a full moon — a time when tides are at their highest. Government meteorologists say there's a 90% chance that the storm will hit as predicted, up from 60% two days ago.
Speaking to the AP, Cisco noted, "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting." He worries that it could be historic in terms of its scope and the damage it may inflict.
Where and when will it hit?
The storm will have an impact on coastal areas ranging from Florida to the Canadian Maritime provinces, but the full force of its effects will be felt in New Jersey and New York City. It's expected to reach these areas on Sunday October 28, with the brunt of it hitting on Tuesday October 30.
And the storm could linger. Meteorologists are worried that it could stall and batter the area for as much as five to six days, not leaving until some time around November 1 or 2.
How serious will it be?
Extremely serious. This is an unprecedented storm for which the models are predicting some fairly serious effects. Coastal areas can expect gale-force winds, heavy rain, extreme tides, flooding, and possibly snow.
Experts predict it could cause as much as $1 billion in damages.
Writing in the Weather Underground blog, Jeff Masters had this to say:
Landfall Monday along the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday, as predicted by the ECMWF and NOGAPS models, would likely be a billion-dollar disaster. In this scenario, Sandy would be able to bring sustained winds near hurricane force over a wide stretch of heavily populated coast, causing massive power outages, as trees still in leaf fall and take out power lines. Sandy is expected to have tropical storm-force winds that extend out more than 300 miles from the center, which will drive a much larger storm surge than its winds would ordinarily suggest. The full moon is on Monday, which means astronomical tides will be at their peak for the month, increasing potential storm surge flooding. Fresh water flooding from heavy rains would also be a huge concern. Given the ECMWF's consistent handling of Sandy, I believe this mid-Atlantic scenario has a higher probability of occurring than the Northeast U.S. scenario. However, it is likely that the models are overdoing the strength of Sandy at landfall. The models have trouble handling the transition from tropical storm to extratropical storm in these type of situations, and I expect that the 940 mb central pressure of Sandy predicted at landfall Monday in Delaware by the ECMWF model is substantially overdone.
And indeed, many districts are already preparing.
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has opened an emergency situation room and activated its coast storm plan. Jersey Central Power & Light has told its employees to prepare for extended shifts. Utilities have been in contact with out-of-state work crews in anticipation of needing assistance, and canceling employees' days off. And President Barack Obama is receiving regular updates.
How can I keep track?
If you're in an area scheduled to get hit, stay tuned to your local weather forecasts. And you might just want to put some fresh batteries in your transistor radio in case the power goes out. You can also follow updates at the National Weather Service website or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Credit: NOAA/National Hurricane Center.