Bill Read's Blog: Sandy heads toward northeastern U.S.

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HOUSTON - Hurricane Sandy will be leaving the Bahamas today and will begin a northeast track parallel to the southeast U.S. coast through Sunday.  Heavy surf and beach erosion will continue to plague the coast from Florida through the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's what Sandy is expected to do after passing Cape Hatteras that has our attention!

I have the forecast track from 5 a.m. overlaid on a satellite picture (above).  It shows Sandy taking an unprecedented turn back to the northwest Sunday night or Monday morning, bringing it inland over the mid Atlantic region as a hurricane on Tuesday.  The dashed circle represents an area of much warmer than normal ocean water in the Gulf Stream.  As Sandy crosses this area it will get added energy and it is this factor that has forecasters thinking Sandy could still be at least partially tropical upon reaching the coast.  The other key player in this scenario is a winter type storm system moving through the western and central U.S. the next two days.  The merging of this feature and Sandy Monday and Tuesday is why we are anticipating a potentially historic storm event for most of the Northeast next week.

Coastal impacts are potentially devastating, impacting almost all the coastline from Virginia to New England.  This storm is large, slow moving, and heading into, rather than parallel, the coast...highly unusual for storms on the east coast.  As such there will be several days of elevated tides and high waves, resulting in severe beach erosion and potentially record setting coastal flooding.  Aggravating the coastal flooding will be the timing of this event with full moon, which results in higher than normal high tides to begin with.

The huge area of tropical storm force winds points to large area power outages due to downed trees.  As the storm will be getting more energy from the merging winter storm, these strong winds could also extend far inland.  If this isn't enough, consider a large slow moving storm producing very heavy rain and flooding at the same time the cold air entering from the west causing heavy snow in the Appalachians.  We've got the ingredients for an unprecedented storm impacting a population area of 50,000,000 people.  Exactly where, when, and how bad Sandy will hit the Northeast remains to be determined as we get closer to the event.  Stay tuned!

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