1. A Northbound Hurricane
Hurricane Sandy is moving very slowly toward the north-northeast and is expected to continue its current path parallel to the Carolinas over the weekend, forecasters say. At some point, probably Monday, Sandy will begin to turn back toward the coast and eventually make landfall near Delaware or New Jersey.
At some point before or after landfall, it’s expected to become what’s known as an extratropical storm. Unlike a tropical system like a hurricane, which gets its power from warm ocean waters, extratropical systems are driven by temperature contrasts in the atmosphere. During its transition from tropical to extratropical,
Sandy could be getting energy from both sources, helping to develop it even further. Although Sandy is currently a hurricane, it’s important not to focus too much on its official category or its precise path. It’s a massive system that will affect a huge swath of the East Coast, regardless of exactly where it hits or its precise wind speed.
2. Early Winter Storm
As part of Sandy’s transition to an extratropical storm, it is expected to merge with a wintry system from the west, at which point it will become the powerful superstorm that has forecasters and officials all along the Eastern Seaboard on edge. Winds from that western system, which left snow in Kila, Mont. shown above, are what will help pull Sandy back toward the U.S. mainland from the open waters of the Atlantic.
3. Arctic Air From the North
Frigid air coming south from Canada also is expected to get ingested into Sandy, which will only help to strengthen the storm further and create winter storm conditions for some in the storm’s path.
Officials are bracing for the worst: nearly a foot of rain, high winds and up to 2 feet of snow in the highest parts of the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to North Carolina.
4. High Tides Could Worsen Flooding
Further complicating matters is the possibility for dangerous storm surges: A full moon means the tides will be higher than usual, which will make it easier for the storm’s powerful winds to push water into low-lying areas. That, coupled with the very long periods of battering waves along some parts of the shore due to the immense size of Sandy and the threat of several inches of rain, has officials working to shore up flood and coastal defenses.
5. Snow-Wind Combo Increases Risk for Power Outages
Storms in recent years have left hundreds of thousands of people along the East Coast without power, sometimes for days at a time. Utilities have been bringing in extra crews and lining up tree trimmers so they’re prepared, and with good reason.
The superstorm brings two possibilities for knocking out electricity. For one, hurricane-force winds of at 74 mph could send tree branches into power lines, or even topple entire trees and power poles. Those left standing could succumb to snow, which could weigh down still-leafy branches enough to also topple trees.
Millions of people are expected to lose power at some point during Sandy and many of those folks will likely not have power restored for many days.