Three models, three different scenarios. Left: the European model simulates a very strong storm off the Delmarva coast Monday morning with very heavy rain in the central and northern mid-Atlantic – with a projected landfall near Cape May later that day. Right, top: The GFS model turns the storm into the Gulf of Maine Tuesday night with a projected landfall near Portland later that night. Right, bottom: the Canadian model shows the storm making landfall near Boston Wednesday morning. (Stormvistawxmodels.com and MeteoCenter, Canada)There is a consensus forming in weather forecast models that hurricane Sandy is unlikely to go out to sea. Instead, it more likely will merge with a strong fall cold front and transition into a powerhouse, possibly historic mid-latitude storm along the mid-Atlantic and/or Northeast coast Sunday through Wednesday.
The majority of models now take Sandy from its current position over Jamaica northward over the Bahamas before curving the storm towards either the mid-Atlantic or Northeast coast. Models disagree on where the storm will recurve and make landfall: simulations vary from the mid-Atlantic to Maine. There remains a chance, though diminishing, the storm will slide harmlessly out to sea.
GFS forecast ensemble members all simulate Sandy recurving towards the East Coast. (NOAA)The location of the storm’s landfall is very important for determining exactly what local impacts will be. Not everyone will experience significant or dangerous storm conditions. But suffice to say, coastal regions from the Carolinas through eastern Canada are likely to get battered by tremendous surf and face a real risk of significant to severe coastal flooding. This storm will be a slow mover meaning large waves may pound the coast for lengthy time periods. Not to mention, the wind and waves will raise the water level, bringing ashore a multiple foot storm surge in regions close to where the storm makes landfall (assuming it does so).
Making matters worse, the storm will coincide with a full moon Monday night, meaning elevated tides above normal levels. Astronomically high tides have played a key role in historic coastal flooding events along the East Coast, such as the Ash Wednesday storm of March, 1962.
Inland areas in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, from Richmond to Washington, D.C. to New York City to Boston, may also deal with significant storm impacts. Heavy rains are possible along with punishing winds. But the track is key in determining exactly where and we cannot say which areas, if any, will experience these conditions.