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Forecast Details on Sandy

Springfield, Mass (WGGB) The latest from the National Hurricane Center has “Sandy” fluctuating between a strong tropical storm and minimal hurricane strength today.  The most recent run of the hurricane track computer models are clustering the forecast track into a tighter zone now – mainly between southern Delaware north to northern New Jersey, essentially making landfall somewhere along the coast of New Jersey – sometime Monday night.

Around here, our weather will be relatively tranquil until Monday when the significant rain and increasing winds move in.  So enjoy the quiet of the weekend ahead though not much in the way of sun will be peeking through.  Also enjoy what should be the last few days of the foliage season as it will come to a rather abrupt halt on Monday with the rain and strong winds!

“Sandy” Impacts for western Massachusetts:  We’re more and more confident that with a track to our south and then southwest Sandy will have a larger impact away from our area.  It should be emphasized that we are still three more days away from the core of Sandy approaching the Northeast – which means the forecast track and intensity of Sandy is still certainly subject to change – especially when a tropical storm morphs into a non-tropical ocean storm/nor’easter as computer guidance can struggle trying to handle this transition and leads to forecast errors!  And as the storm makes this transition, its wind field will expand even more, so focusing on the exact path of the storm and where it makes landfall will become much less important.  That being said, here are some of the impacts from the storm:

Timing:  The “height” of the storm will be from late Monday into Tuesday morning.  This is when we have our best chance of seeing damaging winds.

Wind:  Top sustained winds of 20-45 mph are quiet possible during the time-frame mentioned above.  With leaves still on many trees, any wind speeds over 40 mph will start to bring down tree limbs and trees as well as power lines.  Wind gusts between 40-60 mph are possible as well – with the high end of that range mainly in east-facing higher terrain locations of the Berkshires and hill-towns where the most widespread power loss is expected.

Rain:  Rain amounts are currently coming in between 1-4″ in western Massachusetts on Monday and Tuesday with less significant showers or rain possible each day Wednesday into Friday.  That amount of rain shouldn’t cause any significant river flooding but certainly could cause some minor street and stream flooding.  This rainfall forecast is subject to change but the heaviest rainfall typically occurs to the west and south of the tropical (or hybrid) systems track and the computer forecast data supports that this time as well.  If the track were to shift farther north then we’d see more rain and a higher threat of basement and significant river flooding – more in line with what “Irene” brought to western New England last year.  But at this point, that is not in the cards.  Catastrophic/historic flooding could very well be realized though along east-facing slopes of the Appalachians from northern Virgina into the Poconos and Catskills off to our southwest!

Storm Surge:  Because tides will already be astronomically high over the next few days with the full moon, at times of high tide with this storm could bring moderate to major coastal flooding to south and east-facing beaches of southern New England.  The tides, combined with the storm surge topped by large, battering waves means that at times of high tide, significant tidal flooding, beach erosion and even storm surge damage to homes and structures will occur.  The closer the core of “Sandy” tracks to us and the farther north along the Mid-Atlantic coast she makes landfall Monday night means the more storm surge flooding will occur along the beaches of southern and eastern New England.  Damage could certainly rival some of the worst coastal storms seen in New England  – including the Blizzard of ’78.  Wind speeds and associated wind damage (power loss) should be more significant along coastal areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts (particularly the Cape and Islands!) than inland locations too.

Stay tuned!

Rick Sluben


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