There’s no way to sugar coat today’s trends. Hurricane Sandy is going to pummel Connecticut with damaging winds and storm surge. The storm’s track has ticked north a bit from what earlier models were showing and now there’s a strong consensus in our models that Sandy will make landfall in central New Jersey or just south of New York City.
This track is highly unusual. The hurricane will continue losing longitude until it takes an abrupt left turn east of Norfolk, VA. Our major global models, the GFS and European, agree with a central New Jersey landfall. When coupled with the tropical models we are quite confident in this landfall location. It would not surprise me to see a swing of 30 miles in either direction, however.
I do not think major inland flooding will be an issue with this storm. I’m expecting the heaviest rain to remain to our west. What will be a major issue is the wind and storm surge potential.
Here is an easy to read summary of what I’m expecting from Sandy and when across Connecticut.
The storm surge has the potential to be catastrophic and record breaking in parts of the Sound. Here’s the raw output of a storm surge model based off the GFS model for Bridgeport.
This shows the potential for an 8.5 foot storm surge coinciding with high tide. The long duration of easterly gale force winds and the peak of the hurricane occurring at high tide makes this result possible. If a storm tide of near 16 feet MLLW verified in Bridgeport it would be catastrophic. The previous RECORD level in Bridgeport is 12.3ft from 1938. This would be over 3 feet above the record.
The National Weather Service thinks this is a possibility. At 11 p.m. they upped their forecast storm surge for Long Island Sound to 5-10 feet. Not good. We need to hope for a change here that either includes a faster/slower arrival so the worst surge “misses” astronomical high tide or a change in wind direction to mitigate the surge in the Sound. I’m very concerned this evening that we’ll see something dramatically worse than Irene that hasn’t been seen in decades. Even if you didn’t flood in Irene you may flood in Sandy. Evacuate if asked to do so!
The other concern is wind. This is the NAM MOS wind speed forecast which is only marginally useful. But a number that showed up here for the Bridgeport is something higher than I’ve ever seen before in Connecticut by a significant margin.
Model soundings show the potential for damaging wind gusts across the state. 60-80 m.p.h. wind gusts are possible with the highest gusts likely near the Sound. This will likely be stronger than Irene and likely of a much longer duration. While the intensity and duration will magnify the amount of damage possible, the relatively dry soil (compared to Irene) and leafless trees (in some cases) will mitigate the tree damage potential some. Either way this is a very serious situation and will likely result in widespread and extensive tree and power line damage.
Evacuations and final preparations will be done Sunday. Use common sense, be smart, and be prepared.