I've heard from mariners and coastal residents that they are making early preparations for the equivalent of a very strong nor'easter or hurricane-like blow in the Sunday to Tuesday timeframe, and I'm glad to see those who need to make decisions early are acting on the information. There is a sick pleasure in the world of meteorological forecasting to be the one who "called it" right - and while that's a great practice to wait for sufficient data when talking about 2" or 12" of snow at 5 days out - a practice I subscribe to with winter storms - it's a whole other beast when talking about the difference between a miss or one of the top worst wind and wave events in the last two decades. Far better it is to help the public understand the potential exists for the latter, so preparations can be made, and acknowledge honestly that there is, of course, still uncertainty. We've been watching weather forecasts long enough that we all KNOW there is uncertainty - so, tell me what I need to know.
What you need to know today is: yes, uncertainty is inherent in a medium-range forecast, and remains in this one, but that uncertainty has diminished greatly in the last several days. Tuesday I put the chance of strong impact to New England and the Northeast at either side of 65%. Today I'm raising that to 70%. These are not arbitrary numbers - on the contrary, they are derived from the amount of agreement among our available guidance and the expected weather and jet stream pattern. Yes, there is room for this to change...no, I'm not guaranteeing you a devastating blow...but if the worst-case scenario DOES play out, and especially coastal interests have not started preparing now, it's time to kick into gear. It is STILL possible Sandy actually hooks inland somewhere into the Mid-Atlantic - not a likely scenario, but not impossible - so Mid-Atlantic residents should follow this very closely, as well.
Here's where we stand:
- Coastal interests and Marine community from Mid-Atlantic through New England - but especially New England - should CONTINUE making preparations for a substantial storm strike with generally easterly wind Sunday night through Tuesday. Some have already been pulling boats and docks - most who are, said they were planning on doing so at the start of November, anyway, so better to do it now, be safe and only lose a week or two of water time.
- Coastal residents and businesses should prepare for the potential of a severe coastal flood event over several tide cycles Monday and Tuesday - perhaps some amount of coastal flooding as soon as Sunday night. Tides will be astronomically high, winds will be strong onshore through the period. Ensure you have a method of protecting valuable items and documents in case you need to execute that method if the storm comes to bear.
- Coastal residents should ensure you have supplies necessary to protect your home. This does include plywood for windows for immediate coastal residences. Again, this is not a time to actually board up with several days to go, but there's nothing wrong with having supplies on hand in case you need to, particularly if you are vulnerable to flying rocks/shells when battering waves arive.
- Those vulnerable to beach erosion should have a plan. Plum Island comes to mind, but is not the only community vulnerable to substantial beach erosion. This may be one of the most significant beach erosion events for the New England coast in at least two decades (since "Pefect Storm," Halloween 1991), but it is too early to say for sure, or precisely what areas would be impacted greatest by this threat.
- Mariners should not plan any fishing trips early next week, and should be back safely in port by Saturday Evening. Wind and waves will gradually build Saturday night, but will probably exceed nine feet by Sunday midday on New England's offshore waters, and will peak at over 30' - higher if a worst-case scenario verifies.
- DPW Crews and Municipalities across the Northeast and New England should ensure storm drains are cleared in time for a Sunday arrival of showers, ramping up to a heavier rain Monday and Tuesday, still some rain lingering Wednesday. Over two inches of rain is likely, and a worst case scenario would bring greater than 4" of rain to some communities.
- The rest of us...can continue to watch and have the luxury of enjoying the next few days of warm, nice weather, for now. In the back of your mind, you can start thinking about the potential for extended power outages lasting several days, and having water, supplies, etc., on hand, but given the lingering uncertainty, there is no need to go crazy at this point. We will wait and see.
I hope it's clear through these tips that my focus right now is on our coastal community - places where it truly does take days to get tasks done properly, and some have already begun, which I'm delighted to hear. These events are much easier to bear when prepared for properly in advance, and over the course of my career, though I've had folks upset about snow that never came, I truly have never received a complaint from a coastal resident who made casual but important preps in advance if a storm didn't pan out.
For those dying for more meteorological meat about the reasoning behind my thinking, I'll work on getting more out later today, and always on both Facebook and Twitter. You can also reference my posts from both Tuesday and Monday for background thinking.