At first glance, it would appear that Sandy is not the threat it used to be. It is a minimal hurricane, and looks less organized on satellite. DO NOT BE FOOLED! Sandy is already taking on some extratropical characteristics, and the lack of a traditional tropical appearance (symmetric eye, eyewall, etc) does not mean it’s any less of a risk.
As of 11 a.m., the center is located about 355 miles southeast of Charleston, SC and the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center gives it an intensity of 75 mph, and a pressure of 958 mb, which is considerably lower than last night.
It is possible that Sandy could even completely lose its status as a tropical storm or hurricane, and still be a terrible hybrid/extratropical storm with the same destructive power as a major hurricane. Do not focus on what category it is and make plans based on that. Sandy is still forecast to intensify as it heads north and interacts with energy from the approaching trough and front (through a process called “baroclinic enhancement”).
The current size is really big, and it’s getting bigger. Tropical storm force winds now reach 450 miles out from the center, so at its forward speed of 9 mph, places could begin experiencing tropical storm conditions 45+ hours prior to the arrival of the center. That has serious implications for preparations, because it becomes difficult and dangerous to do outdoor work in tropical storm conditions. Today is the day to wrap up preparations.
A state of emergency has been declared in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, New Jersey and Connecticut. New Jersey has also begun limited coastal evacuations including the southern barrier islands. Delaware is right behind if nothing changes. Additional evacuations and state of emergency issuances are likely today.
Related: Radar loops of Sandy
The infrastructure (power, roadways, trains, busses, airlines) in these states is preparing for the storm as best they can and preparing customers for the anticipated cancellations in the next few days.
Models continue to agree on a very intense storm coming ashore somewhere between the Delmarva peninsula and Rhode Island (the greatest concentration of models as well as the official NHC forecast are around New Jersey), but locations hundreds of miles away will feel its effects, so don’t focus too much on the exact track.
* Brian McNoldy is a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.