The Latest Sandy Update

Tropical Storm Sandy
kate-bilo-web Kate Bilo
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By Kate Bilo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It may be the end of October, but temperatures are feeling summerlike and we’ve got another “summertime” issue to be concerned about: trouble in the tropics and a potential threat to the Eastern seaboard.

It’s important to note that we are still almost a week out from Sandy’s greatest potential impacts to the east coast and the information from the computer models we use to track these storms is still in complete disagreement. Sandy was named late yesterday afternoon and continues to strengthen in the Caribbean Sea, and the storm’s most immediate impacts will be on Jamaica and Cuba, and then portions of Florida and the Bahamas.

However, this storm has already gained quite the buzz through the meteorological community and social media because of the insistence on one of our major computer forecast models, the European model, that this storm could develop into an historic storm for the eastern seaboard. The European model’s track now takes Sandy into southern New England on Tuesday morning as a very strong tropical system, and this track would impact the east coast and Philadelphia with flooding rain, strong battering winds and damaging waves along the coast.

The problem? The other main longer-range model we use, the GFS, disagrees completely with this assessment, insisting on Sandy being carried out to sea after making a close pass to North Carolina. This would mean virtually no impact for our area beyond the rough surf around the periphery of the storm, and the GFS continues to indicate a cool, unsettled but generally calm pattern through the early part of the week. The GFS also issues ensemble models, however, and a few more of these today edged toward the side of the Euro.

Another model, the Canadian, had been siding with the Euro all along, forecasting an epic storm along the eastern seaboard. However, the latest run of the Canadian model has now shifted its thinking toward the GFS solution, taking Sandy out to sea. Something interesting on the Canadian – as the main upper-level storm wedges into the east coast, a new coastal storm (perhaps drawing some of Sandy’s energy) forms to impact the northeast by Monday or Tuesday.

So basically, we don’t yet have any clear consensus on this storm – we have some ensemble models of the GFS trending back toward a coastal solution and one major model trending away from the coastal storm idea. Right now, our forecast appears to feature equal chances of three ideas: 1. a major coastal hit from Sandy, 2. a glancing blow from Sandy OR a new spinoff coastal storm developing and 3. no appreciable impact.

My current gut feeling is that we will experience some sort of coastal system or impact from Sandy early next week. But we haven’t seen excellent long-term consistency over the past several months from the European model, and I’m very hesitant to put too many eggs in that basket until we see how the storm behaves over the next few days and how it begins to interact with the advancing upper trough over the Northern Plains.

We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and bring you the latest updates (and our thoughts on the matter) as we move forward.

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