Posts Tagged ‘national hurricane center’

5 reasons why Hurricane Sandy may be a ‘superstorm’

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Mike Strobel loads sand bags for his business, Mike’s Carpet Connection, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Del. Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate coastal areas Sunday as big cities and small towns across the U.S. Northeast braced for the onslaught of a superstorm threatening some 60 million people along the most heavily populated corridor in the nation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

1. A NORTHBOUND HURRICANE

Hurricane Sandy is moving slowly toward the north-northeast but is expected to turn to the north and west later Sunday and Monday, forecasters say. At some point, it’s expected to become what’s known as an extratropical storm. Unlike a tropical system like a hurricane, which gets its power from warm ocean waters, extratropical systems are driven by temperature contrasts in the atmosphere.

Although Sandy is currently a hurricane, it’s important not to focus too much on its official category or its precise path (current models show it making landfall over New Jersey or Delaware sometime early Tuesday). It’s a massive system that will affect a huge swath of the eastern U.S., regardless of exactly where it hits or its precise wind speed. For example, tropical storm-force winds can be felt more than 500 miles from the storm’s center, according to the National Hurricane Center. It’s already caused some minor flooding in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and has prompted evacuations elsewhere. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has personnel and supplies spread as far west as the Ohio River Valley, said Craig Fugate, the agency’s director.

2. EARLY WINTER STORM

Sandy is expected to merge with a wintry system from the west, at which point it will become the powerful superstorm that has forecasters and officials across the eastern U.S. Winds from that system will pull Sandy back toward the U.S. mainland.

3. ARCTIC AIR FROM THE NORTH

Frigid air coming south from Canada also is expected to collide with Sandy and the wintry storm from the west, creating a megastorm that is expected to park over the northeast for days. The brunt of the storm could hit areas farther inland. Officials are bracing for the worst: nearly a foot of rain, high winds and up to 2 feet of snow.

4. HIGH TIDES COULD WORSEN FLOODING

Further complicating matters is the possibility for dangerous storm surges: A full moon means the tides will be higher than usual, which will make it easier for the storm’s powerful winds to push water into low-lying areas. That, coupled with the threat of several inches of rain, has officials working to shore up flood defenses.

Storm surge could reach anywhere from 2 to 11 feet along the northeastern coast, forecasters say. Inland river flooding also is a serious concern.

5. COMBO OF SNOW, WIND INCREASES RISK FOR WIDESPREAD POWER OUTAGES

Storms in recent years have left hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern U.S. without power, sometimes for days at a time. Utilities have been bringing in extra crews and lining up tree trimmers so they’re prepared, and with good reason. The superstorm brings two possibilities for knocking out electricity. For one, hurricane-force winds of at 74 mph could send tree branches into power lines, or even topple entire trees and power poles. Those left standing could succumb to snow, which could weigh down still-leafy branches enough to also topple trees.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tropical Storm Beryl approaches SE U.S. coast

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Tropical Storm Beryl was wrecking some Memorial Day weekend plans on Sunday, causing shoreline campers to pack up and head inland and leading to the cancellation of some events as the storm approached the southeastern U.S.

Beryl was still well offshore, but officials in Georgia and Florida were bracing for drenching rains and driving winds.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said late Sunday afternoon that Beryl would make landfall in several hours, and that tropical storm conditions were already near the coasts of northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia. Gusts are possible late Sunday and early Monday.

Beryl is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to parts, with some areas getting as much as 12 inches. Forecasters predict the storm surge and tide will cause some coastal flooding in northeastern Florida, Georgia and southern South Carolina.

Campers at Cumberland Island, Fla., which is reachable only by boat, were told to leave by 4:45 p.m. The island has a number of undeveloped beaches and forests popular with campers.

However, many people seemed determined to make the best of the soggy forecast.

At Greyfield Inn, a 19th-century mansion and the only private inn on Cumberland Island, the rooms were nearly full Sunday and everyone was planning to stay put through the wet weather, said Dawn Drake, who answered the phone at the inn’s office on the Florida coast.

In Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday’s jazz festival and Memorial Day ceremony were canceled. Workers were also out clearing tree limbs and debris that could be tossed about by the storm’s winds, which had reached 65 mph (105 kph) late Sunday afternoon. Winds had already knocked down tree limbs and power lines in parts of coastal Georgia, leaving hundreds without electricity.

But business was booming at the Red Dog Surf Shop in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where customers flocked to buy boards and wax in anticipation of the storm’s high waves. Officials all along the coast warned of rip currents, waves and high tides — all of which can be dangerous but also tend to attract adventurous surfers. The waters had already become dangerous in South Carolina, where rescuers were searching for a missing swimmer.

In Jacksonville Beach, Fernando Sola said business was booming at his Happy Faces Ice Cream truck. A bus- full of tourists from South Carolina had stopped to buy some ice cream and watch the storm waters churn.

“There are actually more people than on a normal day. It’s working out great,” said Sola, taking a few moments away from scooping ice cream to people lined up in front of his truck.

Steady, heavy winds kicked up sand across the area, forcing onlookers to shield themselves with towels.

Jessica Smith and Chester Jaheeb decided to brave the waters despite many warnings for people to stay out. Jaheeb, who was born in India but lives in Jacksonville, said he had never experienced a tropical storm before.

“We were at a certain part that started pulling us out, like the rip current, so we decided to come to shore,” said Smith, 17.

Taylor Anderson, captain of Jacksonville Beach’s American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps., said his lifeguards went body-surfing early Sunday to get acclimated with the surf conditions for what looked to be a long day. They also reviewed methods to determine where there might be riptides.

“They look for discoloration, the water moving paradoxically back to sea, and our lifeguards are trained to spot that, to keep people away from that, especially when the surf is this high. It makes those run-outs very dangerous. People can get sucked into those very fast, especially with the high surf and the high wind,” he said.

Though the weather was calm earlier Sunday, Anderson’s lifeguards began preparing other equipment in the morning. They packed sandbags in front of the entrances to the oceanfront Red Cross lifeguard station and pulled lifeguard stands off the beach.

As the winds picked up, officials hung two red flags, one warning of dangerous ocean conditions and the other notifying beachgoers that swimming was prohibited. But a lot of people ignored the warnings. By 3:30 p.m., Anderson said, lifeguards had made 150 “preventions,” meaning lifeguards ordered 150 people out of the water, though no rescues were necessary.

One of the people ordered out the water was Christian Siciliano, 14, of Jacksonville Beach. The surfer said the waves were too rough for surfing so he, his brother and a friend decided to go boogey-boarding.

“We just went out to, like, mess around,” Christian said. “It was really rough. I didn’t make it out too far, about 10 feet.”

He said the waves were so powerful it was difficult to paddle against them. Then lifeguards raced to the area and ordered him and the two other youths from the water.

Joe Murphy, a spokesman for the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla., said he was not seeing a flood of checkouts or people trying to get off the island. Outdoor dining had been moved inside and the hotel set up movies and family game activities, but the hotel had no plans to board up or move patio furniture inside.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Beryl was centered about 85 miles (137 kilometers) east-southeast of Jacksonville, and about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southeast of Brunswick, Ga. It was moving westward at 10 mph (16 kph). Current forecasts have it making landfall late Sunday or early Monday, though tropical storm conditions with heavy rain and wind were to reach shore hours sooner.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the entire Georgia coastline, as well as parts of Florida and South Carolina. Once Beryl comes ashore, it was expected to continue dumping rain over parts of Florida and Georgia on Monday before heading north and then out to sea. It was expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Monday night.

On Tybee Island, a barrier island not far from Savannah, water off the beaches was closed for swimming Sunday. Tybee Island fire Chief C.L. Sasser said winds of up to 42 mph were creating “horrendous water currents.” Only people with flotation devices strapped or tethered to their bodies were being allowed into the water, and they were being cautioned not to venture in farther than knee deep.

“Even if you’re standing in waist-deep water, the current can sweep you out quickly,” he said.

His ocean rescue team pulled a total of 48 people from the water on Saturday, he said, including about 27 that were considered to be in life-threatening conditions. One man who was sucked under the water was rescued by friends and onlookers and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

A band of showers soaked the beaches late Sunday morning, causing crowds to thin, Sasser said. With alternating rainy and sunny weather forecast throughout the day, he said he expected the crowds on the sands to ebb and flow.

In South Carolina, Janice Keith with the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said Sunday that the office hadn’t fielded any calls from concerned tourists.

In Beaufort County, emergency management deputy director David Zeoli said officials were continuing to monitor the storm and encourage people to have a plan in case conditions get worse.

Zeoli said winds had kicked up in the area that includes Hilton Head Island, a popular golf and beach destination. “It’s just a wet day here,” he said.