Made it through Sandy all right!

We really didn’t have any problem up here in the Albany, New York, area, fortunately. The storm surge came up the Hudson and caused some minor flooding in Albany. There was a bunch of wind (my lights flickered a couple times but didn’t go out) and a little bit of rain, off and on. The wind has taken forever to quiet down, but today it’s just cloudy.

I think there were some small outages around here, up in the mountains, but nothing major. We’ve had no snow, although it’s going to get cold over the next few days as a cold front trails in after ex-Sandy.

AVN image of Sandy at landfall.

AVN image of Sandy at landfall. (NOAA)

When is an eye not an eye?

I saved a couple of images from the Net that you might not have seen. This one is an AVN (aviation color enhanced) image of Sandy right about at landfall from NOAA’s Satellite Services Division.

It looks like Sandy has an eye, but not really (although like everything else about Sandy, this is complicated – the storm was trying to build an eye while it was still tropical).

Hurricane eyes are where the lowest pressure of the storm is. All the inrushing winds circle this point, and as the storm evolves it will form and re-form a wall of thunderstorms here called the eyewall.

This is where you really don’t want to be when a tropical cyclone comes by because it has the heaviest storms and strongest winds. Anyway, the winds vent out at the top of the storm, leaving a column of clear, dry air descending over the center of the storm’s circulation. That is the area we call the eye.

It’s not what we’re looking at with Sandy. (Edit: Then again, it may be, according to this article!)

Sandy was still tropical (but complicated) and actually intensifying as it passed over the Gulf Stream, according to the National Hurricane Center discussions, but then it moved over cold waters and was extratropical at landfall.

According to some local National Weather Service office forecast discussions that I read, during all that Sandy somehow sealed off a bit of its warm air – not surprisingly, they call this “warm seclusion.”

Such a thing can be accompanied, according to a source I found in Wikipedia, by a warm front that bends backward. It can mimic a hurricane eye, and that is indeed what you see in this image.

I felt some of that warmth. The temperature here in the Albany area rose to at least 60 degrees as Sandy came in, which is unusual for this time of year.

Some other places weren’t so lucky.

Snow Cover Nov 1

NOAA snow depth map for the United States, November 1, 2012. (Source)

A White Hallowe’en

See that deep blue in eastern West Virginia and northeastern Tennessee? (You can click on the image to enlarge it.) That signifies a snow depth between 20 and 39 inches and it’s all from Sandy.

The superstorm brought tropical moisture from the Caribbean into contact with very cold air, resulting in a blizzard.

According to NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC), Tennessee got 34 inches of snow, West Virginia 33 inches, Maryland 29 inches (this in the western part of the state while massive waves and storm surge were pounding its eastern coast!), Virginia and North Carolina 24 inches, Pennsylvania 13 inches and Ohio 4.5 inches.

That HPC link also has some selected details about Sandy’s rainfall totals and wind gusts.

A seismic event

During the storm, Erik Klemetti of the “Eruptions” blog, retweeted webicorder images from Ian Saginor of Sandy’s wave energy at landfall that was being picked up by seismographs in Pennsylvania:

Sandy's effect on PA  webicorder, October 29, 2012

Sandy’s effect on PA webicorder, October 29, 2012. (Ian Saginor)

He included a “normal” tracing on a quiet day for comparison:

PA seismo normally

Tracing on a quiet day at the same PA seismograph. (Ian Saginor)


Sandy the Dancer

We think of dancers as graceful and lively, not at all like this massive, lumbering, juggernaut of a cyclonic storm.

Nonetheless, Sandy did the Fujiwhara dance, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma (actually all meteorologists and other knowledgeable people were aware of this – I happened to read it in that SPC outlook).

That’s actually why this superstorm didn’t stay out to sea. Here is a blog post by someone who can explain it in depth. There is also a nice animation there to help you understand it.

The East Coast is at risk

It was a rare combination of factors that brought this disastrous superstorm to the East Coast and inland this year. However, there is no reason at all why a more “normal” hurricane, even a major one, could not strike the same area next season, or the one after that, and so forth.

I get an irrational feeling sometimes while watching the news coverage that maybe New York will go insane and sue those who have questions about climate change. Of course that won’t happen, but as the recent verdict against seismologists and their sentencing in Italy showed, it’s human nature to respond to a disaster by assigning blame. That’s relatively easy to do.

It’s not useful, though. Preventive measures against disaster are often expensive and politically difficult to achieve before disaster strikes, but they are the only way we can protect ourselves against Nature’s violent moods.

Will they build a multi-billion-dollar sea barrier to protect New York Harbor and take other measures along the coast now? It’s too early to say. The only thing we can be sure of is that something like this is going to happen again . . . and again . . . and again. We can be ready for it next time, or not. It’s our choice.

Categories: Weather

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