Friday, October 26, 2012

Worst storm in 100 years: East Coast waits in terror for Frankenstorm

This October 26, 2012 GOES -East satellite image courtesy of NOAA shows Hurricane Sandy. (AFP Photo)
This October 26, 2012 GOES -East satellite image courtesy of NOAA shows Hurricane Sandy. (AFP Photo)

Some Americans may have to think twice about going trick-or-treating this year. A massive storm is expected to hit the East Coast during the days leading up to Halloween, which meteorologists anticipate will cost at least $1 billion in damages.

The “Frankenstorm” may bring high winds, heavy rain, extreme tides and even snow to some states. The storm will evolve from a collision between Hurricane Sandy, which has already swept through Haiti and Cuba and is now heading north, and a winter storm coming from the west. Government forecasters say there is a 90 percent chance that the hurricane will make landfall on the East Coast.

The two weather systems are predicted to collide in New York or New Jersey Tuesday morning, bringing those states about 5 inches of rain and winds close to 40 mph. Forecasters say it could be the worst US storm in 100 years. Chuck Watso, director of research and development at Kinetic Analysis Corp., announced Thursday that it may cost more than $5 billion in damages.

“It’s pretty much the worst case scenario with the potential for historic coastal flooding, copious amounts of rain, and damaging winds,” Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang wrote in the Washington Post.

“It’s definitely something that everyone should be watching,” Nelson Vaz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Wall Street Journal. “A storm that maintains its strength, coming in to central New Jersey would focus the storm surge in the New York harbor area.”

Forecasters have compared the predicted weather system to the 1991 Perfect Storm, also known as the Halloween Nor’easter, which had winds blowing at 75 mph and cost more than $200 million in damages. This year’s storm will fall during a full moon, which will cause the tides to rise 20 percent higher than normal even without the storm surge.

Utility companies are preparing for the worst. In the Washington area, Pepco is gathering help from power companies in other parts of the US to gain additional assistance in the case of fallen power lines or power outages. Other companies are canceling their employees’ days off to have them available for help.

Baltimore Gas and Electric spokesman Robert Gould told the Post that he expects to see “a couple hundred thousand outages or more” when the Frankenstorm makes its appearance.

Amtrak has expressed concern that fallen trees and debris could make it difficult for trains to keep running between Washington and Boston.

As power companies, airports, rail lines and supermarkets are undergoing emergency preparations for a potentially record-breaking storm, residents of the Northeast may have to forego their Halloween plans.

“It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground, told the Associated Press. “Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.”