Three storms, dark forecast: ‘Frankenstorm’ a three-headed monster
By Michael Muskal
9:46 AM PDT, October 26, 2012
The eastern half of the United States is bracing for a trio of powerful storms, including Hurricane Sandy, to hit in the coming days, bringing fierce winds, pounding rains and the potential for widespread damage, flooding and power outages.
As of Friday morning, Hurricane Sandy was over the Bahamas, traveling northwest at about 10 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was packing winds of at least 80 mph as it moved through the Caribbean, where more than 20 deaths were reported.
The hurricane was expected to turn northeast, the National Weather Service said, and strike the U.S. mainland somewhere along the East Coast — anywhere from the Carolinas to New Jersey to New England — probably late Sunday or early Monday. There is also a chance it could go back out to sea. But the storm is expected to wallop the entire region and emergency officials are advising coastal areas especially to begin preparing for the worst.
Complicating the situation is the fact that Sandy is just one part of what is expected to become a merged storm system, dubbed “Frankenstorm” by meteorologists in a nod to Halloween on Wednesday night.
A system known as a mid-latitude trough is expected to come in from the west to merge with Sandy and unite with a cold-weather system moving south from Canada.
Coastal areas of the United States from Florida to North Carolina were under a tropical storm watch with the approach of Sandy on Friday morning, with portions of North Carolina expected to get as much as eight inches of rain, according to the weather service.
The combined storm system is expected to be far worse, bringing heavy rains and strong winds from the Carolinas to Boston and from Ohio to the Atlantic. The hardest hit areas are predicted to be in New Jersey and New York City, where five inches of rain and 40-mph winds are forecast. Eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania and western Virginia could get snow, according to the weather service.
Already some insurance companies are estimating that the physical damage could pass $1 billion in sections of the country with some of the largest populations and most expensive real estate.
This type of weather is not unheard of in the Northeast, though the three merged storms is predicted to stir especially severe conditions. Last year, a freak Halloween storm caused power outages that lasted days in the Northeast; Hurricane Irene hit the region in August 2011, posing similar problems.
Government emergency managers have taken the usual precautions, warning people to put aside fresh water and emergency equipment such as flashlights and batteries. Utilities have canceled many vacations and have made arrangements for added workers from other regions. Officials have activated emergency centers in many states and cities to monitor the meteorological procession that is expected to last most of next week, beyond Halloween in some of the northern regions.
“What we are doing is we are taking the kind of precautions you should expect us to do, and I don’t think anyone should panic,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday. The city has opened an emergency situation room and activated its coastal storm plan.
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