Meteorologists are forecasting what could be the worst storm to hit the eastern United States in more than 70 years. Dubbed the "Frankenstorm" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the system could potentially pummel the Mid-Atlantic and northeast with gale-force winds and snow at the same time. Yes, that sounds like a scene from the Biblical rapture. But the Frankenstorm isn't just possible—by the end of this weekend, it could be likely.
Look at just about any map of the forecast for the coming week, and you'll immediately see why scientists and government officials alike are freaking out. But the simplified image from Google Crisis Maps below tells you more or less what you need to know.
The Category 2 hurricane just pummeled Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas with winds gusting at 110 miles-per-hour. (Weather Underground has a nice summary of the storm so far.) Now that it's back over warm water, the storm is picking up intensity again as it creeps towards the United States. At the same time, a freezing winter storm from Canada has been making its way across the Midwest. As you can see in the map above, the storms are almost certainly going to collide. The concern is that the hybrid storm will be, in the words of a meteorologists at the Weather Channel, "a nor'easter with a hurricane embedded in it." This could be a billion-dollar catastrophe.
The National Hurricane Center has already issued a Tropical Storm Warning for Florida and an advisory for parts of the Carolinas. That's normal for big storms like Sandy, but usually, they tail away from the coast. In this case, atmospheric conditions are different because of that storm approaching from the west. Instead of fading away, it looks like Sandy will pivot back towards the coast and make a huge mess of things.
As of right now, meteorologists are predicting landfall in New Jersey on Tuesday next week. According to Bloomberg, there's a 55-percent chance of 40 mile-per-hour winds in New York City that day.
That's crazy in and of itself, but as the Weather Channel points out, the effects of the storm are expected to extend far beyond the point of landfall. Check out the massive affected area in five-day precipitation forecast from the National Weather Service:
The area affected by storm winds could be just as huge:
Here's a summary of the doom in gloom that could befall us, according to the Weather Channel:
Destructive winds, heavy rain, major coastal flooding and beach erosion would pummel portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions between later Sunday and Tuesday of next week. Of course, the high winds would extend inland, with the potential for downed trees and powerlines. Widespread power outages could last for days.
The area of impact is so large that parts of Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania could get heavy snow while the coast is getting nailed by tropical storm winds. And it is likely to hit during a full moon, when tides are near their highest, increasing the risk of coastal flooding.
But these are complicated weather conditions, and there's a few different scenarios that could play out. As Weather Underground explains, things could go better if Sandy tracks further Northeast towards Maine. In that case, we're looking at a lot of rain, and $100 million in damage, but not the epic mid-Atlantic nightmare everyone's worried about.
If you're anywhere on the East Coast right now, make sure to stay up with the latest advisories from the National Weather Service. The Google Crisis Map for the storm has links to lots of useful information to help you get prepared. [The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, Bloomberg, The National Weather Service, and Google]