NOAA to East: Beware of coming 'Frankenstorm'
WASHINGTON -- All the spare parts appear to be coming together to create what forecasters are calling "Frankenstorm," a monster combination of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe snow that could cause havoc along the East Coast just before Halloween next week.
Hurricane Sandy, having blown through Haiti and Cuba on Thursday, continues to barrel north. A wintry storm is chugging across from the West. And frigid air is streaming south from Canada.
And if they meet Tuesday morning around New York or New Jersey, as forecasters predict, they could create a big wet mess that settles over the nation's most heavily populated corridor and reaches as far inland as Ohio.
With experts expecting at least $1 billion in damage, the people who will have to clean it up aren't waiting.
Utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees' days off to deal with the power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared. And President Barack Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One.
"It's looking like a very serious storm that could be historic," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. "Mother Nature is not saying 'trick-or-treat.' It's just going to give tricks."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname Frankenstorm, said: "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting."
Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance - up from 60 percent two days earlier - that the East will get pounded starting Sunday and stretching past Halloween on Wednesday. Things are expected to get messier once Sandy, a very late hurricane in what has been a remarkably quiet season, comes ashore, probably in New Jersey.
Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, but the storm is expected to vent the worst of its fury on New Jersey and the New York City area, which could see around 5 inches of rain and gale-force winds close to 40 mph. Eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania, western Virginia and the Shenandoah Mountains could get snow.
And the storm will take its time leaving. The weather may not start clearing in the mid-Atlantic until the day after Halloween and Nov. 2 in the upper Northeast, Cisco said.
"It's almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event," he said from a NOAA forecast center in College Park, Md. "It's going to be a widespread, serious storm."
It is likely to hit during a full moon, when tides are near their highest, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. And because many trees still have their leaves, they are more likely to topple in the event of wind and snow, meaning there could be widespread power outages lasting to Election Day.
Eastern states that saw blackouts that lasted for days after last year's freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 are already pressuring power companies to be more ready this time.
Asked if he expected utilities to be more prepared, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick responded: "They'd better be."
Jersey Central Power & Light, which was criticized for its response to Irene, notified employees to be ready for extended shifts. In Pennsylvania, PPL Corp. spokesman Michael Wood said, "We're in a much better place this year."
Some have compared the tempest to the so-called Perfect Storm that struck off the coast of New England in 1991, but that one didn't hit as populated an area. Nor is this one like last year's Halloween storm, which was merely an early snowfall.
"The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I'm thinking a billion," Masters said. "Yeah, it will be worse."
As it made its way across the Caribbean, Sandy was blamed for at least four deaths in Haiti and Jamaica. The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season hit the Bahamas after cutting across Cuba, where it tore roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops.
Norje Pupo, a 66-year-old retiree in Holguin, was helping his son clean up early Thursday after an enormous tree toppled in his garden.
"The hurricane really hit us hard," he said. "As you can see, we were very affected. The houses are not poorly made here, but some may have been damaged."
Associated Press writers Tony Winton in Miami, Fernando Gonzalez in Cuba, Ken Thomas on Air Force One, and Michael Rubinkam in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates set wild-card game roster
- Sky’s not the limit: Pirate Parrot takes trip into Earth’s atmosphere
- Former employee at Plum home-building firm charged with embezzling nearly $200K
- Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- House begins consideration of governor’s tax plan
- Rossi: Time for Pirates to take next step
- WPIAL hands out suspensions for Wilkinsburg-Monessen fight
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not worried about Jones’ lack of sacks
- Cubs’ Arrieta, Pirates’ Cole leave batters with little margin for error
- Trafford mayor resigns, councilman gives up presidency
- New Florence assistant fire chief charged with having sex with juvenile