The coming storm, which some officials have labeled “Frankenstorm,” is like nothing anyone has seen before, Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist-in-charge for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Mount Holly, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider. Szatkowski explained that hurricanes typically travel along the coast without directly coming ashore in the region, as is predicted.
“What’s happening here is we’re looking at a hurricane that’s going to transition toward becoming a nor’easter as it comes up the coast. As it does though, it’s going to bring a lot of tropical energy with it,” Szatkowski said. “It’s going to really have an opportunity to restrengthen as it comes northward.”
Forecasters have been discussing Hurricane Sandy for several days, which Szatkowski said is a long lead time. The center of the storm is expected to make landfall in the region sometime Tuesday morning, according to the latest track. “This is certainly not typical and so that has sort of been the challenge for forecasting this that we’re still working through,” he said.
While some will remember significant storms of the recent past, Szatkowski said this system is unlike any people have seen. “To have a hurricane come up like this and curl so sharply to the left, go inland, moving to the northwest is really something beyond anyone’s lifetime of experience along the East Coast,” he said. “Maybe it happened a century or two centuries ago, but the bottom line is people could be misled just based on their experience.”
Szatkowski said this storm could even be worse than Irene. “When a hurricane comes directly on shore like this — like we’re forecasting — it pushes the water further inland than what we would’ve seen last year with say Hurricane Irene when it was paralleling the coast basically moving right along the Jersey Shore so those are some things again that no one’s seen in their lifetime and those are things that could catch people off guard,” he explained.
A great amount of beach erosion is possible to accompany the storm. “I wouldn’t rule out that there could be some push of water over barrier islands, overwash, create serious erosion,” Szatkowski said. “I don’t know whether we’ll get to the point of island breaches but we may see some very serious erosion that takes time to fill back in and get repaired.”
Rainfall could be very significant. Eight to 12 inches of rain could accompany the storm, with highest amounts closest to the center according to Szatkowski. He said the center of the storm is currently expected to be in southern New Jersey or northern Delaware, but if the track shifts further north, then central and northern New Jersey could see double digit rainfall.
“If southern New Jersey gets 10 or 12 inches, northern New Jersey gets six or eight, that’s still plenty to cause river flooding, flash flooding and a lot of concerns for people,” Szatkowski said. “A lot of folks have seen river flooding over the past several years and I’m sure the last thing they need is another round of it but that’s exactly what we’re looking at here.”