Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

When the storm gets close, crack open a window and take a breath. Hurricanes always smell like the Caribbean.

A lot of the forecasting concentrates on predictions about where the storm's center will hit. But that's just because that's what these guys do. It doesn't mean much here, because Sandy is so enormous that you needn't be anywhere near the center to get clobbered. Really, don't sweat the center. Like, at all.

Similarly, all the "Monster" and "Frankenstorm" language has created a misconception that Sandy is an unusually powerful storm. It's not; it's a category 1 hurricane, which is just barely a hurricane at all. It's already been downgraded to a tropical storm once (and quickly recovered), and may be demoted again by the time it hits New England. It's not the power or the wind speed, it's the storm's sheer size... its slow velocity, plus another front coming from the northwest ready to be bashed/sucked into. Between all those factors, Sandy will be lingering. And lingering 75 mph winds can be a lot more damaging than fleeting 100 mph winds, plus there's the extreme rainfall from a system which will take forever to pass. [note: the time lapse video of the above image is even scarier]

I've been following the National Hurricane Center reports (look for the "public advisory" index beneath the map), which come out every few hours, mostly just out of curiosity (there's no sense hoping Sandy might miss the NY tristate area; again, it could "miss" by 200 miles and we'd still be in the thick of it). Each report is signed by the forecaster (at the bottom), and while you wouldn't imagine these guys would be slouches, check out their bios to see how impressively credentialed they actually are.

And that makes it especially amazing to see how those guys reacted in 2005, when a couple freak, ultra-late-in-season storms utterly defied any attempt at prediction. See this great comic for details.

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