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Sandy: No Typical Tropical System



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Just a quick glance at our national satellite and radar, it’s pretty obvious to see what the big weather story is at this point—Hurricane Sandy.

You’ve probably heard other meteorologists call this particular storm a number of different things. From “Frankenstorm” to “The Perfect Storm,” Sandy is definitely making a name for herself. Other than the fact that this storm is aiming for the most populated part of the Eastern seaboard, you’re probably wondering why there’s so much hype about it.

Well, this is not your typical run-of-the-mill tropical system. In fact, there are several things about Hurricane Sandy that makes her unique to other tropical systems. First of all, it’s rather late in the season. As you can see in the chart below, we’re well over three-fourths of the way through the season.



Also, tropical systems that typically develop at this time of the season will develop in the open Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Not many of our late seasoned storms develop in the Caribbean. This particular system developed in the Caribbean dew south of Jamaica, which isn’t all that unusual considering there aren’t many storms at this time of year to begin with; but still, this is one more thing that makes Sandy stand out.






She developed as a tropical depression Monday morning, the 22nd of October; then she quickly intensified into a tropical storm. This is when she got her name and boy, did she take off!? In less than 48 hours, Sandy had strengthened to hurricane status and made landfall for the first time in Jamaica as a strong Category 1 storm.



Tracking over the island of Jamaica didn’t impact Sandy’s strength too much because she was rapidly intensifying as she made landfall. After hitting Jamaica early Wednesday afternoon, Sandy made a second landfall shortly after midnight on Thursday in Cuba with winds sustained at 110 mph—a borderline Category 2/Category 3 hurricane. At this point, you can see she had a very well defined eye.



As Sandy tracked over the extreme eastern edge of Cuba, she didn’t weaken much. By the time she went back over the open waters between Cuba and the Bahamas, she was still a Category 2 hurricane with winds at 105 mph.

Over the last few days, Sandy has continued to track northward only weakening to Category 1 status. As of the 11 PM advisory, Sandy was a weak Category 1 hurricane several hundred miles off the coast of North and South Carolina. Here’s a look at the last advisory.




Just a quick glance at the models, you’d probably think Sandy was on her way back into the open waters of the North Atlantic, like many storms typically do. However, this is where Sandy is very different than most storms of the like.



Remember the cold front that moved through our area Wednesday morning dumping a few inches of snow in some places? Well, the cold front that passed through our area has now swept the U.S. and is approaching the East Coast. Here’s where things get interesting. As Sandy continues tracking northward, she will transition from a hurricane or tropical storm to a post-tropical system. What is a post tropical system?

Well, there’s a lot that I can explain about with this topic; but one of the major differences between a tropical system and a post-tropical system is the temperatures within the system. Notice in the map above, the temperatures on the left side of Sandy are about the same as the system on the right side. In other words, this system doesn’t have a cold front attached to it. As Sandy begins to move northward, she will begin to absorb the cold front that passed through our area, entraining all the cold air into the system and pulling her onshore somewhere along the Jersey Shore. Notice in the picture below how the colder air is now wrapping around the system on the south side.




What will this mean? Well, all the rain associated with Sandy may fall as snow in some of the higher elevations of the Appalachians from West Virginia into New York. It’s a system that will require a lot of attention from meteorologists as most tropical systems rarely transition from tropical to post-tropical—especially at this magnitude. Some may argue that it will transition into a nor’easter. Others may call it a hurricane at landfall.

One thing is for certain. Whatever it is technically called by meteorologists, it will mean major power outages for our friends in the Mid Atlantic. Once this is all said and done, there will be useful data that we can study that will help us in forecasting other storms that may occur in years to come.

Another thing is for certain, it isn’t going to bring any moisture to our area. In fact, we are looking rather dry at this point. We can definitely use the moisture! However, temperatures don’t look to rebound too quickly as high temperatures will not likely reach the 60s throughout the week. However, it will be interesting to see how this system off the east coast impacts our temperature trends later in the week.




Be sure to stay tuned to KDLT and KDLT.com for updates on Sandy, precipitation forecasts, and temperature forecasts throughout the upcoming weeks as we quickly transition from fall to winter.
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