Hurricane "Sandy" Into the SW Atlantic & AND ON TRACK Far to the East of Jax......
FOR THE FIRST COAST.....direct effects from "Sandy" will be strong & gusty north to northwest winds -- offshore now, in other words. This is a "glorified" Nor'easter for the First Coast:
* windy: The tropical storm warning has been extended north to St. Augustine, but this will be very borderline. I personally doubt sustained winds of 39 mph will be attainable as far north as St. Johns Co. & the local watch & warning will soon be cancelled. Winds through Sat. evening will average 20-35 mph with gusts 40+ mph along the coast...15-30 mph along the I-95 corridor with gusts between 30 & 40 mph...15-25 mph with gusts to 30 mph from near Highway 301 to I-75. As we get breaks in the overcast skies, winds will actually increase some (due to "mixing" in the atmosphere).
* isolated power outages but not widespread nor long-lasting
* very rough seas & surf
* a very high & dangerous rip current risk - STAY OUT OF THE OCEAN!
* beach erosion & some coastal flooding, especially at times of high tide
* boaters should use extreme caution or -- better yet -- stay docked/in port through at least Sat. The St. Johns River will be no picnic either which Ga./Fl. fans need to keep in mind Sat.
* Rain from the outer bands of "Sandy" will now remain offshore. Rainfall forecast:
-- West of Highway 301: None....
-- Highway 301 to I-95: Little or none....
-- Intracoastal & beaches: .25" or less
Tropical Storm WARNING for the NW Bahamas the Central Fl. East Coast north to St. Augustine, for the S. & N. Carolina Coasts... Tropical Storm WATCH for NE Fl. Coast & S. Coast of S. Carolina....
** The tropical storm WATCH & WARNING for the First Coast & Central Fl. coast should soon be cancelled** ......
"Sandy" is out of the Bahamas taking a bit of a northwest then north jog, as expected & after slowing some, is starting to accelerate northeast away from Jax reaching Jacksonville's latitude about midday. "Sandy" has steadily weakened since entering the Bahamas & is now taking the classic look of a transition to a more subtropical system. The strongest convection is solidly north of the center & starting to stretch out east-west as if there's a developing warm front. SW shear is helping keep the convection north of the center which will pass Jacksonville 330+ miles to the east. There was a burst of convection near Sandy's center early Sat. & an Air Force Recon. plane did find that the pressure had dropped & winds were still just at the threshold of hurricane strength (had been briefly downgraded to a trop. storm in the 5am advisory). "Sandy" will likely fluctuate between a high end tropical storm & a low end hurricane on its journey through the W. Atlantic before its next landfall early in the week between the Mid Atlantic & New England. Forecast models have come into better agreement -- in general -- regarding an intense hybrid storm turning northwest into or near New England &/or the Delmarva region not too far north of Chesapeake Bay as the upper level trough deepens/sharpens & draws the storm back to the west & northwest. This could turn out to be a historical storm from the Mid Atlantic to the Northeast including such major metro areas as Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City & Boston.
Weather will continue to improve for Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola & the Bahamas (areas hit hard but not getting much coverage in the news right now because of the impending "Frankenstorm" (seriously??!!) but will increase for the upper U.S. coast. The combination of the shear + interaction with the strong upper level trough from the west & north & resulting frontal system will give "Sandy" a more subtropical structure this weekend/early next week with an expanding wind field. Cruises to the Bahamas &/or Caribbean will probably be able to resume normal schedules soon.
Sea & surf conditions will be slow to improve given the powerful storm to the north combined with incoming surface high pressure + high astronomical tides thanks to Monday's full moon. This storm will be much like the late Oct. hurricane -- "Wilma" -- in 2005 that crossed S. Fl. Businesses & bridges will be able to stay open & power will generally stay on though sporadic outages might occur. On the storm's backside there was quite the dump of chilly air which will occur for the First Coast next week as what should be subtropical/hybrid "Sandy" moves into the NE U.S. hundreds of miles away from the First Coast.
Wave heights courtesy NOAA:
Just a quick diagnosis on why the First Coast was spared "Sandy". The track is/was related to the atmospheric set-up & not because of water temps. or our local geography. First of all...."Sandy" was a classic late season storm that developed in the Caribbean (climatalogically favored late in the hurricane season & an area to possibly watch near Nov. 10th). Because the jet stream is usually starting to dip farther south this time of year as we get deeper into autumn, Caribbean storms in Oct./Nov. typically are swept north &/or northeast as was the case with "Sandy". Intensity of such storms are usually greatest in & near the Caribbean because the water temps. are still plenty warm (85+) & shear is typically minimal. In Sandy's case, a weak upper low was located near Fl. so once "Sandy" moved from Cuba into the Southern Bahamas, the storm was steered north then northwest for a short time (Thu. night-Fri.) before the upper low weakened allowing "Sandy" to turn back to the north then northeast. So the weak upper low became the primary steering influence that kept the storm well east of Fl. A tropical storm watch/warning was issued for the Fl. coast because of the wide & expanding wind field to the northwest of the center though sustained tropical storm force winds never occurred anywhere on the First Coast. The next major steering mechanism for "Sandy" will be a large upper level high over the N. Atlantic & -- more importantly -- a strong & intensifying upper level trough of low pressure that will sweep into the Eastern & NE U.S. the next few days. This trough is the system that will draw "Sandy" back to the west & northwest with an eventual landfall between Chesapeake Bay & Boston early in the week as a large & intense hybrid storm system that will produce strong winds, heavy rain, flooding & heavy inland higher elevation snow. The map is below is the upper level forecast by the GFS model for early Mon. The dip to the west is the strong upper level trough that will "suck in" Sandy from east to west....the bright colored "ball" in the W. Atlantic is "Sandy".