Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reality Or Hype? U.S. Northeast Forecasts Range From Inclement To Catastrophic

Potential forecast tracks for Tropical Storm Joaquin
or its remnants. As you can see, forecasts are
still uncertain and anything could happen.  
We do know the Northeastern United States is in for a stormy seven days or so, beginning today.

What we don't know, despite some wild forecasts you might see being hyped on social media, is whether this will turn out ot be just unpleasant, or disastrous.

My guess - and really just a guess at this point - is something worse than just unpleasant but also something that falls well short of catastrophic is going to happen.

But anyone who lives in this part of the country should DEFINITELY pay attention to forecasts between now and Sunday.

Let's break down what we know and what we don't know.

The forecast through Wednesday is a easier to decipher than what's coming this weekend.

The first round of rain has started.   Early this morning, I heard the steady drumbeat of rain outside my house in St. Albans, a small city in far northwestern Vermont.

That's a good thing. It had gotten awfully dry, and I sure do appreciate the rain.

It's dry in most of New England. We know that this first round of rain will be heavy. This is a good thing. We need a good soaking.

But also this is maybe a bad thing. Between now and Wednesday night, many areas might get too much rain in too short a time.

A slow moving cold front is interacting with lots of moisture, some of it from what were wannabe tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico that really never got their act together.

But these wannabes helped collect LOTS of moisture that's headed north along and ahead of the cold front.

Two to four inches of rain would be great for New England, but you'd want to spread it out over a couple weeks. However, that amount of rain, with possibly higher totals, is coming mostly between this afternoon and Wednesday evening.
The National Weather Service is calling for three
to as much as eight inches of rain across
the Northeast over the next seven days. This
forecast is totally subject to change. 

That amout of rain in such a short period of time can cause flooding. Flood watches are up for a wide area through much of central and southern New England and down the spine of the Appalachians.

There's a bit of a break in the weather coming Thursday, then we get into the next round.

I've seen hype forecasts based on some of the computer models - ones in which the models go off the rails. I've seen one of a Superstorm Sandy like storm slamming into New Jersey, just like Sandy did.

I've seen another showing widespread rainfall of a foot or so in western New England. That would be three months worth of rain in three days. I've seen another depicted a strong hurricane or hybrid slamming into Long Island or New England.

All these scenarios are plausible, I guess, but pretty damn unlikely. That doesn't mean the Northeast is out of the woods on this. It could still get nasty and dangerous this weekend, so stay tuned.

Frankly, I might be a bit guilty of spreading the hype. I do re-tweet and share some of these dire forecasts. Just know it's not because I necessarily endorse them. I just think they're interesting.

Honestly, nobody has a good handle on the forecast. Things are just too complex, too weird to make a good forecast just yet.

So far, Tropical Storm Joaquin has formed, as expected, about 385 miles northeast of the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, there will be a very strong, juicy and soaking wet frontal system and storminess approaching the East Coast. How will Joaquin and the very wet system in the eastern United States interact, if at all?

This is such a complex weather pattern that nobody knows for sure. So if you're looking at forecasts today and tomorrow and you see one for this weekend that says with "certainty" something is going to happen this weekend, just know that forecast is total bullshit.

The National Hurricane Center, whose meteorologists usually have a pretty damn good handle on what tropical storms are going to do, are clueless about Joaquin. That's not a knock against them. It's just that this weather pattern is so weird, and the forecasting computer models disagree so sharply, that Joaquin's future is anyone's guess.

Joaquin might stay out to sea. It might get absorbed into the East Coast front and just cause a torrential rainstorm. Or maybe such an extreme downpour that flooding will become fairly widespread. Or it might retain its form as a tropical storm and hit Long Island or New England. Like I said, everyone is totally clueless on this one right now.

My advice: Just pay attention to forecasts as we get closer to the weekend if you live anywhere in the northeastern United States. There is the potential for a lot of rain and a lot of flooding in some areas. If that materializes, we don't know exactly where yet or how bad it will get,  so just wait.

There might also be some problems with high winds and coastal flooding in some areas, but again, stay tuned.

I don't think forecasts, even the day before anything hits, will be right on the money, but by Friday, they'll be pretty close.

We'll keep you posted

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