Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1 storm with current maximum sustained winds of about 75 mph, was southeast of Cape Hatteras this morning and continuing on its northerly course. It is expected to pass the Outer Banks at a distance of about 250 miles, further out than the 175 miles previously forecast. It’s still expected to make landfall on the New Jersey coast around daybreak on Tuesday.
At 11 a.m. this morning, the National Hurricane Center had tropical storm warnings posted for the area from Cape Fear to Duck in North Carolina and for Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. The center also issued this statement: “Hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the coast between Chincoteague, Virginia, and Chatham, Massachusetts. This included the middle and upper Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, the coasts of the northern Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey, the New York City area, Long Island, Connecticut and Maryland. Tropical storm force winds are expected north of Chatham to the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, in the lower Chesapeake Bay, and south of Chincoteague to Duck, North Carolina. Other coastal and inland watches and warnings are in effect for these areas. Please see statements from local National Weather Service forecast offices.”
National Park Service meteorologist Denver Ingram is also issuing daily updates with specifics pertinent to the NPS. Here are the key points from his Sunday morning update:
- Winds – The hurricane's wind field is large and extensive. Tropical storm force winds now extend outward as far as an unprecedented 520 miles from the center and hurricane force winds go out to 105 miles. Early this morning, winds were already gusting to 35 to 45 mph along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and these conditions will likely continue into Tuesday morning. The hurricane is expected to strengthen a bit before making landfall, at which time it should have winds of 80 to 85 mph. There are a number of locations from Maryland and Washington to Connecticut and Massachusetts that could see 40 to 50 hours of tropical storm force winds persisting into Wednesday. While these sustained winds are strong enough, wind gusts will be stronger. The eastern shore of Maryland may see wind gusts (not sustained) of 85 to 90 mph Monday night and Tuesday morning.
- Seas, Tides and Storm Surge – Due to its strengthening, the hurricane will bring higher tides and greater storm surges to areas along and north of the track. Strong winds will continue to create rough seas and elevated tides. Storm surges will vary by location, but if they coincide with high tide, areas from Maryland to Rhode Island could experience storm surges of four to eight feet. Long Island and Raritan Bay may see those values increase to as much as ten feet. Smaller surges of three to six feet are expected along the North Carolina sounds, and the Chesapeake Bay could see values from one to four feet with higher totals where it meets the sea.
- Rainfall – Totals of three to six inches will be common across eastern North Carolina today. Over the past 24 hours, Cape Hatteras has seen about two-and-half inches of rain. Most of the rest of the Outer Banks has received one to two inches since daybreak Saturday. The storm was producing a band of heavy rain this morning that extended from southeast Pennsylvania, across Delaware and eastern Maryland, into southeast Virginia, and into the eastern third of North Carolina. Flooding will be an ongoing threat. Rainfall totals of ten inches or more are expected near the area of landfall. New England in general will likely see totals of one to three inches, with some isolated totals close to six inches.
- Snow – The hurricane will combine with a strong trough of low pressure; when it does, cold air will pour southward, bringing snow to the mountains of Tennessee, the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, southwest Virginia, and eastern West Virginia. Strong upslope flow may produce one to four inches of snow in these areas on Monday and Tuesday, with some totals close to eight inches above 3000 feet.
The following new reports have been received from parks in the hurricane’s path:
- Cape Lookout – The park remains closed. A total of 32 visitors in nine parties remain on the park’s offshore islands. All are secure. The park is keeping tabs on them.
- Cape Hatteras/Outer Banks Group – Ocracoke Village is flooded, but all staff are fine and sheltered at their residences. They have lost power and are on rolling blackouts throughout the village with generators. Overwash has occurred on NC-12 on Ocracoke, north of Hatteras Village, Frisco, Buxton and Rodanthe. Moderate to major sound side flooding is expected when the winds come around to the northwest.
- Gateway NRA (Sandy Hook Unit) – A mandatory evacuation has been ordered of coastal New Jersey areas, including Sandy Hook. It goes into effect at 4 p.m. today.
- Fire Island NS – The Suffolk County executive and the fire commissioner have issued a mandatory evacuation of Fire Island for today at 2 p.m. The park officially moved into ICS at 5 p.m. yesterday.
Emergency preparedness staff in the three affected regional offices – Southeast, National Capital and Northeast – are working through the weekend. Three NPS Type II incident management teams – East, Intermountain and Midwest – are fully staffed and on standby for use as needed. Discussions are underway about prepositioning the teams so that they will be quickly available after the storm passes.