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New Storm Threatens Areas Hit Hard By Hurricane Sandy

Storm-weary residents of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are facing the prospect of another significant coastal storm this week, although it will not be as severe as Hurricane Sandy. However, given the vulnerable state of New Jersey’s beaches, many of which lost most of their protective sand dunes during last week’s super storm, the next nor’easter may cause some damage and beach erosion.

A computer model projection from the Canadian model, showing an intense storm off the Mid-Atlantic coastline on Thursday.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Weatherbell Models.

While computer models still disagree on the exact track and strength of the storm, which is set to affect the region on Wednesday and Thursday, lingering into Friday in Southern New England, it is likely that the areas hardest-hit by Sandy could see heavy rain, strong winds of up to 60 mph in places, and minor to moderate coastal flooding due to strong northeasterly winds. Computer models are in agreement that the storm will form and intensify as it moves up the East Coast from Florida, although some show more strengthening than others. The storm track and intensity will be key for determining the impacts of the event, as everything from strong winds to inland snow is possible with this event.

The coastal flooding is not expected to come close to the record storm surge seen during Sandy, when much of Lower Manhattan flooded, and at least 19 people were killed on Staten Island. Unlike Hurricane Sandy, the nor’easter will be hitting when astronomical tides are at a low level, although a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above regular tide levels is possible, particularly in western Long Island Sound, the National Weather Service (NWS) stated. The threat of coastal flooding is mainly limited to the Wednesday afternoon to Wednesday night high tides.

"Confidence is growing for a potential heavy rain and high/strong wind event," stated the NWS forecast office in New York on Monday.

The nor’easter may be slow to leave the Northeast, due to the continued influence of a “blocking” high pressure area in northeastern Canada and southwestern Greenland. A similar weather pattern helped steer Hurricane Sandy on an unprecedented track into the Mid-Atlantic states, and some studies have shown that Arctic sea ice loss increases the frequency and severity of such blocking patterns.

Forecast surface weather map on Thursday morning, showing a strong storm east of New York City.
Credit: NOAA/HPC.

Even before the nor’easter, though, there is another weather threat that could hinder storm recovery efforts, and threaten those who are still without power. Preceding the storm will be colder than usual weather for this time of year, with most areas outside of New York City dipping below freezing on Monday night. Such overnight lows are more typical for early December than early November. The forecast low temperature by Tuesday morning in Central Park is 35 degrees, while suburban areas, including parts of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, could dip into the mid-to-upper 20s.

“Those without power should take extra precaution due to the cold tonight. Do everything you can to prepare for these freezing temperatures," the NWS stated.

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