As hurricane Sandy leaves the northern Bahamas, computer models indicate the dangerous storm will hit the East Coast anywhere between Chesapeake Bay and Long Island, New York, starting early Tuesday morning.
But pinpointing the spot where Sandy comes ashore is less important than usual, because by Monday night gale-force winds, accompanied by hurricane-force gusts, could stretch for hundreds of miles in either direction of the storm's center, weather forecasters warn.
“It won’t make much difference,” says Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, referring to the precise spot where the storm interacts with the coastline.
“Closer to the center, there could be some hurricane-force gusts,” says Bob Smerbeck, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com in State College, Pa.
Once the storm hits land, it will lose its tropical characteristics and "have the same effects as a nor’easter, even worse,” he says. "We are looking at total devastation – tremendous power outages, flooding, a storm surge. And someone," Mr. Smerbeck adds, "is going to get several feet of tree-snapping snow.”
By the time Sandy is off the East Coast, it will combine with a developing nor’easter into a massive and potentially destructive storm, meteorologists suggest. Some in the media have dubbed it “Frankenstorm,” because it will be a hybrid storm arriving just before Halloween.
If this unusual meteorological mix occurs, it would form a storm similar to one in 1991 dubbed the “perfect storm,” which resulted in 13 deaths. A movie of the same name dramatized the unsuccessful efforts of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat out of Gloucester, Mass., to ride out the huge waves. A US Coast Guard helicopter, on a rescue mission, also crashed at sea during that storm, killing a rescue swimmer.
Forecasters expect that most of the East Coast will be affected by the winds, heavy rain, beach erosion, and possibly some heavy snow in the Appalachian mountains. Rivers are expected to flood, with the storm dumping as much as a foot of rain in some areas.