Hurricane Sandy is barreling up the Atlantic Ocean toward America’s East Coast on a collision course with an early wintry storm from the west and a frigid blast of air from the north, creating conditions that forecasters warn could create a “perfect storm.” Sandy has already killed at least 31 people in the Caribbean, and could hit the Northeast on the day before Halloween next week as a “Frankenstorm” worse than anything the region has seen in 100 years. “It really could be an extremely significant, historic storm,” says University of Miami researcher Brian McNoldy. How bad will it get? Here’s a brief guide:
- Are forecasters certain the Frankenstorm will hit?
Hurricanes are tricky, and Sandy still has plenty of time to weaken or turn out to sea. Even if it weakens, it could still hit with tree-toppling winds of, say, 60 miles per hour, and a mix of heavy rain and high tides that could cause coastal flooding. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s a 90 percent chance the storm will crash into the U.S., says CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. If it takes the most likely path, it could graze North Carolina early Monday, then turn sharply and slam into the Eastern Seaboard somewhere between Delaware and Boston a day later with a mix of high winds, heavy rain and even snow, along with coastal flooding.
- How bad will it be?
Meteorologists say conditions are similar to those that produced 1991’s “perfect storm,” which inspired a book and blockbuster movie. Despite its force, that storm, in which Hurricane Grace combined with a high pressure system and a cold front, caused only about $200 million in damages because it hit a relatively sparsely populated part of New England. Current forecasts suggest that Hurricane Sandy is most likely to slam into New Jersey and New York before pressing on toward Ohio, meaning it will hit some of the most densely populated pockets of the country. Making matters worse, it will hit during a full moon, when tides are highest, increasing chances of major flooding. If that happens, damages could reach $5 billion or more.