Romancing the Storm is a collection of blog posts and articles that I will be publishing from Saturday, October 27, through the first week of November. In these entries, I will be chronicling the approach, landfall, and aftermath of hurricane Sandy as it makes its way toward and through the Mid-Atlantic region, adding my own thoughts, reflections, photos, and videos along the way.
TOWSON, MD Saturday, October 27, 2012, 0521
We have just received notification that Hurricane Sandy has been downgraded from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Tropical Storm. In addition, we have received our first weather alert from NWS at 0500 for an areal flood watch in effect from late Saturday Night through Tuesday morning. Additional alerts have just been issued at 0600 for a coastal flood watch and a high wind watch through late Monday.
Currently, the storm is traveling NNE at 10 mph. This is a slight increase from last night at 2300 hours, when the storm was being tracked NNE at 7 mph. The other significant change that has occurred overnight is that the NWS model shows landfall of Sandy just north of Ocean City, MD, where it was originally projected to make landfall. This is good for Marylanders, only for the reason that Chesapeake Bay will likely be spared the 10-foot surge that is now expected for the Jersey coastline. That is about all of the good news that Marylanders can take from this slight shift. The winds, the rainfall, and the duration of this storm are still unchanged. We are in for a major hit from late Sunday through Tuesday evening, at the very least. If the storm decides to stall once it makes landfall, it is possible that our Wednesday will show little improvement, and this storm could very well end with non-accumulating snowfalls east of Frederick. All points west and north are in greater danger of accumulating snows, especially in elevated regions.
I have always had an affinity for tracking such storms. When I was just a kid back in the early ’70s, my father — in the prime of his firefighting days — would chase fires and bring me along for the ride. He would hear a call come in on his Bearcat scanner at home, grab the map and me, and head out the door. The anticipation in the car as we followed the sirens intensified as we got closer. And when we could begin to see and smell the smoke and hear some of the other sounds of the scene — firefighters shouting commands over the radio, amplified so loud that it seemed to echo through billows of smoke illumined in flashing red and blue — my heart would beat so fast as I stood there breathless, speechless at the magnitude of the event.
My father understood all of the technical aspects of firefighting, and so he experienced the rush in a much different way. For me, it was all about the romance of the chase and the spectacular orchestration of extinguishing the blaze.
I wasted no time in transferring this fascination of fire to tracking any storm that might be approaching the Baltimore region. Of course, we didn’t have the sophisticated technology then that we have now, but there were still plenty of warnings and satellite maps to calculate predictions and possibilities.
Today, as I view the approach and landfall of storms with a little more knowledge than I had when I was a kid, I have not lost the spirit of the chase nor the fun in predicting the possible scenarios and outcomes. In fact, having more information (and especially historical data from previous storms) makes it even more fascinating.
I remember in early February 2010 when the category 3 Nor’Easter was just about to hit us, and one of our local meteorologists seemed almost giddy at the development of this storm. He was asked by the radio talk show host how he could be so happy about such a devastating event. I understood his response perfectly. He said, in essence, that to a weather geek, it is absolutely fascinating to see the magnificence of mother nature and how the science of such storms really works to create such a historic event. The excitement comes from a purely technical perspective. He made it clear that he wishes no one or no place the type of destruction and threat to life that such storms present. The safety of individuals and their property is always of paramount importance. In isolation, though, the storm itself and its development and track are truly fascinating to watch, study, and experience.
As we continue to track Sandy’s progress through the Atlantic and toward our region, I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared for a sustained weather event with power outages in the Central Maryland region that could reach the quarter-million mark by Tuesday. BGE has taken great efforts to warn us with robocalls, frequent updates on both television and radio, and updated information online. None of us in the Mid-Atlantic region should ignore these warnings and updates. Be prepared for a multi-day emergency that will require plenty of common sense and community support through next week.
Important numbers, websites, and social media sites to know:
1090 AM and wbal.com
National Hurricane Center
BGE: Report Power Outages by calling 877-778-2222
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)
Justin Berk (@JustinWeather)