Meteorologists describe the trajectory of Sandy: a “hurricane inside a nor’easter”

NOAA Wind Speeds

NOAA Wind Speeds

Burlington’s National Weather Service office says that speedy winds remain the key danger for Hurricane Sandy, with gusts of up to 75 mph expected to the east and west of Montpelier.

National Weather Service warns of high winds statewide, from 2 p.m. this afternoon until 11 a.m. tomorrow. Winds will approach from the east, at speeds of 30 to 40 mph, and gusts of 65 to 75 mph will reach the Northeast Kingdom and higher terrain. Power outages, falling trees and downed power lines are likely. Winds will likely reach their peak speeds from 4 p.m. on Monday to 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

Forecaster Kimberly McMahon, of the National Weather Service, told VTDigger that a flood watch remains in place for Addison, Orange, Rutland and Windsor counties. McMahon said an extra 1-2 inches of rainfall could cause rivers to rise in the central and southern Green Mountains, though actual flooding is unlikely.

“The main issue with the system is going to be wind,” said McMahon. “But the potential for flooding can’t be ignored.” The latest weather update from the National Weather Service in Burlington highlights the rivers of greatest concern as Otter Creek, Black River, Ottauquechee River and Ayers Brook.

McMahon explained that the strongest winds are expected on the western slopes of the Green Mountains and in the Northeast Kingdom. As winds approach the peaks from the east, they accelerate as they roll down the western mountain slopes.

McMahon advises that people stay indoors as the storm peaks and winds mount and move objects like chairs and tables inside beforehand. People should refrain from driving if possible, with winds and rain creating potential visibility and handling problems.

This map graphic from the New York Times charts the course of the storm. Sandy is expected to impact at least six states heavily — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — and President Barack Obama has declared emergencies in each of them, according to the Associated Press.

Roger Hill, a WDEV weather forecaster and consultant, called Sandy’s behavior and trajectory “unprecedented” because tropical storms don’t usually hook left, as Sandy is doing. He described it as a “hurricane inside a northeaster [storm].”

Sandy’s wind fields are projected to extend far to the north, which is why it’s expected to affect Vermont this afternoon even though it’s only projected to land near New Jersey much later this evening, said Hill. He said Sandy is at its most intense over the ocean and will weaken slowly as it travels inland, which is more relevant to the storm’s impact on Vermont than its geographical proximity.

Hill expected that the first sunny day after a week of rain and other interference from Sandy would be next Monday, a week from today. He warned that cooler weekend temperatures in the Northeast Kingdom due to Sandy could even make for some snow, which would be especially problematic if power outages continue and people are left without heating.

Hill described the storm as a “slow mover” but said Vermont would likely see the worst of the storm this evening. McMahon said that winds will remain tomorrow afternoon, but will start to subside, and are unlikely to reach over 58 mph.

McMahon said tomorrow after 11 a.m., “it’s not like the sun’s going to pop out and everything’s going to dry, and things will be hunky-dory.” Trees, debris and power lines could still clutter roads until utility crews fully deal with the aftermath.

Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency on Sunday, with the state’s emergency personnel fully prepared and on standby.

Tips on how to prepare can be found here. Key points include keeping extra power sources and clean water sources on hand in case of power outages. The next update will be issued by the National Weather Service in Burlington at 6 p.m. Monday, or earlier if conditions warrant.

Nat Rudarakanchana

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