Soak and chill: 'Frankenstorm' to start wetting Charlottesville Sunday
Hurricane Sandy, swirling over the Atlantic Ocean, may not truly become the "Frankenstorm" until it strikes the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday, but Charlottesville may start feeling its pre-Halloween winds and rainfall on the evening of Sunday, October 28.
"This is a particularly long-stretching storm," says Jason Elliott, a meteorologist in the Sterling office of the National Weather Service. "Even if the storm center passes through Delaware and Pennsylvania, we're still going to get plenty of winds and rain from it."
Elliott says that Charlottesville could feel winds in the 15 to 20 mile-per-hour range on Sunday and up to 30 miles per hour the next day. He's less worried about flash-flooding.
"The rainfall amounts we're looking at are in the two-to-four inches range," says Elliott. "But one thing to keep in mind is that those two to four inches are spread out over two to three days, so that lessens the risk of flash flooding."
Something Derecho- and microburst-seasoned Charlottesville and Albemarle citizens may wish to prepare for is a loss of power because Elliott says that the the combination of a long ground-softening rain and heavy wind gusts could drop limbs on electric lines.
Another aspect of the Frankenstorm is the impending chill. Speaking on a sun-dappled Saturday after Charlottesville enjoyed a week of temperatures solidly in the 70s and topping out at 83, Elliott says the Frankenstorm will be accompanied by a burst of frigid northern air that will keep highs in the 40s and wind-chill-effects in the 20s and 30s. With rain.
"So we go from 80s to talking about wind chill in less than a week," says Elliott.
One thing Charlottesville probably won't get, however, is a taste of snowfall.
"I think that's going to be mainly higher elevations and to the west of us in West Virginia," says Elliott. "They could get quite a bit of snow."
With the prospect of coastal flooding and storm surges, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has already declared a state of emergency and has slated a 1pm Saturday conference call with journalists. The Hook will accept storm suggestions under this story as well as on a special page– linked here– that will include emergency numbers and resources.
"It certainly is a unique and long-lasting storm," said the governor, who said he's been monitoring the weather reports and who brought other top officials onto the phone.
In response to a Hook reporter's question about the possibility of pushing regulated utilities like Dominion Virginia Power to prevent outages or fix them faster, the governor pointed to the summertime derecho as an example of a storm so widespread that it overwhelmed any utility's efforts to promptly restore power.
"That may be the case this time," said McDonnell, "with multiple states affected by this."
Albemarle County spokesperson Lee Catlin reveals that even though the November 6 presidential election lies more than a week away, the state elections board has decreed that concern about getting to the polls is a valid reason for voting absentee now. That can be done at the new county office building at 1600 Fifth Street Extended– with special Saturday hours on October 27 and November 3 in addition to the usual weekday hours.
"We're still two or three days out," says Elliott, "so the impact could be better or worse from what we're expecting."
For UVA's top climatologist, Jerry Stenger, this event is more fascinating than terrifying. In part, he says, that's because he doesn't envision that Charlottesville will get any more than two inches of rain, and he also says the cold air will sap much of an already low-level hurricane's strength.
"This is certainly a most unusual situation shaping up for the next few days," says Stenger. "None of the forecasters I've discussed this with have ever seen a system like this."
What they're seeing is a strong and narrow trough in the Jet Stream which has the power to pull a late-season hurricane due west instead of following the usual coast-hugging track.
"For weather forecasters," says Stenger, "this is one of the great weather shows of all time– bigger than the Super Bowl."
–This was to be an online-only story. If it makes its way into print, it's only to see how the predictors did.
–updated with absentee ballot info at 1:16pm Saturday and again at 1:46pm with the governor's comments and then at 2:27pm with Stenger's comments. Headline slug shorted from 'Soaked and chilled' to 'Soak and chill'Read more on: Frankenstorm