Hurricane Sandy weakened overnight into a category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, but it is still expected to be a massive and powerful system for the next several days that could strike the Delmarva peninsula.
National Hurricane Center forecasters have adjusted Sandy’s potential track slightly southward, from a predicted landfall on the central New Jersey coast to one on the Atlantic or Delaware Bay coast of the Delmarva by overnight Monday into Tuesday.
Gov. Martin O’Malley declared a state of emergency Friday morning launching statewide storm preparation efforts led by the Maryland Emergency Management agrency. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also launched readiness efforts Friday, coordination with state officials.
“As Hurricane Sandy makes its way north, I urge all Maryland residents to prepare for extreme weather,” O’Malley said in a statement. “I urge all Marylanders to review their family emergency plans, make sure their emergency supplies like batteries and water are fully stocked and to stay informed.”
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Carolinas, and more watches could be extended up the coast Friday. The storm was about 500 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., as of 5 a.m.
While the storm has weakened slightly since Thursday, heavy and damaging winds still extend far out from the center of the storm,according to the hurricane center. Hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph extend 35 miles out from the center, and tropical storm force winds of 39 mph to 73 mph extend out 275 miles from the center.
If that strength and the forecast track hold up, it would mean tropical storm force winds could start affecting Maryland on Monday. Some rain and breezy winds could start late Sunday, with rain and heavy winds throughout Monday and Tuesday, according to forecasts.
Foot’s Forecast is warning of possible tropical storm force winds up to 150 miles inland from North Carolina to New Jersey and New York City, with 6 to 12 inches of rain possible across parts of half a dozen states. “Extreme” coastal flooding and severe beach erosion are possible with 10-20 foot waves pounding over a period of two days.
NASA satellite images show the storm grew by 120 miles in diameter overnight, to about 410 miles wide.
Weather watchers continue to debate models’ predictions for Sandy’s track and are already expecting it to be a historic storm for much of the country.
Many are predicting record-low pressure measurements when the storm arrives — potentially as low as 930 millibars, according to local meteorologist Eric the Red. That is the equivalent of 27.5 inches mercury on a home barometer. For comparison, according to Eric, the superstorm of March 1993 had pressure of 960 millibars, or 28.3 inches mercury.
According to atmospheric scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a hook in Sandy’s track — in which the storm is expected to swing out to sea somewhat before turning back and striking the coast head-on — would also be unprecedented and devastating.
Of the hurricanes at least category 2 strength that have passed up the East Coast toward New York since 1850, none have made such a hook, according to an article NCAR’s Bob Henson posted Thursday. The unusual head-on hit could bring massive storm surges and coastal flooding because of the storm’s forward movement directly into the coast. A full moon could also worsen the flooding.