How an Unnamed Nor'easter Got in the Top 10Last Edited:
All I can say is thank goodness it's over. What a week! Forecasting these things can get very exhausting as you've got to pay close attention to a plethora of different variables and how often they change - not to mention how much model data is constantly coming in...ahhhh!!! I'm always coming up with new ideas, so I figured it would be neat to do a recap after every major event to see what happened along the way and how things could have been different in the forecast. Most importantly, I want to do this for sake of accountability. If I make mistakes - I own them. They don't belong to anyone else. The blame is solely on me.
With that said - I DID make a misstep. I underestimated the coastal flooding. Point blank, I wasn't bullish enough. The flooding was incredible. Waking up and seeing the tide heights so high, I knew right off the bat that we were in trouble. My forecast all week long was for moderate flooding. There were plenty of areas where that idea verified, but several spots that I missed the mark on. Ocean City, Margate, portions of the Wildwoods & Ventnor... they all reached the "major" flood threshold. For some towns this event ranks as one of the top 10 worst on record.
I broke down the top 5 high tides for Atlantic City, Ocean City and Cape May. While this event wasn't significant enough to beat out some of the monsters in the top 5, it made the list by rounding out the bottom. Sandy, "Jonas" & the '62 nor'easter were among the top coastal flood producers.
Major flood threshold varies island to island. That is why it makes it difficult sometimes to forecast flooding events as moderate for one town may be major for another. Here's a look at the actual tide chart from yesterday... Luckily we didn't cross into major flooding very far, we were on the lower end for those who did get there. Also even luckier, we only saw ONE round. The night time high tide didn't come up NEARLY as far. More of a traditional spotty minor type event.
So WHAT exactly did I overlook and WHY was it a little worse than I thought? A few different factors (that were actually very well known, but I underestimated the impact)
1. Full moon - even 3 days out had a rather significant impact. It seems like these days every coastal storm arrives around the time of a full or new moon.
2. Winds out ahead of the Sat AM high tide. I briefly mentioned I was concerned about the winds picking up 10 hours before the high tide on Thursday afternoon. What happened here was the waves essentially got a running start. We look at something called "fetch", that's a several hundred mile long area that the wind is able to blow the waves unimpeded towards the coast. By the middle of the night, several hours before the high tide, heights were ALREADY running well above average as the excess wave action helped "stack" the back bays. Winds started gusting to over 40mph around midnight. That certainly didn't help the situation.
3. Heavy Rain runoff. Didn't really take that into consideration. We had around 2" of rain just before the high tide. That exacerbated the situation as well.
All of this put together equated to a tide about 1/2' higher than anticipated. It was the difference between moderate and low end major. 6" that's all. That seems small - and in the grand scheme of things, it is, but when you're dealing with these coastal flood situations, every inch of water matters.
It's really a story of "The little storm that could". I made it clear several times that this would not be a behemoth of a storm in terms of size and intensity. In fact, it was on the weaker side. With that in mind though I also stressed that the significant part of the storm would be the pressure gradient created by a strong high to the northeast. The central pressure of this storm only got down to about 998mb. That's very weak. The difference between it and the high was significant enough to create a "wind tunnel" effect along the coast and have the winds gust to over 60mph along the North Jersey Coastline... 62mph was the peak wind gust in Harvey Cedars... wow! That just goes to show you, you don't NEED a strong area of low pressure IF there are other factors at play that can actually amplify the impacts.
Here's a look at some of the worst wind gusts... forecast was pretty much on point with the winds, I was thinking 50mph gusts at the coast, 40-45 on the mainland, that verified pretty well.
Harvey Cedars: 62mph
Ocean City: 50mph
Little Egg Harbor: 47mph
Rainfall Totals... I went 1-2" and that's exactly what fell... there were perhaps a couple exceptions where we had a tad over (at the coast, but I'm happy with that forecast.
Atlantic City: 2.23"
Cape May: 2.00"
Mays Landing: 1.95"
Buena Vista: 1.80"
Here's a look at some of the viewer pictures that were submitted via facebook and our weather app:
1. Damage to North Point Marina in Brigantine
2. Ventnor Gardens - Michelle Dorothy
3. Woman floating in Chelsea Heights - Maryfrances Strey
4. Somers Point Gazebo - Courtesy of John Lourex
5. Wild waves in the Wildwoods - Dawn Pistoia
6. Tuckerton Beach - Laurel Kaufmann
7. Ocean City- Andrea Silver Palermo
Unfortunately I saw far too many photos and videos of people driving through the flood waters. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you do that. VERY dangerous! You never know if there are live wires under the water. Always exercise caution when dealing with these situations!
I think it's important to note that no, these events aren't getting stronger and more frequent, simply more people are being impacted due to population growth. A look back at history will show you much greater storms (some of which I highlighted above). Just to reiterate - this was NOT a strong storm. The impacts were amplified and it came at a bad time.
Overall, I think I'd give myself a "B" for the forecast. I wish I would have picked up on the additional flood threat. The only thing that matters to me is that everyone stayed safe and our of harm's way. My goal is to provide you the BEST and most accurate non-hyped forecast possible. When I make a mistake, I take it personally. I've dedicated my entire career to "get it right". Mother Nature will always have an upper hand and last minute surprises. Regardless of how much technology we have, meteorology is still an "inexact science". I will ALWAYS do my best to get it right for you... I've been doing this job professionally for 8 years now. Each storm teaches me something new and I never forget those lessons. Thanks for sticking by me!