WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

The "S" storm forms...

Posted October 23, 2012

Tropical Storm Sandy seen on infrared satellite over the southern Carribean early on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. The storm should is projected to drift north and intensify in the next day or two.

It's funny that when it was my own name earlier this season, it didn't seem very personal, but now that there's an active tropical cyclone with my wife's name, it feels a little weird to discuss it by name! At any rate, as with other such storms, "Sandy" in this case is an it, not a she; an atmospheric process, not an organism or living creature. Nonetheless, Elizabeth asked this morning if there had been an Atlantic storm named Sandy, and while I didn't think so, I wasn't completely certain.

Looking through some records confirms that this is the first use of the name, which is 18th on the list of names for this season. In the past, there have thus far been eight seasons with at least 18 storms that would garner a name under the current system. However, the present system of using human names only began back in 1953, so there would be no "Sandy"s before that time, which accounts for two of those eight seasons (1887 and 1933). In 1969, there were enough storms overall, but it turns out that they were only named up through the "M" storm, and then a post-season reanalysis identified an additional four tropical cyclones and one subtropical storm that did not receive names since they weren't detected and tracked in real time. The additional five seasons that have produced "S" storms are this year, 2011 (Sean), 2010 (Shary), 2005 (Stan, the only such storm to be sufficiently destructive of life and property for retirement), and 1995 (Sebastien).

Having tracked that down, the next issue, a difficult one so far, is to work out what the future track of Sandy will be, and how much it may or may not impact the U.S. and North Carolina late this week and over the weekend. As you may have seen on some of our weathercasts, there are two main "camps" among the future path projections. Both of these currently move the storm center to a position a little east of the northern Bahamas by late Friday, but diverge quite a bit from there, with the European model moving northward not real far off the east coast over the weekend, perhaps bringing strong north winds and bands of significant rain to eastern NC, before interacting with a frontal system and hooking westward into the northeastern U.S. early next week. The American GFS model and several other U.S. hurricane tracking models swing Sandy to the northeast in the general direction of Bermuda. On that track, the storm would have very little direct impact on our state.

It's likely the models will agree more as the system drifts north of Jamaica and Haiti and into a more dynamic environment later this week, and it will be interesting to see whether the eventual track follows one of the two current camps, a blend of the two or something entirely different. We'll also be watching for a possible transition of the storm as it moves north of the Bahamas, from fully tropical to subtropical (a blend of tropical and extratropical characteristics) and perhaps eventually to a post-tropical structure more typical of a cool-season nor'easter.

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  • joseaea3981 Oct 23, 9:09 a.m.

    Last year, Hurricane Irene, was my first hurricane since I grew up in Ohio. My mother-in-law's name is Irene. It seemed normal to talk to or hear about it around locals in Wilson. However, when we visited home this summer and I mentioned "when Irene hit," I got a strange look. Then I had to clarify that it was the hurricane.