Weather update, Oct. 29: A high wind warning is in effect this afternoon through Tuesday morning. Though Sandy will make landfall hundreds of miles to the south, an expansive wind field is expected to spread strong winds across New Hampshire and western Maine beginning Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The window for the strongest winds will be late Monday and into the evening, especially along the coast and across higher elevations. Damaging wind gusts and power outages are expected during this time frame.
A storming warning issued at 6 a.m. this morning for waters from Stonington to Penobscot Bay to Port Clyde and out to 25 miles remains in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday. East winds 35 to 45 knots with gusts up to 60 knots. Recreational boaters should remain in port or take shelter. Commercial vessels should prepare for very strong winds and dangerous seas conditions, the NWS advises.
If Maine learned anything from the Great Ice Storm of 1998, it is better to lay in some batteries, candles and water to prepare for weather and power outages, just in case. While public safety officials keep a close eye on advisories from the National Weather Service concerning Hurricane Sandy, the harbors over the weekend were emptying of boats and citizens were flocking to grocery and hardware stores. If they don't use the supplies this time around, they figure, there is always the prospect of winter storms.
As of Sunday afternoon, a high wind warning had been issued for the state for 2 p.m. Monday through 8 a.m. Tuesday. Winds are expected to blow out of the east, 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Strongest winds will occur Monday afternoon and Monday night, according to the National Weather Service. Widespread power outages are possible from downed trees and power lines near the coast where the winds will be the strongest. A high wind warning means a hazardous wind event is expected.
On Sunday afternoon, the rush was winding down at local stores, but grocery clerks described the Sunday morning business akin to that which usually precedes a winter storm, with the focus on water, snacks, batteries, and food for cats and dogs.
"It was cranking," said one clerk, who deferred to her boss, who deferred to corporate headquarters to be the official grocery-storm spokesperson (who weren't working on Sunday).
"Ready for the storm?" was the normal question in every aisle, as neighbors picked up a a few last-minute items, like more water. And snacks.
At the hardware stores, the Sunday morning hunt was still on for tarps and plastic, and tape to tape it all up, said Liz Oden, at EBS in Camden. "We sold out of candles, and people have been buying flashlights galore, batteries, bio bricks and smart logs for wood stoves. People are starting to pay attention to the weather. They are getting prepared, which is nice. I'd rather they prepare in advance in storm instead of trying to drive here during a storm."
For Todd, a sailor who took his Tancook Whaler on the season's last sail from Camden to Rockport on Saturday to haul it out there, the prospect of storm was less important than correctly putting the boat away. He brought the boat up from Maryland when he moved here in August and this would be its first Maine winter.
"What I've heard from locals is that there will just some wind and power outages, so I shouldn't be concerned," he said. "We'll get some canned food and get prepared."
Others weighing in from others spots around the country, who may want to come home but can't, report grounding out in Detroit or Denver because air traffic is suspended in New York City.
By the time Hurricane Sandy arrives on Penobscot Bay, the storm is expected to be post-tropical, with splash, erosion and minor flooding expected Monday and Monday night along the immediate coast with a storm surge combined with a full-moon high tide. High tides in Belfast, Camden and Rockland occur around 11:17 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. on Monday.
While its impacts will vary according to geography, the storm itself is of super size, according to imagery from NASA satellite cameras. Because it is drawing energy from a cold front, it has reached historic geographical proportions, extending for 2,000 miles. It is considered a Category 1 hurricane. According to NASA on Oct. 28: "Hurricane Sandy's reach has grown on satellite imagery, and during the morning of Oct. 28, the storm intensified as there was a large pressure drop. The atmospheric pressure dropped to 951 millibars during the morning of Oct. 28, an eyewall formed. When a storm's atmospheric pressure drops by a large amount as Sandy has done, it's a sign the storm is strengthening tremendously."
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Current wind analyses for Knox County from an advisory circulated Sunday indicates the storm will blow out of the northeast, and there is currently an eight percent chance of 39 mile-per-hour winds. Peak winds are expected to occur around 41 miles miles per hour at approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The duration of tropical storm-force winds is anticipated to be approximately 13 hours, beginning Monday night and blowing up to 39 miles per hour. The estimations are subject to considerable forecast uncertainty as the storm changes and progresses.
A coastal flood watch has been issued for coastal Knox, Waldo and Hancock counties, as well as Washington County and for that matter, all the way down along the New Hampshire coast, from Monday morning through late Monday night. A storm surge is forecast to approach three feet at time of high tide on Monday. Any flooding with be combined with strong wave action from high seas. The best chance for flooding will be within a couple of hours either side of high tide Monday and Monday night, according to the NWS. The combination of surge and high tide could take the water level to approximately a foot above flood level.
Out to sea, a storm warning has been issued for the Gulf of Maine out to the Hague Line as of this afternoon, with east to northeast winds increasing to 30, 40 to 50 knots over the next 24-plus hours and seas building six to 18 to 28 feet. Monday night, the rains will settle in, before the storm begins to diminish on Tuesday and Wednesday as the winds shift to the southeast and south, and finally to the southwest. Closer to shore, the winds will not be as strong, but coastal forecasts from Stonington to Port Clyde to the Merrimack River and out 25 miles still call for a storm warning, with gusts building to 40 to 60 knots and seas building 14 to 19 feet, with rain and fog.
Central Maine Power officials Friday reported they are now preparing for the storm by lining up the work crews and contractors to be on standby to repair damaged power lines.
"We’ve put our storm response plan into motion, and we’re watching the forecast closely," said John Carroll, spokesperson for CMP. "Our main concern will be the high winds and heavy rains forecast to accompany the storm. With leaves that have not yet been shed, trees are particularly vulnerable to strong winds, and the limbs and branches could be blown into our lines."
If outages occur, CMP urges customers to call the toll-free outage hotline at 1-800-696-1000.
PenBayPilot.com Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at lyndaclancy@PenBayPilot.com; 706-6657.