Schools are closed. The mayor has rolled out the city’s new mobile emergency command vehicle. And broadcasters across the state have turned to DEFCON-style storm coverage.
Lost in the swirl of media hype over Hurricane Sandy are answers to basic, practical questions about what we can expect and when. We called up Dave Dombek, a meteorologist with Accuweather.com and asked him to give us the straight talk. The full conversation follows, but the long and short of his forecast is that Richmond doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about with Sandy. As a storm, she’s just not that interested in us -- she has eyes for New Jersey.
Style: Is this storm for real or have meteorologists across the east coast conspired to freak us all out and sell bottled water?
Dombek: Ah, no, it’s real. All you have to do is look at a satellite loop to see it. It’s there, and believe me, it’s definitely there, and it’s a pretty powerful storm right now.
Broadly speaking, what should Richmonders be worried about?
Fortunately, Richmond, as far as your orientation and your relation to where the storm is and everything, you’ll definitely feel some effects but it’s not going to be nearly as bad as it will be in other areas. That’s the good news. The bad: You are going to get some rain, and you’re going to probably get some heavy rains.
Total rainfall out of the storm might be on the order of 2-to-4 inches, which is certainly a very healthy rainstorm, no doubt about it, but it’s not the 4-to-8, or 8-to-10 inch plus that will occur further north. So, 2-to-4 inches of rain, some pretty gusty winds, particularly Monday into Monday night. I would say, at the peak here, we might be looking at some winds in excess of 50 mph, but that might be at the top end of what you get out of this. Couldn’t rule out a 60 mph wind gust, but probably going to be more typically in the range of 40 to 50 miles per hour, which again is certainly not a walk in the park, it’s not a picnic, it’s going to be very noticeable, it’s quite stormy, but it’s not going to be in the real brunt of the storm like they’ll get further north and north east.
When can we expect to start feeling the impact of this storm in Richmond?
Right now you’re just getting some light drizzle. It’s misty out there right now. It’s kind of windy or borderline breezy windy. Right now as you step outside you’ve probably got 16 mph winds and gusts to about 25 mph. So again it’s not very pleasant outside right now, but it’s going to get worse. What you’re going to see happen is overnight tonight that band of rain, heavier stuff that’s out to your east over the Tidewater region, that will be shifting westward into the Richmond area tonight overnight. It’s going to rain pretty good, pretty hard late tonight and through the day tomorrow and then it will sort of taper down. … The heaviest rain will get out of here tomorrow night, Monday night.
As far as a 12 hour time period, it’s probably going to be like very late tonight and into the day tomorrow -- 5 am to 5 p.m. -- some kind of window like that that will be your stormiest time period.
The winds will be skewed a little later. Expect your strongest winds between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 [a.m.] to 9 [p.m.] or something like that. Long after the rain tapers down, it’s going to stay pretty windy.
By Tuesday, this storm has made its way far enough up to the north above Pennsylvania, so yes there will still be some gusty winds, and some rain showers, but at that point you’re kind of just dealing with leftovers Tuesday. Just kind of a normal, crappy day.
Realistically, what should we expect in the way of power outages?
You’re in borderline area. It’s hard to say, but the wind that we’re expecting, and the amount of rain that we’re expecting, softening up the ground in some areas, should not in theory produce the widespread and massive power outages like what we’re expecting up the coast further. I’m not saying that there won’t be any but, like I said, in theory, the power outage situation should not be nearly as bad in the Richmond area as it will be over toward the coast, on the Delmarva peninsula, up in New Jersey, parts of southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland. Those areas will get hit much harder than you guys will. I don’t want to say that there will be no power outages, but I can almost guarantee you it will not be as bad as it will be in other places.
It’s one of those questions where it’s impossible to answer because it really depends. You could say, ‘Well, yeah, normally 40-45 mph winds, that shouldn’t be any problem.’ Well, what if that wind is just strong enough to knock down some branch somewhere, a large branch off a tree that’s already weak and it’s barely hanging on by a thread, and you could almost just get a little puff of wind and it’s going to blow it off and all of a sudden knock power off to 10,000 people or something.