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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Hurricane Sandy looms over the US

By Phil Plait

Hurricane Sandy is currently churning up the ocean of the United States' southeast coast. As the core hit landfall over Cuba yesterday, NASA's Suomi-NPP satellite took this image of the monster storm in the infrared:

[Click to coriolisenate.]

Holy crap. That's a big hurricane. It's being nicknamed Frankenstorm due to it size, and I'm seeing lots of predictions that it'll be bigger and more damaging even than The Perfect Storm of 1991. This is because Sandy is a hurricane in its own right, but there is also a nor'easter, a low pressure system, off the coast farther north. Together, these two systems can produce a much larger storm capable of dropping a lot of rain and flooding inland areas. On top of that, of course, there's also high winds.

The system is also slow moving, potentially making things a lot worse. That gives it more time to do damage, of course, but we're also approaching the full Moon on October 29. It's not the Moon's phase that matters, but the position: when it is aligned with the Sun in the sky (either at full or new phase) the tidal force from the Moon aligns with that of the Sun, adding together. The tides from the Sun are about half the strength of the Moon's, but together (called Spring Tide) they can increase the chance of flooding because high tide is slightly higher than normal.

The storm is expected to strengthen on Monday or Tuesday, and a lot of models show it moving north and then west, over the east coast. I urge everyone to keep your eyes on the news to see what's what.

Also, I heard an interesting piece of advice that seems sound to me: rake your leaves! Leaves get clogged in drains and can aid flooding. By getting leaves up out of your yard, it lowers the odds of flooding - though by how much I couldn't say. Still, it sounds like something that can't hurt, especially given some of the predictions I've seen for more than 20 centimeters (8-10 inches) of rain!

Keep safe, everyone.

Image credit: NOAA/NASA

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