Sandy Getting Stronger

Sandy’s still out at sea and yet, even on the lee side of the Cape May peninsula, water levels are rising to flood levels this morning.  High tide has claimed the entire beach  at Higbee Beach Wildlife Management  Area and is surging into the dune path.

After Sandy’s visit is over,  it’s likely both the beach and the dune could be compromised.

The normally placid Delaware Bay looked like a stormy ocean this morning.

In the Cape May Canal, between the bay and the ocean,  the high tide covered the North Cape May jetties at the ferry terminals. The ferries are not running and are not docked there right now.  Strong winds out of the north whipped up the water.  Surging water  came within one to two feet feet of the top of the rocky walls lining the Canal. The next high tide tonight undoubtedly will be even higher.

With only hours before Hurricane Sandy hits the Jersey shore, forecasters have refined their predictions for landfall in New Jersey, as well as the power of the storm. For days, hurricane modelers disagreed on Sandy’s path, but slowly the models of where the storm was going have converged and there is now general agreement that Sandy will be coming ashore somewhere north of Cape May.

The storm has turned to the west and is heading straight for the South Jersey shore. The forecasting models still cannot pinpoint the landfall, but where the storm comes ashore will not change the fact that it is a monstrous storm.

In Cape May,  the dunes have been breached and water has come onto Beach Avenue and the Cove area.   The hurricane has yet to touch land. With  the maximum sustained winds of Sandy at  90 mph (yesterday predicted at 75 mph), things are looking worse. The storm is growing more powerful.

Past predictions forecast Sandy to be an “Extra-Tropical Cyclone” when it reached land.  South Jersey residents refer to those storms as nor’easters.  However, Sandy is now  expected to be a Category 1 hurricane when it touches land.  The National Weather Service now says Sandy may have gusts up to 115 miles per hour.

If the hurricane makes landfall to the north of the Cape May Peninsula, we can expect more rain and less tidal flooding than the northern Jersey shore. We are now forecast to get 6” to 8” of rain, although some locations may be inundated by as much as 10-12” of rain. With this rain plus  winds in excess of 50 or possibly 70 mph inland from the shore, we should expect power outages that may last for a week or more in some cases.

What has been most disconcerting about Sandy is the fact that even the meteorologists are scratching their heads about what’s to come.  None have seen a storm like this one. They are still not sure about some of the details.

The newer predictions and uncertainties make waiting for Sandy even more nerve wracking.

About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.