WASHINGTON – All the spare parts appear to be coming together to create what forecasters are calling “Frankenstorm,” a monster combination of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe snow that could cause havoc along the East Coast just before Halloween next week.
Hurricane Sandy, having blown through Haiti and Cuba on Thursday, continues to barrel north. A wintry storm is chugging across from the West. And frigid air is streaming south from Canada.
And if they meet Tuesday morning around New York or New Jersey, as forecasters predict, they could create a big wet mess that settles over the nation’s most heavily populated corridor and reaches as far inland as Ohio.
With experts expecting at least $1 billion in damage, the people who will have to clean it up aren’t waiting.
Utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with the power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared. And President Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One.
“It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. “Mother Nature is not saying ‘trick-or-treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname Frankenstorm, said: “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”
Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance – up from 60 percent two days earlier – that the East will get pounded starting Sunday and stretching past Halloween on Wednesday. Things are expected to get messier after Sandy, a late hurricane in what has been a remarkably quiet season, comes ashore, probably in New Jersey.
Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, but the storm is expected to vent the worst of its fury on New Jersey and the New York City area, which could see 5 inches of rain and gale-force winds of 40 mph. Eastern Ohio, southwest Pennsylvania, western Virginia and the Shenandoah Mountains could get snow.
The weather may not start clearing in the mid-Atlantic until the day after Halloween and the upper Northeast until Nov. 2, Cisco said.