An autumn Nor’easter is about to slam the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. This is the second Nor’easter of the season. Several communities on the U.S. East Coast are still recovering from costly beach erosion due to last week’s storm – Tropical Storm Melissa. Although this next Nor’easter will also be wet rather than snowy, truckers are still likely to run into travel troubles on the I-95 and other interstate corridors. Shippers should expect short-term delays.
Defining a Nor’easter
A Nor’easter is a storm that develops along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal areas typically blow in from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April.
Some of the most well-known Nor’easters include the notorious Blizzard of 1888, the “Ash Wednesday” storm of March 1962, the New England Blizzard of February 1978, the March 1993 “Superstorm,” the Boston snowstorms of January and February 2015, and the four Nor’easters in March 2018 that froze supply chains from Washington, D.C. to Boston.
Past Nor’easters have been responsible for billions of dollars in damage, along with severe disruptions to the economy and transportation. In some cases, Nor’easters have caused disastrous coastal flooding. Damage from the worst storms has cost billions of dollars each.
The impending storm will be a classic Nor’easter in many ways. It will develop in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles of the East Coast – in this case, centered to the east of the coastline, staying a bit offshore. It will move in a general northeastward direction, likely bombing out and reaching maximum intensity by the time it arrives in New England. A storm is defined as “bombing out” when its central atmospheric pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. Pressure and wind are directly related – very low pressure produces strong winds, while high pressure results in light winds.
Nor’easters nearly always bring precipitation in the form of heavy rain or snow, minimum gale force winds, rough seas and oftentimes coastal flooding. The heavily populated region from Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston – the “I-95 Corridor” – is especially impacted by Nor’easters.
The Nor’easter that is about to develop has barely been born. A low pressure cell off the Southeast coast will begin to form early tomorrow, October 16, and will become stronger as it approaches the Mid-Atlantic during the afternoon, followed by New England tomorrow night. This system will combine with another, yet weaker low pressure cell moving out of the Midwest.
While many Nor’easters produce heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions, this one will be of the wet variety. Temperatures will be too warm to support frozen precipitation at the ground. And although the storm will be centered offshore, it is poised to unleash abundant rainfall and wind into some parts of the Northeast.
From tomorrow afternoon through Thursday afternoon, October 17, up to three inches of rainfall could accumulate from Newark, New Jersey to Long Island, Bridgeport, Providence and Boston. Destructive wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph could blow down trees and power lines, knocking out electricity and blocking roads. However, some computer models are hinting at gusts of 60 mph or more. In addition, storm surge could be high enough to flood some coastal communities and produce beach erosion.
Not only are delays to surface transportation a good bet, but air cargo will get behind schedule and port operations may slow or shut down for a while. The silver lining is that the Nor’easter will be a fairly quick-mover. This will somewhat limit the amount of damage and the duration of impacts.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has not issued any flood watches as of this afternoon, but this may change. Once issued, they appear in the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform.
For now a Gale Watch is in effect along the East Coast from the Delmarva Peninsula through Maine, extending about 20 nautical miles offshore. Gale Warnings are posted for areas farther offshore and extend as far south as off the Georgia coast.
Look for updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.