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Frankenstorm's Political Effects

by: DocJess

Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 06:18:26 AM EDT

As you certainly know, for the first time in history, a tropical storm is going to collide with something very cold causing a hurricane to come ashore, a nor'easter to form and hit, and then there will be snow. Normally we're thinking about snow and rain for election day issues, and hurricanes for the conventions. It's a little mind boggling.

The map is a general one, and certainly subject to change. Some other projected forecasts track a little further south into Virginia and West Virginia, and further WSW into Ohio. Remember that no matter the exact track, Sandy is 700 miles across, and expected to grow. That's a lot of real estate.

The political consequences can be serious. In places like Virginia and Ohio where there are early voting, there can certainly be disruption. Depending on how much snow falls, and how high the winds are, in both states there can be effects to election day.

Here in Pennsylvania, we're expecting major power outages and flooding in the eastern part of the state and snow in the west. While we are a one voting day only state, we are facing impacts. First, this weekend, we may need to pull our canvassers back tomorrow night if the storm speeds up. You don't send canvassers out when trees are falling across the roads, and the wind is 40 mph. Further, a lot of GOTV volunteers need time to batten down the hatches, clear patios, decks, and other places from which projectiles can launch, and prepare for power outages that could theoretically last a week. Both canvassing and phone banking this week will be affected: it's unlikely anyone in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or the SES parts of New York will be going out, or even calling Monday to Wednesday. No power, no phones, no ability to enter data. 

The campaigns are all affected in terms of where they will be holding prescheduled events.  This is true not only about cancelled Virginia events for both the Obama and Romney campaigns, but also state and local candidates. Last night, Philadelphia issued mandatory evacuation orders for people in low-lying areas for 2 pm Sunday. I've lived here a long time, and this is the first Philadelphia evacuation I can remember.

There are a lot of people not taking Sandy seriously. A co-worker told me that she was leaving early yesterday to go down the shore (NJ for those of you who aren't local) to attend a wedding ON SUNDAY. Some people with whom I work on GOTV have said I shouldn't worry about having canvassers out on Sunday, they'll be fine. 

And there you have it. Personally, I'm off to the store for batteries and candles, then back to clear potential projectiles, and then 12 hours of GOTV activities. 

DocJess :: Frankenstorm's Political Effects

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People should take this seriously (0.00 / 0)
Many DCW readers will remember I thought Irene was a bit overhyped before it hit, and that there was some storm theater on the part of state and local officials, some of which put people in more danger. The flooding from Irene was devastating in upstate New York, but that isn't where the hype was focussed. Irene ended up being the third most expensive and third most deadly weather disaster of 2011 for the United States--very, very bad, but only borderline "historic."

Sandy, on the other hand, is, if anything, being underhyped. The storm is forecast to be about the same strength as Irene when it comes onshore. The angle of approach, however, is much worse. Depending on the exact track, it should be coming in from the southeast, and coming in very rapidly. Because winds circle counterclockwise around storms, if Sandy hits south of New York City, she'll come in parallel to Long Island, with winds pushing water along the Long Island Sound. That's a recipe for major coastal flooding all along the coast of the Sound, including coastal Connecticut, the North Shore of Long Island, coastal Westchester country, and parts of the Bronx and Queens.

In addition, Sandy will be transforming into a post-tropical storm. Note that it was a forecaster for the National Weather Service who coined the term "Frankenstorm" for Sandy, not some overexcited reporter! Post-tropical storms are much larger than hurricanes. While it does matter whether a given location is north or south of Sandy when she hits, it doesn't matter as much as for a normal hurricane how far the location is is from the center. A hit on the Delmarva peninsula, for example, would drive water up the Delaware Bay--that's the reason for the Philadelphia evacuations.

Next, Sandy is expected to stall out once she comes ashore. Because she will have transitioned to being post-tropical, she won't weaken much. Wind and rain may continue for days. Trees that can stand up to gale force winds for a few hours may give out in increasingly saturated soil as the hours stretch into days.

Finally, Sandy will come ashore at a time of a full Moon, increasing the height of the tides.

Complicating the public reaction will be the labels used. The highest winds of Sandy may not be all that high--maybe barely hurricane strength, maybe not. But in a hurricane, those winds are only very near the center. 50 mph winds may cover a very large area with Sandy, and a very large area means a whole lot of damage and danger. If Sandy has transitioned into a post-tropical storm, there will be no hurricane or tropical storm watches or warnings--instead there will be things which sound less scary, like "high wind warnings," "coastal flood warnings," "flash flood warnings," and the like. People may be skeptical about taking precautions under those circumstances.

The exact path, strength, characteristics, and effects of Sandy can't be predicted this far in advance, and are considerably more uncertain than was the case with Irene at the same point before landfall. But odds are that, somewhere, major roads will be underwater. There's almost certain to be major power outages, leaving some people without heat. Trees will fall places where we don't want them to fall--across roads and rails, on to power lines, on to houses. And it is almost certain that people, sadly, will lose their lives.

Take this one seriously. Mayor Bloomberg in particular had a very poor plan in place for Irene (many other communities up and down the East coast did better)--I sure hope they have a better one for Sandy.

Stay Safe (0.00 / 0)
1st I want to wish the best out of this bad storm for all our fellow DCW folks. Know there are several of you in the path of Sandy. I was in several Hurricanes and Tropical Storms over the years (Opal being the worst), and they can cause all sorts of problems.

There is a side spin to this storm, that will be felt on Election Day. Like DocJess indicated, this has the potential to take out power and cause flooding or excessive snow. This will not be an event that passes overnight, and could impact the ability for some in States like PA to vote on the 6th. But the side spin on this storm? What will people see as political spin, what will the Federal, State, and Local government's responses be before, during, and after. People will be watching. This is a potential major disaster right before the election. Early voting (and record numbers of it) going on in many States will soften the impact, but for some, this will be the last time they see what the Government does in a crisis before they vote.

Stay Safe!!!

Weakening (0.00 / 0)
I certainly understand why it shouldn't weaken given the setup, but the official NHC forecast does contain significant weakening:


48H  29/1200Z 36.4N  72.0W   70 KT  80 MPH
72H  30/1200Z 39.8N  77.0W   55 KT  65 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
96H  31/1200Z 40.8N  77.5W   40 KT  45 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
120H  01/1200Z 43.8N  76.8W   35 KT  40 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP

So there's a bit of a disconnect between the official forecast and the convention wisdom forecasts right now.

Cyclones weaken over land - wind wise (0.00 / 0)
It's their nature. It's is supposed to strengthen prior to coming on shore. And when they are talking about weakening, they are indicating winds only. So once it get's to land, the winds will drop off, but then it combines with the cold front heading that way and becomes the Frankenstorm with rain and snow. Potential to technically weak, but actually be more damaging.

Think Katrina. It wasn't the strength of the winds that did the most damage, it was the amount of rain and water buildup after Katrina weakened to Tropical Storm strength.

[ Parent ]
"Weaken" (0.00 / 0)
The central winds will weaken, but I don't think that's inconsistent with the conventional wisdom. The storm will be expanding in size as it comes ashore. The use of the word "weaken" can cause confusion--is a large storm with lower central winds weaker or stronger?

The basic problem with understanding the forecasts will be that Sandy will be transitioning from a tropical system (very high central winds in a small area) to a "gale center," (high winds over a much larger area). I'm not sure whether the areas north of the Carolinas will ever get tropical storm/hurricane warnings, or whether this will be handled by the kinds of warnings they use for nor'easters.  

[ Parent ]
Impact (0.00 / 0)

First, of coures, for those of us outside the Northeast, our prayers are with the people in the northeast that the forecast is on the high side for the damage from this storm.

On the political side, the first issue will be how quickly FEMA and others respond to the crisis.  A good performance by FEMA will be good PR for Obama about how this Administration managed to make government work again.

Clearly the storm will require both sides to rework their schedules (both appearances and GOTV activities).  It will reduce the ability of people to cast early votes for some days, but if power is restored quickly, that should not be more than a day or two in most locations (which hopefully can be made up for next weekend).  Barring major disruptions, I would hope things would be back to functional by election day unless this storm stalls over the Northeast.  Current forecast does have it in Canada by Thursday.

Politically, bigger impact will be state and local (0.00 / 0)
I don't think this will be the kind of event where Obama gets a lot of credit or blame. When it's spread over a lot of states like this, and unfolds relatively slowly, more attention goes to how a particular governor or mayor handles preparation, response, and recovery.

Watch to see if Cory Booker and Chris Christie end up looking good again--while on opposite sides of the political aisle, they've both handled emergencies of this type pretty well. Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, has had a spotty record so far, including a very confusing warning in the summer about tornadoes. All three of them get some buzz as potential future presidential candidates--how a local or state leader handles a storm is a reasonable test of how they would handle that "3 am phone call."

Hopefully everyone does their best--storms are nonpartisan in their destruction.

[ Parent ]
well the storm left florida today, as we started early, in person voting (4.00 / 1)
i worked all day, so i couldnt vote, but suzanne went to the polls and there were over 100 people in line, she is going to try again. i see the rcp poll aggregation has florida leaning romney. is that for real? looks like the polls are heavily loaded with traditionally biased gop polling outfits, but there are some regular polls leaning that way, too. it looks like obama is going to win, almost no matter what, but i really want florida to go blue again!

what is the low down?

No NHC warnings above Carolina border (0.00 / 0)

Because Sandy is expected to make this transition before reaching the coast, the NWS has been using non-tropical wind watches and warnings, issued by local NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), to communicate the wind threat posed by Sandy in the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. (This is why NHC's tropical storm warnings extend only into North Carolina.) The NWS plans to continue using non-tropical watches and warnings issued by local offices in the Mid-Atlantic States and northward throughout this event. By using non-tropical warnings in these areas from the start, we avoid or minimize the significant confusion that could occur if the warning suite changed from tropical to non-tropical in the middle of the event.
In the event Sandy remains a tropical cyclone through landfall, NHC advisories and products would of course continue. There would be no transition, however, from non-tropical wind warnings issued by the WFOs back to Tropical Storm or Hurricane Warnings issued by NHC, since both sets of warnings describe the same wind hazard.

"Hurricane force wind watch" up for New York, southern New England waters (0.00 / 0)
Yup. The local National Weather Service office in New York has taken things into their own hands, as instructed by NHC, and issued a "hurricane force wind watch" for the coastal waters of New York, northern New Jersey and the southern facing coasts of New England (including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts).

The rest of New Jersey has a storm warning for their coastal waters, instead, because they're covered by a different National Weather Service office, and they're each making their own choices. The storm warning implies peak winds that aren't quite as high, but also carries with it more certainty. That's not really a difference in forecast from the two NWS offices; just that each one is making their own judgement call.

[ Parent ]
Bloomberg's and Christie's briefings (0.00 / 0)
Well, this was one of the more arrogant storm briefings I've seen, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg. It's a confusing set of mixed messages: they expect the storm surge might be worse than Irene, but are not ordering any evacuations. Mass transit, including busses, might not run Monday, but garbage will be collected, and you should put your garbage cans out, but "weight them down." They will do everything they can to keep schools open, partly because parents have to go to work, even if there's no transit for the kids and parents to get where they have to be. Mayor Bloomberg expects New York to be all right, but expects other areas to not fare as well, and is ready to offer help if that's the case. If you're in an area that's likely to get flooded, you should stay with family or friends, but not someplace outside of the City, because, well, outside the city may be in bad shape.

Christie's messaging, on the other hand, was more clear. Notice that the transit solution New Jersey is putting in place is to cross-honoring passes across all modes, so that if one form isn't running, and you need to move, you can take another.




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