October 28, 2012

‘Historic’ Storm to Strike Ithaca

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Millions of people on the East Coast are bracing for what newspapers around the country are calling “Frankenstorm”: a hybrid of powerful winds, intense rains, extreme tides and possibly snowfall, a portion of which local meteorologists say will hit Ithaca on Monday.

As of Sunday night, experts predicted that the storm would persist through Wednesday afternoon — just in time for Halloween and the full moon.

Mark Wysocki M.A. ’89, a senior lecturer in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said that Frankenstorm is likely to be a storm of historic proportions because it is a combination of two separate storm systems.

The first is a large storm in northern Canada that is drawing cold, dry air south, across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast; the second storm is Hurricane Sandy, which is bringing warm, moist air into the mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast, according to Wysocki. The two storms are expected to merge Monday night, bringing 36 hours of violent weather to Ithaca.

The storm will occur during a full moon, which increases the chances that flooding will occur, Wysocki said.

According to Michael Gouldrick, director of meteorology for Time Warner Cable’s New York news channels, the heaviest rain and winds will occur in Ithaca between late Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. During this period of time, residents can expect to see winds with speeds of 20 to 40 miles per hour, with some gusts reaching 60 mph. Winds of 60 mph are strong enough to cause tree damage, which can cause power outages, Gouldrick said.

In Ithaca, “there will definitely be strong winds that could lead to power outages,” he added.Prof. Arthur DeGaetano, earth and atmospheric sciences, warned that if rainfall exceeds two to three inches, there is a moderate risk of flooding of creeks and rivers.DeGaetano also urged students to stock up on extra batteries, water and other emergency supplies in case there are widespread power outages in the area.“A lot of the big utilities cover large areas, so a lot of places might take precedence [for repairs] over places in upstate New York,” DeGaetano said.Lee Shurtleff, director of the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response, said that by the time Hurricane Sandy hits Ithaca, it will have become a tropical storm — which is characterized by less extreme winds than a hurricane.Still, Shurtleff warned all residents to prepare to stay indoors for up to 72 hours due to the threat of falling branches and wires. He said the storm’s unusual combination of two pressure systems could create unpredictable effects, which is one reason it has been nicknamed “Frankenstorm.”“[Weather experts] have a fairly good sense of the volume of rain and amount of wind, but how that affects the infrastructure for the electrical systems is still a question,” Shurtleff said.Students are not taking the impending storm lightly. Many have already followed weather experts’ recommendations to stock up on emergency supplies.“Personally, I have plenty of food that doesn’t require cooking — I’m a poor college student,” Ted McHardy ’13 said. “I have a weather radio that will be charged and I’m going to make sure I shower Monday in case we lose power.”In addition to stocking up on food and water, Sage Hiller ’13 has been charging all of his electronics in anticipation of prolonged power outages. Other students, like Sydney Altschuler ’16, are following suit out of fear that the storm will disrupt their use of laptops and iPads.Warnings about the storm and its severity have caused some students to criticize Cornell’s decision to not cancel classes.In an email sent out Sunday evening, Joseph M. Lalley, senior director of facilities operations, said that “all classes are expected to meet, and all staff to report to work, as scheduled.”Ryan Hobson ’15 questioned the University’s decision.“People could get hurt, and it could be dangerous to get to class,” Hobson said.Although some students said they disagree with the administration’s decision and hope that the University will ultimately cancel classes, Frank Xie ’15 said he is not surprised by Cornell’s announcement.Xie said that he expects classes will likely go on unless TCAT shuts down its bus service.

Lianne Bornfeld contributed reporting to this story.

Original Author: Alexa Davis

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