Hermine Haunts Our Holiday

It’s no longer a matter of if Hermine will impact our weather, its a matter of how long and how much.

Let’s take a quick look back before we look forward.   As Hurricane Sandy moved northeast, it transitioned into an “extra-tropical cyclone.”  That’s a fancy name for anything that is NOT a tropical cyclone.  In other words, not a tropical depression, not a tropical storm, and not a hurricane.  Blizzards, nor’easters, and plain old rain storms are all “extra-tropical cyclones” just to name a few.  In 2012, it was the policy of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to discontinue all watches, warnings and advisories as soon as a tropical cyclone became an “extra-tropical cyclone,” as most eventually do.  So, even though Sandy was still as destructive as a hurricane, all hurricane watches/warnings/advisories were cancelled as soon as it was no longer technically a hurricane by the standards of meteorology textbooks.  That caused a lot of confusion!  Many people mistakenly assumed that since the hurricane warnings were cancelled, Sandy was no longer a threat.  The NHC realized there was room for improvement and changed the policy.

The NHC has decided that the new policy will be invoked for Hermine because Hermine will have a similar identity crisis.  Already this morning, Hermine started to look more like a nor’easter on satellite imagery and less like a tropical storm.  Tropical cyclones are usually symmetrical, nor’easters are more comma shaped.  Hermine is looking more comma shaped, but the winds are still equal to that of a tropical storm.  In fact, Hermine gained strength as it moved over water late this morning even as it lost its tropical characteristics and officially became “post-tropical.”  It is possible that it will once again produce winds equal to that of a hurricane (0ver 74 mph).  But, by that point, it will no longer qualify as a textbook hurricane.  As they say, “if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its a duck.”  If it looks like a comma, quacks like a hurricane, its a ?!?  Either way the National Hurricane Center will continue to issue all of their normal products and updates as long as Hermine is a threat.

The new policy was put to a test officially at 11 am Saturday morning when the NHC issued a Tropical Storm Watch for parts of MA even though by that point Hermine was no longer technically a tropical storm.  A watch means that winds equal to that of a tropical storm, that is greater than 39 mph, are *possible* in the next few days.  The watch continues until further notice as we still aren’t sure exactly when Hermine will get out of here.

So, call it whatever you want, it’s going to be our main weather maker for at least a few days!

Clouds from Hermine are already crossing the skies over New England.  The clouds are mainly high and thin, enough to filter the sun, but not enough to completely block it.  Otherwise, Saturday will be a great day to enjoy the outdoors with pleasant temps.  Enjoy it because it will probably be the best day of the holiday weekend.

Winds will pick up on Sunday, especially at the coast.  That will kick up the surf and increase the risk for dangerous rip currents at the area beaches.  Building seas will also become a problem for boaters on Sunday.  Other than that, you can still enjoy most of the outdoors on Sunday.

Parts of the South Coast the Cape and the Islands might see some rain as early as Sunday evening.  Most of the rest of us will have to wait until Monday.  Even Monday won’t be a washout, just on/off periods of showers are expected as bands of rain move in and out.  It will be a breezy day everywhere, more like windy on the coast with frequent gusts to near 40 mph for the Cape and the Islands.

Monday will be the best chance of rain, but not a whole lot changes for Tuesday and Wednesday as Hermine does loops in the ocean just south of us.  So expect more clouds than sun through the middle of the week with a slight chance for a passing shower.  Sadly, Hermine will NOT bring us drought busting rain.  Most areas will see around .5″ of rain and that might be optimistic.  Parts of western MA might be thinking “weren’t we supposed to get a tropical storm” when this is all said and done because not much of anything will happen there.

The biggest concern will be persistent onshore winds lasting for days leading to high seas, rough surf, and possibly some minor beach erosion.  Exactly how much of that we see remains a question that depends on whether Hermine loops one way or the another.

Skies should begin to clear on Thursday as a front finally kicks Hermine out to sea.