The collision of two severe storms this weekend could wreak unprecedented havoc along the entire East Coast through Halloween, bringing hurricane-force winds, flooding and even a layer of snowfall to some parts of the mid-Atlantic region.
Remnants of Hurricane Sandy, labeled a Category 2 storm Thursday, could mix with winter weather descending from the north, impacting the Washington area as early as Sunday, meteorologists said. The storm, dubbed "Frankenstorm" for its spooky scheduling and mashup of kinds of storm fronts, is expected to make landfall near New Jersey midweek.
"Most likely we'll see rainfall-flooding, gusty winds, and possibly tidal flooding along the Potomac," said Chris Strong, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "If the storm did track pretty much right into the mid-Atlantic, we'd see even more widespread significant flooding, winds and downed trees, then also further to the south and west accumulating snow."
Hurricane Sandy was thousands of miles away Thursday evening, centered near the Bahamas and moving north at 20 mph. Because tropical storm paths can be unpredictable, specific forecasts for the storm will not be available until the weekend, weather officials said. By Thursday, the Eastern Seaboard's chance to receive damaging weather from the system increased to 90 percent.
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center, explained that part of the worry about the upcoming storm is its wide footprint.
"In a tropical storm or hurricane, the stronger winds are in the center," Mr. Feltgen said. In a colder-air storm, the strongest winds are at the edges of the system, which can span hundreds of miles.
For this storm, he said, "Strong winds will be spreading out. They won't be confined. There could be big winds over a much larger area as the whole structure [of the storm] begins to change."
Across the states, emergency response units and utility companies readied their crews for worst-case scenarios.
Pepco officials said they are depending on all 150 permanent line personnel and their 400 contractors to get them through whatever the storm throws their way, and the company has been participating in mutual assistance planning since Wednesday.
"We are keeping everything available and active," spokesman Marcus Beal said. "A hurricane is bad enough, but add snow, and that's certainly some daunting weather on the horizon."
Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said the western portion of Maryland has already seen some flurries this year and has been ready for snow since the first of the month.
Though the administration has to monitor the next 36 hours of forecast to get a better idea on how to help residents ride out the storm, Mr. Buck said roads crews are already out clearing storm drains and making sure chain saws and wood chippers "are good and ready.
Mr. Strong of the weather service warned that the most intense part of the storm is predicted to hit around the time of the full moon, meaning the tides will be higher and "flooding could be even worse."
Comparisons have already been drawn between this weekend's storm and the "perfect storm" that struck on Halloween 1991. That storm — created from the combination of a weakened hurricane and cold air from a nontropical storm — battered New England, causing $200 million in total damages. It was linked to 13 deaths.
One private weather service has predicted this weekend's storm could cause $1 billion on total damages.
Hurricane Sandy is already wreaking havoc on the Caribbean, where two people have died from storm-related incidents. On Thursday, it battered eastern Cuba with heavy rains and blistering winds that ripped the roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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