Obama’s Katrina?

Here in California, everyone lives with the subconscious fear of The Big One, the earthquake that will finally, biblically, consume us. I’m certainly aware of it, living not that many miles from the San Andreas Fault. But people in the northeast do not spend a lot of time worrying about hurricanes. That could all change this weekend.

Here’s what I’m reading on the WaPo weather page:

With computer models locked in on the eventuality of a punishing blow for East Coast from Hurricane Sandy (with the latest model runs favoring the northern mid-Atlantic), analyses suggest this storm may be unlike anything the region has ever experienced.

Model simulations have consistently simulated minimum pressures below 950 mb, which would be the lowest on record in many areas….

You might ask yourself, aren’t hurricanes supposed to weaken as they head north? Why are these pressures so low? Or as the Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross put it: “What the hell is going on?”

Norcross’ answer: “This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre.”

These historic low pressure levels simulated by the model are equivalent to a category 3 or 4 hurricane, which have peak winds over 115 mph. But Sandy’s winds will not be that high, because as it transitions into this hybrid hurricane-nor’easter, its core will unwind. So its peak winds will diminish, but strong winds will be felt over a vast area. Think of a compressed slinky expanding as you let it go.

WJLA meteorologist Ryan Miller notes 66,549,869 people live in the National Hurricane Center’s track zone for Sandy. A large percentage of these people will likely contend with tropical storm force winds – 40-60 mph, if not somewhat greater….

A very prominent and respected National Weather Service meteorologist wrote on Facebook last night,

I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do.

Totally aside from the apprehensions of the vast number of people potentially in the path of this meta-storm, political gabbers are already beginning to speak of it as “Obama’s Katrina,” in the sense of representing a huge and ill-timed natural disaster. (That was the term conservatives used, of course, for the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but Obama eventually got little of the blame for how it happened or was handled).

If you live in the mid-Atlantic, get ready. If Sandy misses you or loses its punch, you can always have a party with the stored supplies.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.