The SandPaper

A Breakdown of Nor’Ian’s Worst Possible Storm Track; Cantore Blowing in the Wind

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Remnants of Hurricane Ian

NOPE’EASTER: The remnants of Hurricane Ian that became a nor’easter, or Nor’Ian, was anything but good on LBI. (Photo by Jon Coen)

Is it me, or are we all pretty much quietly wishing to see Jim Cantore get washed away during a live broadcast?

The weather certainly tops the headlines this week. And as The SandPaper comes out, the remnants of Hurricane Ian are just starting to pull away from our area, a storm that will likely go down in the all-time history books and the all-time “boy, that sucked” book as well.

But does anyone else feel me about Cantore?

Look, I think we can all understand that anyone in media is going to want to show the most dramatic effects of any happening. If you’re covering a storm-ravaged town, you’re going to show the house that sadly got destroyed, not the one that lost a soffit. And when we do our Instagram posts of our flooded yard, we’re going to take a picture where the water is deepest. That’s understood. So we used to give ol’ Jimbo the benefit of the doubt when he went to the windward side of a building over the leeward.

But he’s taken his tough guy meteorologist persona too far, which one might expect as the Weather Channel has gone from the stoic science-based approach of the late John Hope to becoming the Kardashians of Meteorology.

Pre-internet, The Weather Channel served a great purpose. As surfers and seafaring folk, we were pretty fond of our old weather radios, but TWC gave us a more visual experience. Specifically when tracking a hurricane, we would tune in multiple times a day. We would watch reporting from places like St. Augustine, Fla., Wilmington, N.C. and Gulf Shores, Ala. (They can get some pretty intense surf on occasion.) The primary reason was to see where a storm was headed, if we were getting waves and if we had to prepare for a storm.

But perhaps more than that, we were watching because those towns were so much like ours. The folks on the news clips moving boats and boarding up windows were just like us. While Cantore was doing his reporting, we could spy surfers checking the rising swell in the background. They had the same kind of fascination/fear of storms that we did.

And for a while Cantore was likable. While other meteorologists were in the studio, he was the man on the street, even when the bay was in the street. There is a lot of knowledge to be gained from experiencing storm after storm. And we respected that. But after so many years, his shtick got old. That was due in part to a bit of storm hype.

With the internet, we had better access to some of the numbers and models. We knew when Cantore was hamming it up for ratings. Today, we can still tell when a storm will be formidable, but we understand our coast and what to look for. To be quite honest, I think everyone was so preoccupied with the Ian aftermath in Florida, there was a lack of awareness for what his remnants did here. But with better information available, do we not find ourselves watching Cantore get grazed by a tree branch, and thinking “Man, I hope the next one gets him”?

Now, I don’t want to see Cantore get fully maimed, drowned or have his buff biceps lacerated by a flying fence board. Like, we don’t want to see him permanently injured.

But let’s face it. If conditions are that bad, we can tell. We’re worried about the people and property in the storm’s path. Do we really need him out there doing his report in 130 mph winds? If all we can see is the top of a fire hydrant, does he need to stand in the water to show us how deep it is?

So, if you were watching any Cantore coverage in advance of Hurricane Ian and were secretly hoping that a gator would come out of some overflowing river, or that a giant inflatable taco would come helling through in a stiff wind and knock him right out of the frame, or that a wave would lurch up out and pull him into San Carlos Bay, or …. well, you get the idea…

Of course, you want him to ultimately be unharmed, but you’re certainly not alone.

IAN DOWN THERE: By now you’ve seen the wreckage from Ian in Florida. You’ve texted your friends in Fort Myers and supported some kind of fundraiser. There are no totals in yet, but one might imagine that this will be among the costliest storms in U.S. history. (Among the 10 most-costly U.S. natural disasters, hurricanes take the top seven slots.) What will make that number rise is the fact that Lee County, Fla., has been growing so quickly in recent years. Had a storm hit there 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have taken the toll it did.

The wreckage and suffering are certainly the worst news to come of Ian, not only in Florida, but in Cuba and South Carolina as well. I would expect some Ian refugees to be moving into Southern Ocean County, at least temporarily, staying with family and in vacant beach houses for some time. I read about one poor woman whose house got destroyed by Sandy, so she moved to Florida, only to have her new home destroyed last week by Ian.

IAN UP HERE: For many, October is about our favorite month, and the first week of it was pretty much just wiped off the calendar. Whether you wanted to get tubes or go pumpkin pickin’, you got blanked. Even Chowderfest got postponed, which, for some strange reason, a bunch of bitter folks on social media seemed happy about. No matter what your thing is, being inside for that many days straight in October is just the worst. The prolonged beating of wind and rain on the sides of our houses was maddening. If you were working outside, well, hopefully there’s a hot chowder waiting for you somewhere.

We didn’t take the dramatic hit, but Ian was an awful event here as well, a miserable 5½-day wet and windy mess. We’ll be assessing the long-term damage here, which will likely mean flooding damage and significant beach erosion.

After hitting Florida, Ian crossed the state, back into the open ocean. But instead of going to sea and sending back some surf, Ian made another landfall in South Carolina. He caused all manner of mess through the South, and by the time he was in Virginia, we were already feeling the effects of northeast winds as Ian blew up in size.

That’s when things got bad here. Unfortunately, Ian wasn’t the only factor. Had he just backdoored us, he would have been out and gone in a day with some rain and south swell to show for it. But that wasn’t happening, thanks to a giant high-pressure system to our north. As Ian made a transition from a tropical system to a heavy mid-latitude storm – what meteorologists call a “cold core” low as opposed to the warm air associated with a hurricane – he couldn’t move north. Instead, the remnants moved offshore Sunday and became a massive nor’easter Monday and was actually intensifying on Tuesday. LBI took it on the chin from Friday to Wednesday.

This one (let’s call it ‘Nor’Ian,’ shall we?) started to draw some comparisons to the March Storm of 1962 because of its duration. Nor’Ian actually lasted longer, but the ’62 blow actually had higher winds. Though Harvey Cedars did clock sustained gusts of over 60 mph at one point.

To put things into perspective (and yes, if we look at Florida, that’s true perspective), last Tuesday and Wednesday were so damn ideal on the Island. Both days saw a bit of south swell and offshore winds. The ocean was in the high 60s. I think on Wednesday I had 10 little waves before the sun even came up. And the best part was the sandbar. Normally a lot of the Island sandbars get jacked by a nor’easter or a tropical storm by September, and we all wind up driving around on those 1- to 3- foot days and then surfing on top of each other. This year, there were good sand and rideable waves everywhere you looked.

Then came Nor’Ian.

First off, we lost an entire week of surfing, fishing, boating and beach days at a time of year we cherish. But we also lost those good sandbars. Furthermore, if the beaches took a good enough thrashing, the towns will request an emergency declaration that might speed up the next round of beach replenishments. Neither nor’easters nor beach replenishment usually help our sandbars.

The sand bars will certainly be far different than they were last week. They most likely will not be great at most beaches. This is our major concern for surfing going into the fall, specifically on those small to medium days. There is a slight chance, however, that some sand winds up in better spots than it was. This was a serious storm, and it may have taken chunks of beach and put them into the surf zone. Maybe Holyoke Ave. will get good again. Who knows?

Also, it looks to have brought an abrupt end to late summer. High temps should rebound midweek, but we will be cooler than usual as a cold front swings through for the weekend. That’s not necessarily Ian-related but certainly speeds us up into mid-fall. That’s not a bad time of year, but certainly not as pleasant as before this beast. But the bottom line is we missed that first week of October in terms of the things we love.

The surf temps also took a bit of a dive. They will likely level out, but these huge storms seem to mix up the ocean so significantly, and it usually equates to colder water on the backside.

I should also note that this is how summer started. Does anyone remember a certain five-day nor’easter in May that never cleaned up to give us good surf? I believe we referred to it as “May-sery.” We had a week of frigid winds and junk surf, and it absolutely destroyed our sandbars until the middle of July.

Talk about being bookended by bummers.

IAN THROUGH THE LENS OF CLIMATE CHANGE: I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding with the public and weather events like Ian. Of course, there’s also a whole weird political divide on the subject, but I am not sure it gets properly explained in the larger media.

The idea isn’t that Florida would not have been hit by a hurricane if not for climate change. However, climate change likely made the storm worse. There’s nothing we can do to keep a hurricane from hitting anywhere. But when Ian made landfall, winds were sustained at 155 mph. That’s a high-end Cat 4 storm.

When Ian crossed Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico, it entered waters that were nearing 88 degrees. That’s 2 or 3 degrees warmer than average. Think of a hurricane as your fireplace and those degrees as buckets of gasoline. Had the water been cooler, Ian would have had less fuel for the fire. Climate change is what gives that water that moderate temperature difference.

Before the Earth started changing so dramatically thanks to our burning of fossil fuels, a storm like Ian would have formed. It still would have struck the same spot.

But maybe the winds would have been 120. The storm wouldn’t have been as wide, the storm surge not as bad and the damage not as great and, hopefully, the death toll not as high.

SURF FORECAST: On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, our surf was just huge. Usually someone makes a heroic paddle out in these blows, but I have not heard of any takers. The surf was breaking on outer bars that we rarely see. Not only were conditions onshore and unruly, but just that velocity of wind would make it truly unrideable for 99% of us, even if we could get out the back.

I hesitate to make any kind of prediction for the cleanup on this storm. Every dial is just turned up to 12, and the tiniest shift in the center of the low can make all the difference in the world. Should the wind go northwest, we will very likely have some solid, clean surf. You have to imagine that LBI will be a river of north current, however, so maybe get a ride up to Barnegat Light, get one wave in Cedars and another in Brant Beach and get out of the water in Beach Haven.

The swell dies off by the weekend, and we can start seeing what shape our sandbars are really in. I predict some very different profiles out there.

One nice thing as we get farther into October is that an offshore wind tends to stay offshore. Through the summer and September, the land heats up by the middle of the day, and winds tend to come onshore when there’s no significant weather pattern. When we do have swell from here on out, we should get more west winds blowing longer through the day.

Hurricane Season isn’t over by a long shot. There are currently two systems in the Tropical Atlantic. The stronger of the two looks like something of a traditional Cape Verde storm. The other has moved into the Caribbean from the Equator. These both bear watching for reasons of surf and safety

FALL STUFF: This is a big weekend for LBI with the LBI Fly Kite Fest this Friday to Sunday. Most of the events around the festival take place on Ship Bottom’s beaches between 18th and 25th streets with a few Saturday and Sunday on the beach at 68th Street in Brant Beach. The weather looks decent and, of course, with plenty of wind. Though the surf will be small, it’s definitely kind of cool to surf under all those kites if you can find a window with a longboard wave.

This Saturday is also Shellebration. This is a newer community event spotlighting oysters and their role in clean water. With live music, beer, cocktails and some hands-on learning, it promises to be a fun fall day. All proceeds benefit the Jetty Rock Foundation’s Oyster Recycling Programs and related initiatives.

Also, Saturday is the Red Rocker Record Fair, celebrating the namesake former record store on Bay Avenue in Manahawkin. I hear that the Red Rocker himself (former owner) will be playing a set this year.

The following weekend is a three-day affair for most, and the redo of Chowderfest, should bring a few folks to the Island … barring any weeklong storms.

We should be good unless we see Cantore doing a live report from the top of the Causeway Bridge.

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