Newsday Scribble Live

Live chat with meteorologist Rich Von Ohlen

Last year, on the day before superstorm Sandy hit Long Island, News 12 Traffic & Weather lead meteorologist and executive producer Rich Von Ohlen joined us in a live video chat to warn us that this storm was going to be big. Real big. In our continuing series of live chats on Sandy-related issues, Von Ohlen joined us for a recap and a look ahead on what to expect from weather events in the future.

  • What is the snow situation this winter
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  • This scene in Oceanside is from 1985’s Hurricane Gloria, which readers probably remember. Here’s our gallery of the 77 most devastating storms: bit.ly

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  • Rich, I'm curious, is Long Island particularly vulnerable to any other type of big weather event?
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  • hey guys. From one meteorologist to another, what do you think the dune situation along Fire Island and the other coastal barrier islands will be going forward, because it seems like now after sandy just minor coastal storms have large erosion impacts especially along Ocean Parkway
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  • Thanks to Rich for his time and expertise. This was a great conversation and a value to our readers. This video chat will remain available to watch at any time. Please also make sure to follow all our Year-after Sandy coverage at newsday.com/sandy
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  • We will follow up with a wrap-up of the chat later in the day for you to review. Thanks everyone for following along. Our next year-after-Sandy chat will be next Thursday at 1 p.m., so please join us then.
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  • Live chat with News 12 Traffic & Weather's Rich Von Ohlen

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  • In addition to the full video, the following is an edited, condensed version of the chat.

    Carl Corry: What happened to make Sandy such a monstrous event?

    Rich Von Ohlen: Was it a once on a lifetime event and will it happen again? It was really the perfect storm. What was the unique about it was how it interacted with another storm. It’s unusually to get the wrong combination of every thing: It was high tide, everything went wrong. The speed, the backward nature of it. Can it happen again? Yes, but to this particular extreme, that probability is not very likely to happen in our in our lifetime. 

    CC: We had superstorm Sandy and then in the beginning of this year we had the blizzard, which was record-breaking. Why was this year's hurricane season was so mild?

    RV: A lot of weather patterns are dependent upon global events. We’ve had very dry, very storm-less weather for the last 6 to 8 months – one of the quietest seasons I’ve ever seen. We almost broke a record for the longest time that we hadn’t had a hurricane in the Atlantic. 

    It’s not going to continue forever. In fact, we’re probably going to bounce back next year. With all the storms we’ve had during the past few years, this could just be things balancing out. 

    In terms of this year, it’s rare to see anything significant in November in terms of hurricanes. We’re moving more into a winter-type season. 

    CC: What does this mild hurricane season mean for this winter on Long Island? 

    RV: There’s no proof that activity during hurricane season will forecast what happens during winter. Long-range, so many things can happen. It’s impossible to say.

    CC: Future hurricanes in future seasons – is there any forecast on what to expect?

    RV: I’m a big believer in averages and climatology and long-range balance. I think this could go quiet for a while. You know, we did this back in late 2000s, 2008, 2009. After Florida got hammered with the strong storms that they had, and then Katrina, of course. And then we had a few years that it wasn’t too bad. The patterns, they tend to balance themselves out. After a quiet season, I would tend to think we’re going to come back toward normal next year. This was unusual this year.

    CC: How about rising tides and the effect of climate change and because of global warming, perhaps, tides are going high, so future storms may be even more impactful. Can you talk a little about that?

    RV: There are a lot of theories, a lot of thoughts, opinions, a lot of studies have been done about this. I’m still a little bit on the fence in terms of what I’ve been seeing over the years. The impacts are definitely extreme because we have more development on the coast. You’ve gotten higher water tables, certainly higher sea surface levels in the last 50 years. The thing is, it could be any storm. It doesn’t take a Sandy to cause beach erosion, to cause the damage to low-lying areas and damage to homes and coastal flooding from just run-of-the-mill storms. You know you live close to the storm, you got to be heads up. It could be as snowstorms. You always have to be on guard for a major coastal storm. 

    Chat watcher Mat: What is LI's drought status?
    RV: We’re pretty much in a more moderate drought. We’ve been in it for about 8 months now. We did make up for it back up in June with 12 to 13 inches of rain. Since then, it’s been very dry, nothing to get into a severe situation yet. It’s definitely drier than normal.

    Chat watcher Donna: What is the snow situation this winter?
    RV: So far, we’ve been really not been apt to break the pattern we’ve seen. Although at some point I think you’re going to get a change of pattern. But there’s no indication at least of any major storms, major cold coming this way. 

    CC: I’m curious about how you do your job.  Every now and then, it’s like, ‘Oh no, the weatherman got it wrong.’ How do you make your projects? What’s the system?
    RV: You gotta be on top it. You have to l live and breathe it every day. The best thing is to watch the trends, and we have a lot of models. A long time ago, there was maybe one or two computers that we watched. Now you’ve got everything. Now we have a global model, we have our North American model, we have our European model, Canadian models, all sorts of different takes and projections as to what is going to happen. When you look at these, a lot of times you’ll see differences. It’s a day-to-day thing. You have to watch the trends. A lot of it is basically history. A lot of it is trust in particular models. You just have to know from history, from experiences.

    CC: After Sandy, which were the most severe things that stand out in your mind? The last was Hurricane Gloria, right?
    RV: The biggest thing that stands out in my mind is that for the last 10 to 15 years a lot of people would say, ‘Oh we don’t’ get snow anymore.’ We’ve had some of the biggest snowstorms I can ever remember. I remember as a kid, yeah, we had some big storms in the late 70s, we had on in ’83, we had one in ’88, of course there was the superstorm of ’93, which was more or less inland; the blizzard of ’96. But they were kind of spaced out. Maybe every 5 or 10 years, you get something big. But in the 2000s … In 2003, there was Presidents Day, we had storms in December, we had another major record-setting blizzard in 2006, we had one in 2005 … It seemed like every year we were getting a 15- to 20-inch storm. And then last year, too. Of course, if you remember in Brookhaven, over 30 inches of snow. That was record, historic. That was insane. We didn’t see the frequency of these snowstorms way back that we see today. I mean, the numbers are astounding. That I think is a big deal. 

    Erin Geismar: Rich, I'm curious, is Long Island particularly vulnerable to any other type of big weather event?
    RV: When there’s a coastal storm coming, coast flood watch, coastal flood advisory, that’s something you’re going to have to worry about. Thunderstorms, tornadoes – it’s very rare to get anything that destructive in that frequency. There’s one here, one there. Coastal storms, we wave a dozen six to eight a year. But Sandy was extremely unique. Something we may not see again in our lifetime.

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