Is it a Nor’easter?

Posted at 7:21 AM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 13:22:14-04

You may have seen posts or heard talk of a Nor’easter moving our way later this week. You may have also heard it described as a coastal storm or coastal low. So, which is it? (and does it really matter?)

First things first… What is a Nor’easter?

A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of the U.S. that usually develops between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles of the coast line, and tracks northeast. Nor’easters bring heavy rain or snow, gale force winds (from the northeast), rough seas, and coastal flooding. Nor’easters can form any time of year but are most frequent between September and April.

Are we going to see a Nor’easter this weekend?

Let’s check the criteria…

Location: Yes

(We will see an area of low pressure gain strength near the SE and Mid-Atlantic coast.)

Movement: Yes

(The low will track NE, up the East Coast Friday/Saturday/Sunday.)

Precipitation: Yes

(We will see widespread rain, 1” to 2”. Snow possible for higher elevations to our north and west)

Gale force winds: No

(Gale = “an area of sustained surface winds of 39 to 54 mph.” We are expecting NE winds at 20 to 30 mph with higher gusts in Virginia Beach.)

Rough Seas: Yes

(Wave action will increase to 8 to 10 feet this weekend.)

Coastal Flooding: Yes

(Tidal flooding is possible Friday/Saturday. High tide water levels TBD.)

Does the name really matter?

Short answer… No.

An area of low pressure is going to move up the coast, bringing us rain and wind. The forecast is the forecast, no matter the name you choose.

Is it a Nor’easter?

Based on the current forecast, our winds will be below gale force. According to the definition of a Nor’easter, this storm does NOT meet the criteria. In this case “Coastal low” or “Coastal storm” would be a more accurate label for this system.