Currently, weather reports have been surfacing around the world that a bomb cyclone has its eyes set on central US and 70 million are in its path. At first glance, this sounds horrific and like something you need a storm shelter for. However there’s not too much need to panic; bomb cyclones are definitely powerful, but they aren’t nearly as terrifying as the name implies.
Any winter storm can actually become a bombogenesis or bomb cyclone according to meteorologists. The name implies that the storm is expected to intensify and quickly. So in other words, you could expect some harsh winter conditions and then in a matter of hours have a bomb cyclone on your hands. However, a bomb cyclone can develop on its own (meaning that the storm intensified quickly) and make its way across areas.
Despite the fact that the name is a bit dramatic when it comes to the storm, you nonetheless should take the weather advisories seriously. Bomb cyclones can create a number of problems and hazardous conditions as they bring hurricane-force wind gusts, blizzard like conditions, and heavy rainfall with threats of flooding. And because of their size, it’s not just the “target” area that has to worry; the whole United States will feel the effects of this storm in one way or another.
Read on below to find out more regarding this strange storm.
What is a bomb cyclone?
While you’re probably thinking that the term is just something meant to heighten people’s fears or a clever hyperbole, it’s actually very much so an official and real term. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA for short), stated that the official definition of bomb cyclone or bombogenesis (also referred to as explosive cyclogenesis) is a 24 millibars drop in the barometric pressure of a non-tropical storm in less than 24 hours.
Bomb cyclones can also occur when cold air masses hit warm air masses; such as cold air flowing over warm ocean water. The result is a rapidly strengthening weather formation. The process of which is referred to as ‘bombogenesis’ or bomb cyclone. These storms, as evidenced from the one making its way to the central US, doesn’t necessarily need a tropical environment in which to form. Of course it’s easier to form these types of storms in the tropics, but they can easily occur in non-tropical areas.
The term bombogenesis is a combination of two words: cyclogenesis and bomb. Since all storms are cyclones in nature (meaning they have a tendency to swirl and have an eye), the cyclone part isn’t necessarily that surprising. The inclusion of genesis means that “creation” or “beginning”. The bomb part of the term explores the explosive tendency of the storm. When all of these are combined, you have an explosive storm that’s strengthening rapidly.
So long story short: it’s an extremely powerful storm that developed quickly.
Is it uncommon?
Admittedly, this was the first time we’d heard of a bomb cyclone; and we live in an area that sees hurricanes from time to time. However, these events aren’t actually all that uncommon according to NOAA. At least one storm a year is classified as a bomb cyclone according to meteorologist Bryan Jackson. Typically, they only affect a small area so they fly under the radar so to speak. Because of the severity and size of this one, it’s made its way onto the headlines.
Nor’easters bombogenesis occur nearly every winter WNYW-TV reported when asked. In fact in 2018, there was not only 1 but 2 winter storms that targeted the northeastern coast that were called bomb cyclones. One occurred in January and the other one made its appearance in March.
What should we expect from the storm?
Since yesterday morning, the storm has dropped a staggering 27 millibars. It continues to strengthen and by the time it hits, meteorologists expect it to be a force to be reckoned with. The storm’s current pressure is equal to that of what you’d find in a Category 1 hurricane according to CNN’s meteorologist Brandon Miller.
What is a Category 1 hurricane like?
For those don’t live on the coast, the term “Cat 1 hurricane” might not mean or explain much to you. Because of this, we decided to break it down. Winds in a Category 1 range between 75 to 95 mph. With this strength, you can expect minor property damage (loose shingles will be dislodged, branches will be downed from trees, and weak and poorly rooted small trees might be uprooted.) Power outages, which are typically fixed quickly, can also occur due to falling debris and downed trees/tree limbs. People typically do not evacuate unless they are in the direct path of the hurricane.
However with further pressure drops on the radar, it’s expected to reach Category 2 hurricane equivalency. Obviously, this makes it more dangerous.
What is a Category 2 hurricane like?
Wind speeds are significantly upped and range from 96 to 110 mph. At this speed, you can expect greater property damage. Shingles can be ripped off the roof, glass windows can shatter from both the winds and debris, and siding can also be stripped off. Larger trees can be uprooted and loose debris such as tree limbs can become deadly projectiles when thrown the air at those speeds. Significant damage to structures are also expected in regards to apartments, mobile homes, and shopping areas. Flooding may also occur in areas that are low-lying. You can also expect extensive power outages that may range from a few days to as much as a few weeks. Residents in these areas are encouraged to stock up on fresh water as filtration systems become hazardous. Those in the direct path of the hurricane will evacuate along with those in close surround areas.
Keep in mind that these statistics apply to hurricanes and are only there to give you an idea of what to expect wind/rain wise. Because bomb cyclones do not linger on land in the same way as a hurricane or hit with the same force as one (nor do they drag half of the damned ocean with them when they do), there is no need to panic. You will definitely still need to be prepared, but it’s definitely not quite as deadly as a hurricane.
Who’s at risk?
The massive storm is expected to primarily effect areas like the Rockies, Central and Northern Plains as well as the Upper Midwest. These areas can expect blizzard like conditions and strong winds. However, the winds are only expected to sustain around 70 mph in strength. Gusts however could reach that of the hurricane force winds of a Cat 2. Other hazards such as heavy snowfall, severe storms, tornados, and flooding can also be present.
As mentioned previously and implied in the image above, the bomb cyclone is set to impact nearly all of the United States. Depending on where you live, you might see flooding, heavy storms, blizzard conditions, and strong winds. Others may see a very light rainfall.
Let’s talk precautions and supplies
Before the storm hits, you’ll definitely want to stock up on some necessities. Obviously you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of water, gallons as well as bottles and non-perishables. However, there are some other supplies that you should definitely add to your list as well as some precautions that you might not have considered.
- Water- This is in obvious one but many people are unsure as to how much they really need. On average, you want 1 gallon of water per person per day.
- Battery-operated radio- With modern technology, you’re probably thinking that isn’t a necessity. You can just check the weather on your phone or hop in your car and listen to the news. However with power outages expected, your phone might die and crowded networks may prevent you from being able to access the Internet. Going to your car is another option, but it is risky to go outside during bad weather and just because there’s a break in the storm doesn’t mean that it won’t hit suddenly. Because of this, we recommend a battery-operated radio so you can listen to the news and weather reports.
- Flash lights- Candles are a great option but present fire hazards of course. Plus you don’t want to fumble around in the dark looking for a lighter and your candle because you need to use the restroom. Each person should have 1 flashlight and ideally you’ll want to leave small ones in areas you frequent (bathrooms, bedrooms, living room).
- Extra batteries- This is a no brainer but you’ll want to stock up on a variety of batteries. Because you’re using your battery-powered items more than usual, the batteries will drain faster.
- Extra medication- If you’re on a daily medication, talk to your pharmacist about getting a partial refill. You don’t want to be without your medication should the storm hit and hinder businesses from reopening quickly. Not to mention, roads can become blocked for extended amounts of time due to downed limbs and debris.
- First aid kit- Band-Aids (variety of sizes), gauze, sterile wipes, rubbing alcohol or some other type of sanitizer, Neosporin, Tylenol, antacids, and tweezers are a good start.
Precautions to take:
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll also want to take some precautions before the storm hits.
- Tape your windows- While boarding your windows is a great option, taping them is also something you can do if you’re in a pinch. Putting strips of tape across your windows won’t necessarily stop them from breaking, but it will prevent the shards from landing in your home or yard.
- Park your vehicles in a higher location- If your yard or driveway sits low, you’ll want to move your vehicles to a higher location to avoid flood damage. Many shopping areas have elevated parking and won’t mind if you park your vehicle here for the duration of the storm. Keep in mind however that it might be hard to get back to your vehicle for a while. You can also pick up a set of auto ramps that you can drive your vehicle onto that will lift it several inches off the ground.
- Fill your tub- You should also fill bathtubs with water in order to use it to flush your toilet and wash your hands.
- Bring indoor animals in- This goes without saying, but you’ll want to bring your fur baby inside. If you feed neighborhood stray cats and can lure them indoors, do so. This ferocity of this storm can cause harm to animals outside.
- Charge your devices- This is another obvious one, but you should also fully charge all of your devices. This includes cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Even if power outages aren’t expected in your area, they can still occur.
- Portable chargers- Portable chargers are rather inexpensive and you can pick them up via Amazon and any electronics retailer. These can be great for helping you pass the time on your phone by keeping it charged.
- Fill your car with gas- One thing you’ll definitely want to do before the storm hits is to fill your car with gas. Even if you’re at ¾ of a tank, go ahead and fill up. Many people will be filling up their vehicles before and after the storm, which can lead to shortages. Also, roads may be impassable for some time so getting gasoline trucks in to replenish the stock may take time. So don’t put yourself at risk for becoming stranded.
- Grab a generator- Even if you don’t lose power, generators are one of the handiest things. They come in a variety of sizes with a number of capabilities (some can run your entire house while others can charge multiple devices). They also range in price so you can easily find one to fit your budget.
Are you in the path?
We’d like to know if you’re in the direct path of the storm and if so, what precautions are you taking? Are you going to stock up on supplies? If you don’t live in the path but are still getting hit with the outer bands, how are you preparing for this massive storm? We also want to know if you’re ever heard of a bomb cyclone before this one made its way onto the news. Let us know in the comment section below.