A storm of potentially epic proportions that is brewing in the Caribbean could ride the jet stream and rocket up the East Coast next week, bringing scary weather to Maine just in time for Halloween.

Then again, the storm could blow harmlessly out to sea.

Weather watchers are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Sandy as it builds toward hurricane strength, but it’s too early to tell how much strength the storm will pick up as it moves north.

Some radar models show a slingshot scenario in which the storm would merge with the jet stream off the coast of North Carolina and then rapidly track north through New England, gaining strength along the way. Other models predict the storm will avoid the jet stream and meander east, avoiding landfall.

Since weather forecasts change often, the only thing to do is wait.

“We’re not trying to get people too excited just yet. A lot of things can happen in the next week,” said Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. “But it’s something that has our attention.”

It’s unusual to talk about weather possibilities so far out, but this storm’s potential has experts up and down the East Coast talking.

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote Monday that it could be one for the record books.

“What could happen is quite complicated, and may have precedence only a handful of times across the more than 200 years of detailed historical local weather record keeping,” he wrote.

Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, wrote on The Washington Post’s website Tuesday that the storm could follow a similar track as last year’s Hurricane Irene and bring heavy wind and rain.

“If the models continue to bring the storm along this track, preparations should begin within the next couple of days and it should not be underestimated,” he wrote.

Andrew Freedman of the Climate Central website also wrote Monday about the storm’s possibilities.

“Think if a hurricane and nor’easter mated, possibly spawning a very rare and powerful hybrid storm, slamming into the Boston-Washington corridor early next week, with rain, inland snow, damaging winds and potential storm surge flooding.”

Such October storms are rare, but when they hit they are memorable. The “perfect storm” of 1991 that crippled a Massachusetts fishing boat and killed its crew happened in late October.

Last year, an October storm dumped 2 feet of snow on parts of the Northeast and set records in some Maine communities.

AccuWeather.com’s Hurricane Center projected with some certainty Tuesday that Tropical Storm Sandy will bring flooding rain to Jamaica, parts of Cuba and the Bahamas by Thursday.

What happens on Friday likely will determine the storm’s future.

If the storm tracks east, the Atlantic states are likely to get only cooler air and intermittent showers. If the storm shifts west, New England could be hit hardest because the storm likely would gather strength.

In Maine, the storm hadn’t popped up on many people’s radar Tuesday. Sarah Ferris, 35, of South Portland ate lunch in Monument Square, where the sky was clear and the temperature was seasonably warm.

“I’ll pay closer attention at the end of the week,” said Ferris, who hadn’t heard about the storm. “How often do weather people get it right this far out?”

Even Sinsabaugh agreed.

“The models are still way far apart, so until we see some consensus … we’re talking about something almost a week away,” he said.

 

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