Superstorm Sandy intensifying, bringing record storm surges

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:54 PM GMT on October 29, 2012

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The final countdown to Hurricane Sandy's arrival has begun, and this extraordinary and historic storm is already causing havoc all along the U.S. coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts. The scale of this massive storm truly earns Sandy the title of "superstorm". Sandy's tropical storm-force winds span an area of ocean 940 miles in diameter, and both North Carolina and the island of Bermuda, 700 miles to the east, are under tropical storm warnings. The region of ocean covered by 12-foot high seas spans an area of ocean an incredible 1560 miles in diameter. Winds near hurricane force are expected to affect waters from Virginia to Massachusetts today. Record storm surge flooding has already occurred in regions along the New Jersey coast this morning, and the highest water levels recorded in over a century of record keeping are expected over much of the New Jersey and New York coasts this evening during the 8 - 9 pm EDT high tide cycle. Sandy brought sustained winds of 60 mph and waves 30 feet high early this morning to the buoy east of Cape Hatteras, NC. A wind gust of 58 mph occurred at New York City's La Guardia Airport at 9:51 am EDT, and a buoy at Robins Reef, NJ recorded sustained winds of 42 mph, gusting to 55 mph. As of 8 am EDT, Sandy has dumped heavy rains of 7.87" at Cape Hatteras, NC; 4.01" at Ocean City, MD; 3.12" at Dover, DE; and 3.22" at Virginia Beach, VA. As of 9 am EDT, peak storm surge values of 5" were observed at Lewes, Delaware, 4.2' at Cape May, NJ, 4' at Atlantic City, NJ, 2.9' at Philadelphia, and 3.9' at New York City.

Latest data from the Hurricane Hunters shows that Sandy is intensifying as its core traverses the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. At 8 am EDT, an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft found top winds of 98 mph in the heavy thunderstorms to the southwest of Sandy's center, at a point about 150 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, NC. A dropsonde released in the eye measured a central pressure of 945 mb, but observed winds of 19 knots at the surface, so Sandy is probably a 943 mb hurricane that is very close to Category 2 strength. The Hurricane Hunters did not observe an eyewall, and saw very little temperature difference from inside to outside the eye, so Sandy is not going to be able to undergo rapid intensification. The storm could still see an increase of 5 mph in its winds before landfall tonight between 6 pm - 10 pm EDT, due, in part, to interaction with the low pressure system to its west that is pulling the hurricane towards the coast. The new, higher winds of Sandy don't have a lot of time to pile up additional storm surge water, so the NHC storm surge forecasts will probably not change today. But it is clear that Sandy is not going to pull its punch, and this superstorm is going to deliver a punishing multi-billion dollar blow to a huge area of the Eastern U.S.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Hurricane Sandy.

Sandy already producing a record storm surge
The National Weather Service in Atlantic City, NJ said that isolated record storm surge flooding already occurred along portions of the New Jersey coast with this morning's 7:30 am EDT high tide cycle. As the tide goes out late this morning and this afternoon, water levels will fall, since the difference in water levels between low tide and high tide is about 5'. However, this evening, as the core of Sandy moves ashore, the storm will carry with it a gigantic bulge of water that will raise waters levels to the highest storm tides ever seen in over a century of record keeping, along much of the coastline of New Jersey and New York. The peak danger will be between 7 pm - 10 pm, when storm surge rides in on top of the high tide. The full moon is today, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month, adding another 2 - 3" to water levels. This morning's 9:30 am EDT H*Wind analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Sandy's winds at a modest 2.9 on a scale of 0 to 6. However, the destructive potential of the storm surge was record high: 5.8 on a scale of 0 to 6. This is a higher destructive potential than any hurricane observed since 1969, including Category 5 storms like Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Camille, and Andrew. The previous highest destructive potential for storm surge was 5.6 on a scale of 0 to 6, set during Hurricane Isabel of 2003. Sandy's storm surge will be capable of overtopping the flood walls in Manhattan, which are only five feet above mean sea level. On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene brought a storm surge of 4.13' and a storm tide of 9.5' above MLLW to Battery Park on the south side of Manhattan. The waters poured over the flood walls into Lower Manhattan, but came 8 - 12" shy of being able to flood the New York City subway system. According to the latest storm surge forecast for NYC from NHC, Sandy's storm surge is expected to be 10 - 12' above MLLW. Since a storm tide of 10.5' is needed to flood the subway system, it appears likely that portions of the NYC subway system will flood. The record highest storm tide at The Battery was 10.5', set on September 15, 1960, during Hurricane Donna.


Figure 2. Observed storm tide (red line) and predicted storm surge for Hurricane Sandy at The Battery on the south shore of Manhattan, New York City, from the experimental Extratropical Storm Surge model, run by NOAA"s Meteorological Development Laboratory (green line) and the NYHOPS model from the Stevens Institute of Technology (pink curve), which uses a highly detailed 3D ocean model and even includes rainfall and tributary inflows. These models have a storm surge of 5 - 6', which brings the maximum storm tide--the water level reached as a result of the combined action of the tide and the storm surge--to 11' above MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water.) Irene brought a storm tide of 9.5' above MLLW to The Battery in 2011. At a storm tide of 10.5', water will likely pour into the Lower Manhattan subway system, unless efforts to sandbag the entrances are successful. The NWS in NYC is predicting a 10 - 12' storm tide at The Battery during tonight's 9 pm high tide cycle.


Figure 3. Observed storm tide (red line) and predicted storm surge for Hurricane Sandy at Atlantic City, New Jersey, from the experimental Extratropical Storm Surge model, run by NOAA"s Meteorological Development Laboratory (green line) and the NYHOPS model from the Stevens Institute of Technology (pink curve), which uses a highly detailed 3D ocean model and even includes rainfall and tributary inflows. These models predict a maximum storm tide--the water level reached as a result of the combined action of the tide and the storm surge--of ' above MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water.) Irene brought a storm tide of 9.5' above MLLW to The Battery in 2011. At a storm tide of 10.5', water will likely pour into the Lower Manhattan subway system, unless efforts to sandbag the entrances are successful. The NWS in Atlantic City is predicting a 9.5' storm tide for the city during tonight's 8 pm high tide cycle, which would be the highest water levels ever observed in Atlantic City.

Links for Sandy
To find out if you need to evacuate, please contact your local emergency management office. They will have the latest information. People living in New York City can find their evacuation zone here or use this map. FEMA has information on preparing for hurricanes.

People with disabilities and caregivers seeking information on accessible shelter and transportation can contact portlight.org

Atlantic City beach cam

Ocean City, MD webcam

Statue of Liberty cam

An impressive 1-minute resolution satellite loop of Sandy today is at the CSU RAMMB website.

Our Weather Historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on Late Season Tropical Storms that have affected the U.S. north of Hatteras. He also has a post, Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England.

Hurricane Sandy info from NASA.

Joe Romm at climateprogress.org has a thoughtful piece called, How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?

For those of you wanting to know your odds of receiving hurricane force or tropical storm force winds, I recommend the NHC wind probability product.

Wunderground has detailed storm surge maps for the U.S. coast.

The National Hurricane Center's Interactive Storm Surge RIsk Map, which allows one to pick a particular Category hurricane and zoom in, is a good source of storm surge risk information.

Storm Surge prediction model from the Stevens Institute of Technology, which use a highly detailed 3D ocean model and even includes rainfall and tributary inflows.

Research storm surge model run by SUNY Stonybrook for New York City.

Climate Central has a nice satellite image showing which parts of New York Harbor are below five feet in elevation.

I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Sandy 1 (gwegret)
Post-Hurricane Sandy waves pound the Deerfield Beach, FL fishing pier!
Hurricane Sandy 1
Hurricane Sandy Long Neck Delaware (mal247)
On Rehoboth Bay
Hurricane Sandy Long Neck Delaware

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Winds continue to be the big story up here, only picked up a little over an inch of rain, but wind gusts over 60mph have knocked out power to tens of thousands up here... not me yet though :)


The reason the power is still on here in MA is the Halloween snowstorm last year that removed half of the branches from most of the leafy trees. Rain bands here in northern MA have only started in the 90 minutes.
Member Since: December 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
1031. ncgecko
Someone posted this a couple of days ago, but it's worth a repeat. Wind map for the country.
Link
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Quoting zawxdsk:
Everyone is putting the 'center' too far south. Atlantic City has the lowest pressures of anywhere else.

952.2hPa at Atlantic City

957.9 at Cape May
moot point
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You guys act like Sandy moving in three hours earlier makes such a big difference? Uh hello..? Remember the storm has a 1000-mile wind field? The storm will be pushing water into the Northeast coastline through tomorrow afternoon.
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Dry air not too far off shore. Will still experience lots of wind, but it will act like a cold front pushing through on the back side of the system.
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7420
Battery now up to 7.5'
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1026. Thrawst
Sandy's circulation is just MASSIVE. Here in Nassau we are STILL experiencing Westerly winds 20kts from the circulation which is 1200 miles + away. Absolutely stunning
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


be an overland post cyclone soon

season draws to a close


gonna be a windy rainy night
and day tomorrow

SW jog?
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2465
1024. zawxdsk
Everyone is putting the 'center' too far south. Atlantic City has the lowest pressures of anywhere else.

952.2hPa at Atlantic City

957.9 at Cape May
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Quoting ncstorm:


Cyber..this was not expected..Landfall was supposed to be later on tonight and Sandy started speeding up..Im not downplaying the situation just showing what possibilites may happen..its good news in fact if New York City (not speaking of the state) doesnt get as much damage as predicted..NJ on the other hand will be looking at incredible damage..


This is expected, at least if you're looking at the storm surge forecasts. Even when this hurricane goes inland, there will be 50kt winds still pushing into NY, causing surge. The storm surge forecast has been dead on accurate so far, and the surge is now starting to increase. There is no reason, absolutely none, to think that won't continue to be the case.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24189
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


be an overland post cyclone soon

season draws to a close


gonna be a windy rainy night
and day tomorrow




A lot more than that I would say. We still have to deal with all the effects of this thing in the coming days, and the fact that rain will continue for two or three days.
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It is about to get bad in NYC/Long Island as the winds starting to shove water towards the city and long island

Link
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 6 Comments: 752
Quoting LesBonsTemps:
What is with some of you people? The hurricane hasn't even arrived yet, high tide hasn't arrived yet, and you're doing wrap up assessments. We saw this with reporters in Miami just before Andrew came ashore, we saw it in New Orleans with Katrina - just cool it until at least the morning.
Amen! and dont forget Isaac too
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Looks like the small CDOish thing is beginning to outrun the actual center as the process of extratropical transition continues with this bizzare storm.

GOES 13 Rapid Scan Visible Imagery of Hurricane Sandy
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Looks like the last few gusts took a big hit on the Long Island grid.

Looks like most of its down.


Doppler Radar:Link


Winds:Link




Also of note, reed timmer is streaming a live chase. He is currently in Morgantown WV and is heading towards New Jersey.

If you have enough bandwidth and want to see what he is driving through go here: http://tvnweather.com/live
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Quoting charlottefl:
Has anyone seen Mike Sidell on the beach in NJ right now? At low tide...High tide could be bad there tonight..


I saw him just a little earlier. He was standing on a sand dune acting like a __________.
He has a way of really hamming it up. He lost a lot of respect with people when he acted like he couldn't stand up in 35-40 mph winds.
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1016. ncstorm
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Going to keep throwing this out, as the amount of misinformation flying around on here right now is pretty bad, because we're pretty much at peak low-tide right here. They're thinking huge amount of storm surge in the coming hours. It's very stupid to be complacent right now, because this was expected.


Cyber..this was not expected..Landfall was supposed to be later on tonight and Sandy started speeding up..Im not downplaying the situation just showing what possibilites may happen..its good news in fact if New York City (not speaking of the state) doesnt get as much damage as predicted..NJ on the other hand will be looking at incredible damage..
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Close of the season? Doesn't the season run til the end of November?
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Quoting DataNerd:



Yes well those "guys", are actually one guy with multiple accounts.



No shock there, some people really don't have anything to do with their time clearly.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24189
Quoting Dakster:


Your phone has a barometer or are you going to a website? (what phone is that?)
Its a galaxy 3s. Cool feature
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Quoting DataNerd:



Yes well those "guys", are actually one guy with multiple accounts.



Figured as much. I reported them.
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1011. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


be an overland post cyclone soon

season draws to a close


gonna be a windy rainy night
and day tomorrow
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1010. MZT
Ive been following this blog since 2004. There have been many spectacular, and intense storms. But this time, I am just in AWE.

If anyone had said a few months ago, that you'll see a CAT2 off the coast of New Jersey, at the end of October, with the largest wind field ever recorded, I have said "no way". "Can't happen"

Hopefully this event will NOT be topped in our lifetimes.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Going to keep throwing this out, as the amount of misinformation flying around on here right now is pretty bad, because we're pretty much at peak low-tide right here. They're thinking huge amount of storm surge in the coming hours. It's very stupid to be complacent right now, because this was expected.



That is correct. The worst of the surge in this case may well be post landfall due to the low tide.
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TA just put the troll on ignore and he will go away. Attention craver.
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Up to 212,000 without power on Long Island alone.
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1006. Dakster
765,000 without power right now. and climbing.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Sounds pretty bad for a clear non-event for you guys like some are saying! In all seriousness though, please keep safe.



Yes well those "guys", are actually one guy with multiple accounts.

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Quoting zosimo:


yes I agree. Someone will have to explain closing the stock market Tuesday when there is going to be a decent possibility that the SUN will make an appearance over NYC on Tuesday. It is Irene all over again for the NYC area.
zosimo...... Would you want that liabilty call in your hands? Would you want to be responsible for one death. It's a safety call
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1003. acl8610
For those of you that seem to think that the forecast is ahead of schedule, it really isn't... Take a look at the RAP and the HRRR and compare it to radar and sfc obs; the center is east of the precip and therefore still on track for a 7-9 pm landfall which times up with the high tides. For those of you saying that NYC was spared, look at the pictures from the ground so far and then look at the forecast models, specifically the 925mb winds. A low level jet as predicted is swinging around the storm and will transfer down to the sfc, rushing a surge into the area...
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Quoting SyriboTigereyes:

I'm in Nassau by the Queens border. We keep hearing transformers blowing but still have ours. Some of these gusts are really intense.


I think I hear some transformers humming outside. Only a matter of time.
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765,000 without power now and rising fast.
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"Hurricane Central@twc_hurricaneAn 86-mph gust was reported in Westerly, RI - the highest gust report we've received all day. #Sandy"



Going to be posting some of these as they come.
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Quoting wilsongti45:
Brief update from nassau county long island. My power just went out. There has been a noticable increase in winds. Gusting to most likely 70 plus. Very intense...pressure is still dropping according to my phones barometer..965mb. Ill keep you guys updated


Sounds pretty bad for a clear non-event for you guys like some are saying! In all seriousness though, please keep safe.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24189
Quoting wilsongti45:
Brief update from nassau county long island. My power just went out. There has been a noticable increase in winds. Gusting to most likely 70 plus. Very intense...pressure is still dropping according to my phones barometer..965mb. Ill keep you guys updated

I'm in Nassau by the Queens border. We keep hearing transformers blowing but still have ours. Some of these gusts are really intense.
Member Since: September 12, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 141
Going to keep throwing this out, as the amount of misinformation flying around on here right now is pretty bad, because we're pretty much at peak low-tide right here. They're thinking huge amount of storm surge in the coming hours. It's very stupid to be complacent right now, because this was expected.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24189
gusting to 48 here in Owings Mills, 8 mi. NNW of baltimore. Moderate rain, but getting more sideways by the minute.
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in Inland Massachusetts from about 3-4pm I had constant tropical storm Conditions (45-50mph) with gusts to (~60), looks like another band is travelling north into Massachusetts. The only reason I still have power is the October snowstorm and Irene weeded out the week trees. In a Bit of a Lull now.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 701
This could bomb out toward 930 once fully phased and stacked!!!
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Quoting wilsongti45:
Brief update from nassau county long island. My power just went out. There has been a noticable increase in winds. Gusting to most likely 70 plus. Very intense...pressure is still dropping according to my phones barometer..965mb. Ill keep you guys updated


Your phone has a barometer or are you going to a website? (what phone is that?)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The entire state of New Jersey is experiencing 20 knot sustained winds at the very least; most areas are receiving winds in excess of 35 knots. And every inch of New Jersey is experiencing gusts over tropical storm force as well. Nice try though.


Yeah sorry brotha but I'm in Roseland NJ and the wind is pretty rough. Probably about 30 sustained with gust well over 50 mph. Enjoy your dinner out. Although nothing will be open!
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.if NYC comes out of this like Irene again, some heads are going to roll..shut down of the transit, subway, wall street, airports, loss of employment, evacuations..


Taken at 29th Street and Queens Plaza North in Long Island City.


This one is in Brookland, about two hours ago. Bets are it's gotten higher.

It's low tide people, and they're calling this far worse than Irene ever was. Everyone just calm down, the worst hasn't even come yet. Please just wait until tomorrow morning before declaring 'it's another Irene', because clearly it's not. Just because you haven't been affected, or the news isn't showing Katrina part 2, doesn't mean it isn't bad.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24189
Quoting goalexgo:
Im not posting to "get a reaction". Im telling you that for most of inland Northern and Central NJ, this was a non-event.
Had it come into the coast further up, like at Seaside or higher, we would have had more than the 1/2 inch of rain, and a few gusts to 35 or 40 mph. Not much going on in NYC either...unless you are ON THE SHORE. The storm landed 150 miles to the south, and the due west trajectory spared us completely.
If we can get past all of the provisions stocked up near our foyer, we are going out to dinner. No umbrellas necessary.


I am not sure if this is the height of the storm, but we are really only experiencing similar conditions as stated above here in Brooklyn. Maybe gusts to 50kt or so. But, we should not let our guard down.
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Quoting ncstorm:


yeah but the focus was on NYC..NJ, VA, NC MD and long Island look to be having a lot of damage but NYC is look to be having the same damage as Irene

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/mdl/etsurge/data/nybat.gi f

note: you can't really assess damage four hours before the storm makes landfall. It doesn't really work like that. Most storms aren't that damaging if you stop counting 4 hours before they hit.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Weird large ring like formation going on near the center



Why does that CDO look like a Yin and Yang symbol????

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Been a long time since I've logged in here.

Sending all good wishes, thoughts and prayers to the entire NE United States as they deal with a storm unlike any other. I think this will go down as the most remarkable weather event in my lifetime so far. The power and energy associated with Sandy's 1000 mile wide circulation is unbelievable and will live long in the memory after she has finished with us.

To those in coastal areas who couldn't or chose not to evacuate and heed the incredibly strongly-worded warnings...good luck to you. Some of these areas will never be the same again. I expect the damage from storm and tidal surge to be catastrophic and widespread along sections of the NJ and NY coastlines, and Sandy is virtually certain to surpass Hurricane Irene's mark as the costliest non-major hurricane in recorded history.
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Amazing view of sandy

http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/geo/index.php?satel lite=east&channel=vis&coverage=conus&f ile=gif&imgoranim=8&anim_method=flash

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Has anyone seen Mike Sidell on the beach in NJ right now? At low tide...High tide could be bad there tonight..
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Quoting ncstorm:


yeah but the media focus was on NYC..NJ, VA, NC MD and long Island look to be having a lot of damage but NYC is look to be having the same damage as Irene


Surge will be much higher for NYC in Sandy than IRENE, in fact it already has. We have seen Crests at both Kings Point and Bridgeport CT eclipse 11' this morning.
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Here's coming the high tide
Link
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Brief update from nassau county long island. My power just went out. There has been a noticable increase in winds. Gusting to most likely 70 plus. Very intense...pressure is still dropping according to my phones barometer..965mb. Ill keep you guys updated
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.