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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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
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Quoting goalexgo:
I dont appreciate your platitudes and threats. Stick to the facts. Look at the data coming out of North Jersey. Thats all I am speaking to. The observer 2 miles to my north in Wanaque has winds of 8 mph gusting to 24. No precipiation. I know it is bad 150 miles to my south.

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.
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Quoting biff4ugo:
NOAA doesn't have a New Bruswick station but it looks like the USGS has a provisional gage set up there.
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv/?site_no=403 030074273017&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060

Here:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=403030 074273017
and:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=014067 10
and:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=014060 50
All appear to be in elevation above NAVD88.
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Quoting SyriboTigereyes:


Hey, how are you fairing over there in Massapequa? We had our power go out for a little bit and then come back on. Did you see the LIPA outage map? 195,000 without power already! Yikes.


I am doing good. Lights flickered a couple of times. I can't believe we still have it. Not for long though I am sure. I am north of Sunrise Highway. Down south of Merrick road there is flooding. Lindenhurst, Babylon, Amityvill was bad (flooding) when I went through at 11am.
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6Z

12Z
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Quoting ncstorm:
Man oh man..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..etc..


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.
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Quoting SyriboTigereyes:
I don't know about NYC, but I can tell you the south shore of Long Island is not looking good as far as flooding and storm surge goes.

We are up to about 200,000 without power already. Ours just went out and came back on. Really hope it stays on.


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
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16226
Wind picking up in Binghamton, NY. Keeping an eye on the trees dancing back and forth. So far so good.
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Quoting longislander102:
Any webcam links to Battery Park?


Hey, how are you fairing over there in Massapequa? We had our power go out for a little bit and then come back on. Did you see the LIPA outage map? 195,000 without power already! Yikes.
Member Since: September 12, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 141
Any webcam links to Battery Park?
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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.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:


...time to call the pool guy.

Manteo NC


Thats just down the beach from my beach house. It's called "Margaritaville". This isn't the first time they lost their pool...
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NY Governor's conference just said "it's the worst storm they've seen at a low tide"
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81 mph winds now being reported inland per:

"Hurricane Central@twc_hurricaneWellfleet, MA reports a gust to 81 mph observed at 2:22pm EDT. #Sandy #mawx"
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Quoting ncstorm:
Man oh man..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..etc..


That's probably what'll happen....then they will get blown away when they go on as business as usual. Only way man will learn.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
I don't know about NYC, but I can tell you the south shore of Long Island is not looking good as far as flooding and storm surge goes.

We are up to about 200,000 without power already. Ours just went out and came back on. Really hope it stays on.
Member Since: September 12, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 141
NOAA doesn't have a New Bruswick station but it looks like the USGS has a provisional gage set up there.
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv/?site_no=403 030074273017&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060
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Quoting goalexgo:
It is ashore. Look to the east behind it. No precipitation. We just had a gust to 22 mph!!! and almost 4/10ths of an inch of rain. Hate to say it, Bloomberg was right.


Statements like this only further that your a troll with no clue! The eye is still offshore and expected to make landfall this evening. I'm pretty sure the NHC is right since they just posted this in their 4 pm EST update.
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Wait'll she gets inland, pure SE flow will be pounding that inlet into NYC
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
Man oh man..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..etc..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16226
Atlantic City NJ Pressure: 952.4 hPa

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Quoting goalexgo:
It is ashore. Look to the east behind it. No precipitation. We just had a gust to 22 mph!!! and almost 4/10ths of an inch of rain. Hate to say it, Bloomberg was right.


Awesome, get in your car and drive to NYC and get to work, it's a good day to get things done while folks are gone
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686


Let me further state one thing. I will not tolerate trolling when lives are at risk and potentially being lost. If you troll on this blog right now I will have you banned.
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Quoting centex:
Glad chance has dropped a little. We will know in a few hours.


I'm not so sure he has dropped it. What evidence does that poster have to support that claim?
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We're not at high tide yet people, worst of the storm surge has yet to come. That's a fact.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24574
Quoting CosmicEvents:
The Doc's probability went from 20 to 50 to 100 on CNN for all of America to hear....now down to 30.


Actually I heard him say "probably" about the subways flooding..he said NY had implemented some safeguards after Irene..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16226
Quoting Abacosurf:
It's like that is the real eye... the large Gyre


Be nuts if it's going thru a transition and all the 100+mph flight level winds come crashing down to the surface
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9686
Quoting CosmicEvents:
The Doc's probability went from 20 to 50 to 100 on CNN for all of America to hear....now down to 30.

'I don't know.'
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Quoting Kristina40:


It's attitudes like yours that get people killed and not just yourself. The storm isn't even ashore yet and you're proclaiming it's over. Foolish.


He's just posting that stuff to get a reaction. An attention seeking troll. Best ignore.
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This is really bad. Good day all. Storm intensified overnight.



To summarize the current situation:



1. Center off Sandy is just off the NJ coast at this time, and will be making landfall within the next 4 hours.

2. Pressure 940 mb, Wind: 90 mph gusts to 100. Wind field is now over 1000 nautical miles in size

3. Storm is now the largest tropical cyclone in pyhsical size on record for the atlantic basin.

4. Record snowfall rates are occurring on the cold side, near the front inland of sandy.

5. Large scale power outages already reported.

6. Reports of 6 feet of water in the battery already.

7. High water rescues under way along the delaware coast due to people who did not heed evacuation orders.

8. At least 30 hrs more of high winds, surge, and heavy precipitation remain, in the best case scenerio.

9. More then 70 million people in the path of this system.





Basically a summary of where we stand now. The big questions now are:

1. Exact landfall intensity, and storm surge.

2. How much inland surge are we going to see in vulnerable areas like Manhattan and NJ shore.

3. With reports of rescues occuring in Delaware, how many other people can we reasonable expect did not heed evacuation orders?

4. How long will the cyclone maintain winds in excess of 75 mph post landfall? This will influence how long it takes to restore power.





In any event, this certainly has earned the title of a historic event, and a "super storm". Bigger in size then even the king of kings, Wilma of 05...never thought I would see one grow to such an immense size.
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Quoting Kristina40:


It's attitudes like yours that get people killed and not just yourself. The storm isn't even ashore yet and you're proclaiming it's over. Foolish.
It is ashore. Look to the east behind it. No precipitation. We just had a gust to 22 mph!!! and almost 4/10ths of an inch of rain. Hate to say it, Bloomberg was right.
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Quoting zawxdsk:


Saw the predicted measurements there maxing out. Is there any gauge to measure that area?


There is a river gauge further upstream, but they are expecting to to be overwhelmed by a river flood type event:
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo =phi&gage=bdkn4

Also have this outside of the mouth of Raritan Bay:
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo =phi&gage=sdhn4
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Things below +8ft in Keansburg, New Jersey
Population 8,696 (86.1%)
Homes 3,720 (86.2%)
Acres 576 (81.6%)

Things below +8ft in Ventnor City, New Jersey
Population 10,606 (100.0%)
Homes 7,793 (100.0%)
Acres 854 (99.5%)

...for example...
CLIMATE CENTRAL Surging Seas
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11423
Quoting RitaEvac:
Weird large ring like formation going on near the center

It's like that is the real eye... the large Gyre
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


Worst of the surge is not there yet. This storm is not over, even upon landfall.

Yep. Going by the H*WindAnalysis the wind is onlystarting to blow onshore in NY. The water is piling up faster now. A large expanse of winds remains offshore.
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Sandy will likely end up as one of the top five most costly hurricane ever to hit the United States. For informative purposes, Katrina is #1, at 108 billion, Hurricane Ike is #2, at ~30 billion, Hurricane Andrew is #3, ~28 billion, Hurricane Wilma is #4, at ~21 billion, and Hurricane Ivan is #5 at, ~19 billion.

These numbers are not adjusted for inflation.
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Been through a lot of these and clean up is a pain. Puts your life on hold for awhile. But make sure you go to that older couples house down the street and see if they need any help. Also walk the Red Cross to their house when they come down the street so they don't miss them. Love them hot meals from the Salvation Army food truck!
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
@WunderAngela

Dr. Jeff Masters is now giving it a 30% chance that the #NYC subway will be flooded.
The Doc's probability went from 20 to 50 to 100 on CNN for all of America to hear....now down to 30.
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Sandy the Superstorm:

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I don't see a NOAA gage there.
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=okx
The one in the bay infront of it "sandy hook" already shows moderate flooding and they are barely past low tide. It is on target to reach beyond their record, with just the tide and no additional storm surge.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:

Yikes, right on high tide. Thought it was supposed to make landfall around 5 or 6PM


You might just be seeing the eye wall, the center is still ~70-80 miles offshore. (Lowest pressure area)
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NHC update issued.
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Hurricane Sandy strengthened her grip on the East Coast Monday, as the D.C. region braced itself for 12 to 18 hours of hurricane-force winds and rain.

Authorities urged people to stay home, even as some residents crowded supermarkets and convenience stores hoping to shore up their last-minute storm preparations.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, the massive storm system was about 175 miles northeast of D.C., with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles. As those winds will approach the region, we could experience gusts up to 90 mph.

Sandy is likely to make landfall by 6 p.m. along the coast of southern New Jersey. Impacts will be extreme and far-reaching.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for our area in effect until 8 p.m. Tuesday. A flood warning is now in effect
With 5-10 inches of rain expected in much of the D.C. area (3-5 inches further west) and high tides 1-3 feet above normal Monday, extreme flooding is possible, Storm Team 4 meteorologist Chuck Bell said.

The full moon is expected to create tidal anomalies of 1-2' along the Tidal Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

The region is bracing for widespread power outages, with at least 23,000 customers already affected.

David Owens of the Edison Electric Institute said Monday afternoon that customers could be without power for several days, but more than 25,000 extra personnel will be deployed to the area.

"We have personnel that is ready and moving toward this area to help in restoration efforts," Owens said. "...This is a storm of a magnitude we haven't seen in a hundred years."

Unlike last summer's derecho, which happened suddenly, Owens said that Pepco crews have been able to plan for this event -- but they will have to wait until it's safe enough for them to be outside.

Power outage numbers as of 2 p.m
Amtrak Cancels Some Service
Metro, Amtrak, and area airports are all preparing...
Dominion Virginia had more than 9,700 customers without power, including nearly 4,500 in Northern Vrigina.
Pepco was reporting a total of 1,677 outages, with the bulk of those -- 1,357-- in Prince George's County, and 287 in the District.
BGE had more than 14,900 outages, with 3,000 of those in Anne Arundel and 1,600 in Howard County.
SMECO reported 1,914 outages across four counties.
Closures of schools, mass transit and government offices have continued as authorities urged people to stay home.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley warned his state was in the "crosshairs" of what would likely prove to be a deadly storm.

"There will be people who die and are killed in this storm," O'Malley said during a morning press conference.

If you must go out, observe road closures, beware of fallen power lines, and never try to drive through standing water. Treat dark traffic signals as four-way stops.

During a White House briefing mid-day Monday, President Barack Obama encouraged people under evacuation orders to take the orders seriously.

"Don't pause, don't question," Obama said. "This is a serious storm and could potentially have fatal consequences if people aren't acting quickly."

All airlines serving National and Dulles airports have grounded flights. Metro -- including Metrobuses and Metro Access -- will remain closed until further notice.

The D.C. government, D.C. public schools and Montgomery County public schools will remain closed Tuesday. (See all closures here.)

The Bay Bridge closed shortly before 3 p.m.

In Fairfax County, several roads are closed due to high water. Part of Kidwell Drive is closed due to a collapsed roadway.

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Quoting Bluestorm5:
@WunderAngela

Dr. Jeff Masters is now giving it a 30% chance that the #NYC subway will be flooded.

What did he say earlier?
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


Worst of the surge is not there yet. This storm is not over, even upon landfall.


turn on the weather channel and wait for Jim Cantore to let you know whats coming. I also think NYC will be lucky if the subway does not flood.
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Quoting ncstorm:


what did he have it originally?


30%, then 50%, then "likely"
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Quoting bappit:

Was about to post a link to that site with the comment:

The surge seems to be surging. Over six feet of surge currently with a five foot tidal increase on the way.


Definitely surging. Thanks for posting the link, because I guess I can't post the pic - which was what I was going for.

It's added a couple of inches since last report. Cantore seemed disappointed at last report on TWC about the height at the Battery. I don't know if he realizes that its just low tide and this thing is about to explode on him.
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Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22617

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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.

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