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 SyriboTigereyes:

Franklin Square area here.. Just had a transformer blow right near us, maybe two blocks away? Glad it wasn't ours.. but it's only a matter of time. We are expecting it to go out so I'm already lighting candles and getting prepared. These gusts keep getting worse and worse.
Hey, sweetie...you are not supposed to light candles (oil lamps, open flames) until the storm has passed because if a window breaks a candle can topple and start a fire. Please use flashlights until this passes. Sorry, not preaching or intimating that you don't know this already...just stating...for others in the storm as well.
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Quoting islander101010:
cantori might be too far north
Maybe not if surge gets into the subway which would happen couple hours after landfall.
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SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOUNT HOLLY NJ
315 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

NJZ012>014-020-026-292115-
COASTAL OCEAN NJ-EASTERN MONMOUTH NJ-MIDDLESEX NJ-OCEAN NJ-
WESTERN MONMOUTH NJ-
315 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

...RAIN BANDS WITH WINDS IN EXCESS OF 75 MPH WILL AFFECT
MIDDLESEX...MONMOUTH AND OCEAN COUNTIES...

AT 309 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
BANDS OF RAIN WITH WIND GUSTS OVER 75 MPH EXTENDING FROM 21 MILES
EAST OF LONG BRANCH TO 18 MILES SOUTHEAST OF TOMS RIVER. THE BANDS
OF HEAVY RAIN AND DAMAGING WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO AFFECT THE REGION
BETWEEN 315 PM AND 515 PM.

WIND GUSTS IN EXCESS OF 75 MPH ARE POSSIBLE AS THE BANDS COME
ASHORE. WIND GUSTS IN EXCESS OF 70 MPH HAVE ALREADY OCCURRED ALONG
THE MONMOUTH COUNTY COAST. VERY HEAVY RAINFALL WILL OCCUR OVER AREAS
THAT RECEIVED HEAVY RAINS EARLIER. THE ADDITIONAL HEAVY RAIN MAY
WEAKEN TREE ROOT SYSTEMS...RESULTING IN DOWN TREES AND POWER LINES.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Not true. Just wait until high tide...
99 percent of us in this State do not live near the "high tide". Storm winding down for the other 11.7 million of us. Should have gone to work.
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Quoting Articuno:

lol must be bad typo day
yeah...everyone is on edge...or is it a ledge? No pun indended. LOL
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1454
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 :)
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 82 Comments: 7565
Top floor of a triple-decker in Cambridge, MA - the house is swaying with the stronger gusts if they sustain for more than a second or so, but the roof and the power and still on...
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cantori might be too far north
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THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING FOR...
GREENE COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA
ORANGE COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA
SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA
CULPEPER COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA
MADISON COUNTY IN NORTHWEST VIRGINIA
RAPPAHANNOCK COUNTY IN NORTHWEST VIRGINIA

* UNTIL 1130 PM EDT

* AT 325 PM EDT...DOPPLER RADAR AND GROUND TRUTH REPORTS INDICATED 1
TO 2 INCHES OF RAIN HAD FALLEN ACROSS THE AREA...WITH SOME UPSLOPE
ENHANCEMENT JUST EAST OF THE BLUE RIDGE. THIS RAIN WILL CONTINUE
FOR SEVERAL MORE HOURS...CAUSING SLOW RISES TO FLOOD OF AREA
CREEKS AND STREAMS.

A FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR HAS BEEN REPORTED.
STREAM RISES WILL BE SLOW AND FLASH FLOODING IS NOT EXPECTED.
HOWEVER...ALL INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD TAKE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS
IMMEDIATELY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. NEVER DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO
AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROADWAY. FLOOD WATERS ARE USUALLY
DEEPER THAN THEY APPEAR. JUST ONE FOOT OF FLOWING WATER IS POWERFUL
ENOUGH TO SWEEP VEHICLES OFF THE ROAD. WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED
ROADS MAKE THE SMART CHOICE...TURN AROUND...DONT DROWN.

EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE ELEVATED LEVELS ON
SMALL CREEKS AND STREAMS...AND PONDING OF WATER ON COUNTRY ROADS AND
FARMLAND ALONG THE BANKS OF CREEKS AND STREAMS.

&&
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I hope everyone is safe that lives in the areas being affected.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
what graph i did not post any graph
sorry, I hit refresh and it was from today. I removed the post.
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If there really is a sting jet in the northern quadrant like several of the models were depicting, it is probably very close to Long Island now.
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Quoting Thing342:
Read an article saying that Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane by gale diameter ever. Is this right?
Yup that's right!
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1454
Quoting wilsongti45:
Nassau County Long Island. I'm guessing near hurricane gusts here now. Somehow still have power. Pressure is still dropping here...

Franklin Square area here.. Just had a transformer blow right near us, maybe two blocks away? Glad it wasn't ours.. but it's only a matter of time. We are expecting it to go out so I'm already lighting candles and getting prepared. These gusts keep getting worse and worse.
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...time to call the pool guy.

Manteo NC
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5995
Quoting Neapolitan:
National Guard bumper sticker: "THAT PLASMA TV YOU JUST PICKED UP SURE IS NICE, BUT I BET IT CAN'T STOP A 5.56X45MM NATO ROUND FIRED FROM MY M4."

Disaster-time looters--aside from those seeking sustenance or medical supplies in a time of dire emergency--are the absolute scum of the earth, cockroaches to be squashed underfoot.
A cockroach just saw your post and remarked that his life is far more valuable than a looter and scum is good.
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Quoting Waltanater:
ever?? or NEVER? AH HA HA HA

LOLOL..
Typo's rule. Everywhere.
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Quoting ThatGuyAgain:


The worst of the weather is pretty much on the coast. And as noted earlier,there is basically no precipitaton on the East side of the system. Could see the sun come out later today on the South Jersey coast.
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5894
Quoting Neapolitan:
National Guard bumper sticker: "THAT PLASMA TV YOU JUST PICKED UP SURE IS NICE, BUT I BET IT CAN'T STOP A 5.56X45MM NATO ROUND FIRED FROM MY M4."

Disaster-time looters--aside from those seeking sustenance or medical supplies in a time of dire emergency--are the absolute scum of the earth, cockroaches to be squashed underfoot.

Digressing somewhat - I would be interested to see what the Rules of Engagement are for the National Guard warned off to be deployed in NYC - even if they will be carrying live ammunition.
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Quoting Waltanater:
ever?? or NEVER? AH HA HA HA

lol must be bad typo day
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2290
75mph wind gusts in Brooklyn right now..

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861. GGNC
Yeah, the winds are still up here in coastal NC as well. There are now power outtages in Havelock, NC (about 300 miles away from the center)
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Quoting pottery:

I ever heard of Akmost. Where is it ?
ever?? or NEVER? AH HA HA HA
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1454
would not be surprised if the SUN makes an appearance in NYC tomorrow.
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I think it will make landfall in cape may
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Quoting goalexgo:
Not much happening here in North Jersey, near Wayne. Storm took the hard left, virtually no precip, some wind. Other than theexpected surge, its over. Not much of a storm.


Well I hope your neighbors know better that the worst is yet to come as you will be to its northeast.
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Repost from previous page:

I think we might see some more bands like the one currently over Long Island develop as the friction of the land causes convergence right along the coast.

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Quoting goalexgo:
Not much happening here in North Jersey, near Wayne. Storm took the hard left, virtually no precip, some wind. Other than theexpected surge, its over. Not much of a storm.
Not true. Just wait until high tide...
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Quoting charlottefl:
Wash115- Hope you're ready looks like tonight could be nasty...
I was thinking that too..Hope she is ready for the unexpected.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Brookland, NY.


Already worse than Irene.
It's Brooklyn, NY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
S l o w

M o t I o n

T r a I n

W r e c k


Yes, you could not have designed a more destructive storm on a spring tide. The destruction of beach property is going to be on a scale that we have never seen. Not much in the way of dunes, sand reclamation projects don't rebuild original defenses and we may have a new inlet or two, by the end.
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849. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting CosmicEvents:
That's ridiculous alarmist talk. Consider the source....a link I wouldn't click on if you paid me.


If Skye posted the link it is safe ..
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Not much happening here in North Jersey, near Wayne. Storm took the hard left, virtually no precip, some wind. Other than theexpected surge, its over. Not much of a storm.
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I think we might see some more bands like the one currently over Long Island develop as the friction of the land causes convergence right along the coast.

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Quoting Neapolitan:
National Guard bumper sticker: "THAT PLASMA TV YOU JUST PICKED UP SURE IS NICE, BUT I BET IT CAN'T STOP A 5.56X45MM NATO ROUND FIRED FROM MY M4."

Disaster-time looters--aside from those seeking sustenance or medical supplies in a time of dire emergency--are the absolute scum of the earth, cockroaches to be squashed underfoot.

Hey, dont diss the roaches, man.
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Wash115- Hope you're ready looks like tonight could be nasty...
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Quoting RitaEvac:


finally one of my other hobbies come into play. That building is not the WTC but rather Central Park's one57. Final building hieght is 1007ft rather than the WTC1 1300ft? Roof hieght. Good thing WTC has been unable to raise it 300ft spire before Sandy came to town.
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Pressure is at 939.2 mb on this pass.
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Quoting Progster:


Headline: "Scores of Twitter Users Get Shot"
National Guard bumper sticker: "THAT PLASMA TV YOU JUST PICKED UP SURE IS NICE, BUT I BET IT CAN'T STOP A 5.56X45MM NATO ROUND FIRED FROM MY M4."

Disaster-time looters--aside from those seeking sustenance or medical supplies in a time of dire emergency--are the absolute scum of the earth, cockroaches to be squashed underfoot.
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URNT15 KNHC 291923
AF308 2418A SANDY HDOB 21 20121029
191300 3841N 07349W 8426 00977 9449 +140 +140 076066 070 044 005 01
191330 3840N 07349W 8433 00968 9443 +140 +140 078060 063 042 004 01
191400 3838N 07348W 8430 00960 9435 +140 +140 078054 059 043 003 01
191430 3837N 07348W 8433 00951 9426 +140 +140 072048 052 040 006 01
191500 3835N 07348W 8417 00964 9411 +164 +152 064037 045 038 003 00
191530 3833N 07347W 8386 00992 9402 +176 +166 068028 031 041 004 00
191600 3832N 07346W 8449 00922 9397 +180 +173 072021 026 032 004 00
191630 3830N 07345W 8425 00945 9395 +182 +173 086008 015 022 004 03
191700 3829N 07345W 8428 00943 9392 +188 +175 016002 005 011 004 03
191730 3827N 07344W 8430 00942 9398 +180 +175 332003 005 005 004 03
191800 3826N 07344W 8432 00945 9400 +182 +169 282005 007 003 002 03
191830 3824N 07344W 8423 00955 9404 +177 +161 269011 014 002 004 03
191900 3822N 07344W 8425 00958 9408 +181 +147 267024 029 008 001 00
191930 3821N 07344W 8429 00955 9418 +167 +139 258036 039 024 004 00
192000 3819N 07344W 8423 00964 9428 +146 +137 268033 039 067 002 00
192030 3817N 07344W 8424 00974 9436 +146 +138 274034 034 067 001 03
192100 3816N 07344W 8424 00977 9444 +136 +133 289038 040 069 002 00
192130 3814N 07344W 8435 00974 9455 +126 +123 294047 052 069 003 00
192200 3812N 07344W 8424 00994 9469 +120 +115 297055 058 069 002 00
192230 3810N 07344W 8435 00991 9484 +111 +108 295062 065 066 000 00

Extrapolated SLP: 939
SFMR wind speed: 69 kt
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I am getting blasted with 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 45-50 mph here in Raleigh. This is stronger than the last few days. We also had some rain this morning from Sandy.


High pressure is building in. Combination of high pressure building in with the low moving out (tight pressure gradient),
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5894
Keyport, NJ

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Quoting Thing342:
Read an article saying that Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane by gale diameter ever. Is this right?
Confirmed from multiple mets.

@wxbrad

#Sandy is the largest storm in Atlantic history with a gale diameter of 940 miles.
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Quoting Thing342:
Read an article saying that Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane by gale diameter ever. Is this right?

Yes.
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had my tub filled at 12, but roommates decided to wake up at 3 fng PM and take a shower. Hoping power doesn't drop in the interim.

Owings Mills, MD - seeing 40 mph gusts now.
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Just back from digging out the drainage ditch pipe in Frederick, Maryland. Rain's piling up, thinking about 4 inches, since it's now moving kind of sideways. And we get the winds soon. It's going to be bad here, but my heart goes out to the people who are losing property today and tonight.
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I am getting blasted with 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 45-50 mph here in Raleigh. This is stronger than the last few days. We also had some rain this morning from Sandy.
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Sandy is taking a hard left turn.
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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.