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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Sandy is taking a hard left turn.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Doppler22:
Akmost lost power................

I ever heard of Akmost. Where is it ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
Quoting wilsongti45:
Nassau County Long Island. I'm guessing near hurricane gusts here now. Somehow still have power. Pressure is still dropping here...


Still have power here in East Massapequa.

Stats:
LIPA LIPA Electric Outage Details
Affected Customers: 141,696
Active Outages: 1,120
Last Update: Oct 29, 3:18 PM
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Quite the event to be able to witness.

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S l o w

M o t I o n

T r a I n

W r e c k
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5984
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Read an article saying that Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane by gale diameter ever. Is this right?
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In ottawa ontario, with slight wind gust at about 10-15 MPH , I beleive it will be a bit more higher this evening, however whe are quite distant from the landfall.
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Akmost lost power................
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 3263
Good afternoon everyone, I see Sandy is close to making landfall. Hopefully everyone took the necessary precautions to be ready. Winds are increasing in SE MI and TWC says I could see gusts over 60mph and sustained winds up to 40mph tonight.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Scores of Twitter users have flooded the social networking site announcing their plans to go on looting sprees once Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, as the New York National Guard announced it would put troops on duty in Long Island to prevent such activity.
That's ridiculous alarmist talk. Consider the source....a link I wouldn't click on if you paid me.
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821. redux
Quoting BaltOCane:


I'm getting some pretty ferocious gusts here in NE b-more city. got some branches coming down


well my windows face NW....so when the winds turn i wont be sleeping.
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If that crane goes, it could cause a lot of damage to a lot of buildings. I think they are evcacuating the building across it.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23721
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Getting close...


Still fully tropical. This won't transition before landfall.
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Quoting plutorising:
my idiot northern virginia family are all lazing about in unsecure places making fun of me telling them to get to better quarters now.  my one little brother is out partying with a friend, my other little brother is driving around the beltway, and my mom is lying in bed.  none of them are watching what's happening or heeding any warnings.  how infuriating.


Let's us hope they continue to be lucky.
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Would the ignorant people debating the need for stock trading please drop it since neither of you know what you are talking about. Stocks do not need to trade for a company to stay in business. Companies only get money from selling stocks on the day they initially offer the shares. From that moment forward, companies operate on profits and debt they issue. Trading stocks is a transfer of money from one stockholder to another stockholder. If no trading takes place, it has no impact on companies just owners of shares. If a company was planning an offering of shares, it can wait a week. Not optimal, but doable. And shares are not offered every day.
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Quoting redux:
still haven't felt very severe winds in Baltimore.

plenty of rain though.


I'm getting some pretty ferocious gusts here in NE b-more city. got some branches coming down
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Recon ran into 105 knots flight winds or 120 mph. Surface is still low, though.
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Nassau County Long Island. I'm guessing near hurricane gusts here now. Somehow still have power. Pressure is still dropping here...
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Just E of Manhattan

Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2685
my idiot northern virginia family are all lazing about in unsecure places making fun of me telling them to get to better quarters now.  my one little brother is out partying with a friend, my other little brother is driving around the beltway, and my mom is lying in bed.  none of them are watching what's happening or heeding any warnings.  how infuriating.
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Quoting Pipejazz:
why did you post an OCt 12 graph?
what graph i did not post any graph
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Quoting JTDailyUpdate:


Grothar what browser are you using


Firefox


Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23721
Come on guys take the economics discussions to some other place.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Please consider adding a few more exclamation marks; 29 of them may not quite convey the sense of excitement you intend it to. ;-)


It's a 90-story building, that's not even one exclamation mark per floor. Relax, Nea.
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Getting close...

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806. dader
Quoting jskweather:


No. When it comes onshore to the Southwest of NYC, the counter clockwise rotation will be pushing water due North right into Long Island and NYC for hours after the eye is onshore. This maximum effect will be right at high tide.

Similarly, Katrina hit east of NOLA and pushed Lake Ponch right into the city from the North due to the huge surge and south blowing winds.

This same thing happened during Ike in 2008. Ike was onshore before the Bolivar Pennisula got innundated to the East of Houston and NE of Galveston.

Thus Sandy coming onshore early and leaving her North blowing winds pushing water toward NYC right at high tide is, IMO, a worst case scenario not a blessing.


Southerly winds
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We're gonna witness the crane falling if it does, moving people out around that area
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Quoting Skyepony:
Scores of Twitter users have flooded the social networking site announcing their plans to go on looting sprees once Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, as the New York National Guard announced it would put troops on duty in Long Island to prevent such activity.


Headline: "Scores of Twitter Users Get Shot"
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18L/PTH/S/CXX
...LANDFALL...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
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801. redux
still haven't felt very severe winds in Baltimore.

plenty of rain though.
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Lady live on tv saying glass breaking in NYC
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Battery park surge now 6 feet. Looks headed for 11 at least...

http://hudson.dl.stevens-tech.edu/SSWS/d/index.sh tml?station=N017
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798. Skyepony (Mod)
Scores of Twitter users have flooded the social networking site announcing their plans to go on looting sprees once Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, as the New York National Guard announced it would put troops on duty in Long Island to prevent such activity.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36084
Quoting Neapolitan:
Please consider adding a few more exclamation marks; 29 of them may not quite convey the sense of excitement you intend it to. ;-)
!...Sorry Nea, 30 is a good round number..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19526
Quoting hydrus:
If Sandy takes a path W-SW, a may change the situation for quite a lot of people.


Surge at Delaware bay specifically.... There were a few model runs that had it diving SSW briefly before landfall then lifting NNW inland...
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Quoting HCW:
425,133 people are currently without power
Thte Merrimack Valley is getting it pretty good, and another Band is lining up on I-90 lifting north, but probably a 30min Break between the two.
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As you can see the winds have not died down even down here..

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http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=r obn4

Gust to 66kts, and that's well to the north of the center. Very impressive.
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Quoting Doppler22:
There has been a partial crane collapse in NYC and now the crane is dangling over the streets below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Please consider adding a few more exclamation marks; 29 of them may not quite convey the sense of excitement you intend it to. ;-)
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Quoting Articuno:

Making landfall ATM.
Looking like a west turn too.
If Sandy takes a path W-SW, a may change the situation for quite a lot of people.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19526
I'm waiting for one of the reporters standing out in the storm to get sideswiped with a piece of something.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11047
Not quite at landfall yet, close though...
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2685
Well - south-central MA is off the grid. I have to start conserving battery now.

Stay safe and warm, everyone. I'll check in for updates as I can.


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Quoting Grothar:



Nothing is loading. Remarks are coming on about 4 minutes later


Grothar what browser are you using
Member Since: August 19, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 322
CANE SANDY TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL182012
300 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

...CENTER OF SANDY HEADING TOWARD SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY...
...LANDFALL EXPECTED BY EARLY THIS EVENING...

SUMMARY OF 300 PM EDT...1900 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...38.5N 73.5W
ABOUT 85 MI...140 KM SE OF ATLANTIC CITY NEW JERSEY
ABOUT 160 MI...255 KM S OF NEW YORK CITY
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...90 MPH...150 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 305 DEGREES AT 28 MPH...44 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...940 MB...27.76 INCHES

LATEST REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT...
AS WELL AS NOAA DOPPLER RADAR OBSERVATIONS...INDICATE THAT SANDY
CONTINUES MOVING QUICKLY TOWARD THE NORTHWEST. ON THIS TRACK...THE
CENTER OF SANDY IS EXPECTED TO REACH THE COAST OF EXTREME SOUTHERN
NEW JERSEY OR CENTRAL DELAWARE WITHIN THE NEXT 3 TO 5 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 13298
AOL main page has been showing the flooding in Atlantic City.
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Quoting ncstorm:
I thought the storm was going to beat high tide because of the forward speed so wouldnt the storm surge be less for NY?


No. When it comes onshore to the Southwest of NYC, the counter clockwise rotation will be pushing water due North right into Long Island and NYC for hours after the eye is onshore. This maximum effect will be right at high tide.

Similarly, Katrina hit east of NOLA and pushed Lake Ponch right into the city from the North due to the huge surge and south blowing winds.

This same thing happened during Ike in 2008. Ike was onshore before the Bolivar Pennisula got innundated to the East of Houston and NE of Galveston.

Thus Sandy coming onshore early and leaving her North blowing winds pushing water toward NYC right at high tide is, IMO, a worst case scenario not a blessing.

I truly hope everyone takes this storm seriously. Prayers and thoughts to those in it's path.
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LOL.

Look at the times of the posts, they are mixed up.
Lag much?
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2179


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About JeffMasters

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