Superstorm Sandy intensifying, bringing record storm surges

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

Share this Blog
63
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 782 - 732

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31Blog Index

782. RitaEvac
7:12 PM GMT on October 29, 2012


Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
781. AstroHurricane001
7:11 PM GMT on October 29, 2012






The balance of the flooded regions will shifts as the storm progresses.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
780. Grothar
7:11 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting Articuno:
Blog died down?



Nothing is loading. Remarks are coming on about 4 minutes later
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26117
779. Manhattancane
7:11 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting kwgirl:
That is bad, especially if it is salt water. I imagine the river is fresh water, but I wonder how much of the salt water will make it up the river.


150 miles inland there's still tides. The subway flooding water is waaay past being freshwater. (it's a tidal estuary)
Member Since: August 24, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 72
778. Articuno
7:11 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting hydrus:

Making landfall ATM.
Looking like a west turn too.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
776. zawxdsk
7:10 PM GMT on October 29, 2012


Inland Wind Model for Northeast Region. NWS has forward motion at 28mph on a Cat One storm. Here is your maximum penetration of wind chart.

More Here

Stay safe everyone.
Member Since: August 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 195
775. snotly
7:10 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Darn you Green Goblin!!!, where is Spider Man?


Quoting Doppler22:
There has been a partial crane collapse in NYC and now the crane is dangling over the streets below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: August 27, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
774. biff4ugo
7:11 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Wow, that crane doesn't look like it will survive landfall, as torn up as it is and 1000 feet up. Get out of it's way sounds like the best safety option.

In my economics class they taught that when you sold something, someone had to buy it. They didn't teach me that a weather blog is where serious investors go to solve trading issues. That is new to me.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1569
773. Hurricane12
7:09 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting 900MB:


That thing is dangling right across the street from Carnegie Hall!


Yeah, I saw it on CNN, and talking about CNN, they have some amazing live footage in Atlantic City, NJ. The winds are extremely rough.
Member Since: August 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
772. pottery
7:09 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting Grothar:


I think he also posted a 940-950mb storm striking Ocean County NJ about a week ago. :)

I think I'll take my nap now.


heheheheheheheh
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
771. AegirsGal
7:08 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
WCVB has been reporting about 50,000+ out of power in MASS.
Member Since: August 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 291
770. JTDailyUpdate
7:10 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
000
WTNT63 KNHC 291855
TCUAT3

HURRICANE 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: August 19, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 342
769. HCW
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
425,133 people are currently without power
Member Since: August 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1408
768. mikatnight
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting Lonewulf:


They aren't. Profits keep a company afloat, traders trade by betting on those margins. More profitable a company is, the more it's stock goes up, less profitable it goes down. The price of the stock has no bearing on how profitable a company is, rather the exact opposite. Apple ans MS are 2 perfect examples, look at both of their stock prices in 1998, then look at them today.


There are actually two different markets. There is the real one, that depends on selling products or services, and there is the imagined market, where CEO's try to get people to bet on how the future of the company will be. That is the stock market.
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
767. pottery
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting weblackey:


Didn't Grothar post a graphic last night showing a wave coming from Africa?

I remember thinking WTF...

Yeah, there's a wave in the Cen.Atl, and here in Trinidad we are watching it and hoping for some rain !
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
766. sonofagunn
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
I'm worried that many of the sight-seers on piers and atop walls are going to be in for a surprise soon. I've seen videos before of storm surge happening *quickly*, as in all of a sudden one of those waves is a few feet higher than any previous ones - sort of like a tsunami.

When the high tide and wind direction both start stacking on top of each other, the situation could change quickly and people could get trapped or washed away.

I hope I'm overreacting.
Member Since: June 12, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 166
765. Articuno
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Blog died down?
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
764. Tropicsweatherpr
7:09 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14243
763. MontanaZephyr
7:05 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Gangs Plan Hurricane Looting Spree Via Twitter
Link
Member Since: May 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 440
762. Chicklit
7:04 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11317
760. Grothar
7:04 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Here is the live link to that crane in New York. I hope it works


Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26117
759. MontanaZephyr
7:04 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting 900MB:

That is the multi-gazzilion $ One 57 building. That crane is 1300 feet above ground. If that thing snaps, something is getting crushed.


There will probably be all sorts of oddity stories like this today. It does look pretty scary! Even if it doesn't come down today, it has to come down sometime. Sheesh.
Member Since: May 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 440
758. connie1976
7:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
New Jersey, Deleware, Maryland & Pennsylvania looks like they are going to be devastated! Praying for all of you all that live there!!
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
757. HCW
7:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
425,133 people are currently without power
Member Since: August 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1408
756. redux
7:07 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
im just talking to a rigger, i don't know how you remove that crane. she was saying maybe by helicopter, piece by piece.

but then how do you get another crane up there???
Member Since: June 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 227
755. TropicTraveler
7:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting sar2401:

It's not quite that easy. If you were a serious investor, you'd understand that.


Disasters have many impacts, not the least upon the economy and upon businesses. Many small business never recover from a disaster and close their doors forever. Sorry for your trouble - it is a shame to be hit by this.
Member Since: July 24, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 924
754. hydrus
7:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21173
753. Grothar
7:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting weblackey:


Didn't Grothar post a graphic last night showing a wave coming from Africa?

I remember thinking WTF...


I think he also posted a 940-950mb storm striking Ocean County NJ about a week ago. :)

I think I'll take my nap now.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26117
752. ScottLincoln
7:02 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting hurricaneman123:


Yea I live there, i don't really know my elevation but the whole place is basically a swamp so i don't think its gonna be too good here, as of now its not that bad, just on and off rain and some wind

Southern or northern portion of town? Are they calling for an evacuation of your area? Don't tie the surge to the rain/wind... it will not necessarily get bad at the same time the wind/rain does.

PM me an address and I can try to help you estimate your elevation.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3192
751. 900MB
7:05 PM GMT on October 29, 2012
Quoting Hurricane12:


That's scary.


That thing is dangling right across the street from Carnegie Hall!
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
My prayers to all these folks in harms way...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21173


Sorry guys, blog is really laggy. Didn't mean to double post..
Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2686
Just north of Atlantic City, NJ (Gusting to 66mph)

Member Since: December 18, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 2686
Quoting SyriboTigereyes:
My father went to the boat dock again in East Rockaway Long Island. He said the water is at high tide levels, even though it's low tide. He is almost 100% sure our boat and every other boat at the dock is not going to make it, because it looks that bad down there.

Also, LIPA reports 100,000 without power on Long Island already.


Scuttle your boat. Let out the pepcocks and let it sink. You may have to replace all the electronics and metal but your hull should stay intact on the bottom. Worked with the boats left during Andrew. Those at their moorings ended up on the pilings. When the storm is over, lift it up and pump it out. The ones that my uncle sunk are still sailing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Doppler22:
There has been a partial cran collapse in NYC and now the crane is dangling over the streets below


That's scary.
Member Since: August 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
743. 900MB
Quoting Shluggo:
crane from a building under construction in NYC has collapsed.

That is the multi-gazzilion $ One 57 building. That crane is 1300 feet above ground. If that thing snaps, something is getting crushed.
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
Quoting Chucktown:


Yea, Edison, NJ. Grew up there until I was 19. Went to EHS in the early 90s. Know the Raritan well, and Kimbuk too.

Nice! I went to JPS, and as you know the whole place is a swamp so i don't think we're gonna fare too well... and we have the raritain river pretty close by
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Day to all from America's Left Coast. Hope all in the path of Sandy will be OK.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
There has been a partial crane collapse in NYC and now the crane is dangling over the streets below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:


There is not really any reason to disagree with Dr. Masters' analysis. The shape of the bay, the storm movement, the size of the storm, and the near shore bathymetry together suggest the highest surge along the N New Jersey coast northward toward NYC.
Do you live in that area? Do you know your elevation?

I wouldn't take any chances... If I lived below 20ft NAVD88 or my escape routes were not higher than that, I'd leave, and I would do it now.


Yea I live there, i don't really know my elevation but the whole place is basically a swamp so i don't think its gonna be too good here, as of now its not that bad, just on and off rain and some wind
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FunnelVortex:


All I can say is HOLY CRAP!

All I can say is that 11am image is already way behind. It appears that the center of Sandy will be making landfall in southern New Jersy in the next two hours, if the current satellite is to be believed.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting sar2401:

It's not quite that easy. If you were a serious investor, you'd understand that.

Yeah.
Well we are all really very sorry for you.

This annoying little storm is preventing you from your line of work ?
It's creating a situation where others may profit and you cannot ?

I trust that your home is warm and dry tonight.
For many, it will be really very bad. They, my friend, may lose everything......
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24307
There is actually impressive activity for this time of year in the ITCZ
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weblackey:


Didn't Grothar post a graphic last night showing a wave coming from Africa?

I remember thinking WTF...


I even looked at the GFS and it shows a disturbance in the carrabean next week.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 782 - 732

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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