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 clwstmchasr:


I agree on NYC. However, I do think it will be real bad in NJ.

Also, Brian Norcross is saying that this is a "real hurricane" and yet no hurricane warnings.
Maybe the NWS decided to call it a Nor'easter due to the fact the folks it is hitting understand that type of storm, where if they said Hurricane warning, the folks would say, okay, we are safe, we don't get hurricanes. I imagine there are all types of dicussions at NWS and NHC on how to get the word across so people will heed advice of the Emergency management. I am one as well. I did not leave for Wilma. I couldn't prevent the flooding and was glad I stayed so I could clean up. No, it was not life threatening, but it could have been. IF the mahogony tree in front of my house had gone over instead of just shredding, then I probably would not have survived.
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Quoting Waltanater:
Uh did someone not tell them it's raining! Go inside already...geesh.

They are guarding it.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Daily Telegraph coverage, with live video of NJ surf.

Link
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Quoting RitaEvac:
If high tide is at 8-10pm, trust me that wind aint dying down by that time, surge is still coming and it's gonna be HIGH


but high enough to get past the park?
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Quoting sfranz:


Nice to have you with us today, Mr. Bloomberg.


You're welcome. I'm just a retired bum, but I live off my money, so it's important to me. If you have a job, it's because people like me are willing to buy your company's stock.
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Wonder if wash lost power..
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Respect.
Uh did someone not tell them it's raining! Go inside already...geesh.
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1472
Lesson Learned from Irene: If you are using UPS for battery backup at home, be aware that a lot of them have a software switch where you can disable the annoying beeping you will get once the power is really down.

Check your UPS manufacturer's website for instructions. You can turn the UPS off to stop the beeping, but it will be active anytime you are drawing power off it.

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Quoting AegirsGal:
Been getting mostly mist/light rain all day, which rarely shows up on radar. Been getting gusty winds...I am way up in the NE corner of MASS, though.
there is a Band with TS force winds in it at about 128, lifting North.
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Quoting Chucktown:


Lets not sensationalize, yes the runways are under water, same with JFK, but that is bound to happen when you build an airport, basically on an island. The airports and terminals themselves are fine.
Not sensationalizing. Just asking a question and posting a pic that popped up on twitter. There's so much crap on twitter that I wanted to check if it wasn't from Irene. ;)
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Quoting ncstorm:
I may get bashed but I think NYC wont be as bad as was stated....


I sincerely hope that you are correct - regardless of the "overhype" furore that may result - after all that will just be words!
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 266
Quoting hurricaneman123:
Any thoughts on how this hurricane will impact Edison, New Jersey? its in the Raritain River valley, and Dr.Masters said that the Raritain bay will get the worst storm surge could that water travel up the river?


Yea, Edison, NJ. Grew up there until I was 19. Went to EHS in the early 90s. Know the Raritan well, and Kimbuk too.
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I hope everyone is praying instead of smiling at this time.
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We should get a more reliable wind maximum from a buoy about 100 miles south of Islip, LI.



Winds are just under 50kts sustained but rising fast.
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Battery Park high tide is 8.53 p.m. Don your swimming gear and your inflateable rubber ducky.
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SyriboTigereyes: I am getting SO annoyed by certain people on FB with their "Bring it on Sandy, nothing is happening here. This is so boring. This storm is all hype".
Are you kidding me? My father just talked to the owner of our boat dock. The water already is up above two cinder blocks high that the boats out of the water are on. They are all on THREE cinder blocks. So tonight, they are going to be floating all over. Into his house, into other boats, into the open water.
Towns are already flooded and she is still not here yet.
It's so frustrating. Just like during Irene. "I didn't even lose power, this storm was just hype". Really? Because 500,000 other people on Long Island lost power.. but I guess since you didn't, the storm wasn't a big deal at all. It seems so selfish to think that just because you didn't have damage to your property or power outage, that the storm was "nothing"
.

563 Grothar: I believe New Yorkers have a word for people like that, but I don't think I can post it here.

What's wrong with posting 'Seinfeld'?
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:


Yet, dozens of reporters are standing on the boardwalk reporting live.


It's low tide right now. They won't be there tonight at high tide. "There" won't be there anymore then.
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light rain , 57f, wind at 15 mph here in central maine, expect more tonite.
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Quoting sar2401:

This is absolutely nuts. No one needs to be on the floor of the NYSE to trade. It's all done electronically anyway, and the people wandering the floor could all evaporate and the market could still trade. The market closure of ALL trading, including electronic, is disrupting other markets worldwide. Having it closed tomorrow will make it even worse. As an investor, this is killing me, since foreign traders are getting to profit off moves in our stocks while I can't place trades. Assuming these nitwits open the market on Wednesday, you can expect to see a big drop due to this imbalance of trades.

You could drive to Quebec or Montreal...
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Thats whats ironic.

The people inland die, but the crazies on the coast live.

It would be ironically funny if that happened. But also Ironically sad.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
If high tide is at 8-10pm, trust me that wind aint dying down by that time, surge is still coming and it's gonna be HIGH
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0130 PM COASTAL FLOOD CRISFIELD 37.98N 75.86W
10/29/2012 SOMERSET MD EMERGENCY MNGR

3 TO 5 FT WATER IN STREETS AT HIGH TIDE...EVACUATIONS
UNDERWAY
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11156
Quoting RitaEvac:
According to radar New England isn't gonna get any rain.


I am in Maine on the NH border.. just outside of North Conway, NH..it's been raining heavily for the past 3+ hours with VERY blustery winds..60MPH winds forecasted from starting right about now (2:30PM) through tomorrow AM.. with 5+ inches rain..
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659. NDNJ
Quoting sar2401:

This is absolutely nuts. No one needs to be on the floor of the NYSE to trade. It's all done electronically anyway, and the people wandering the floor could all evaporate and the market could still trade. The market closure of ALL trading, including electronic, is disrupting other markets worldwide. Having it closed tomorrow will make it even worse. As an investor, this is killing me, since foreign traders are getting to profit off moves in our stocks while I can't place trades. Assuming these nitwits open the market on Wednesday, you can expect to see a big drop due to this imbalance of trades.


No, you're just wrong on this one. The traders in person handle tons of trades for commercial clients. Hundreds of people are usually in the building. I think caution is warranted in this situation and your loss of profit, while unfortunate, seems to be a reasonable price to protect lives.
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:


Yet, dozens of reporters are standing on the boardwalk reporting live.


And tons of people behind them just mozying around. Cantore was live about an hour ago in Battery Park, and he had to wait for a few people to pass by before he could continue.
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:


Yet, dozens of reporters are standing on the boardwalk reporting live.


Thats whats ironic.

The people inland die, but the crazies on the coast live.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
We may need to take into account of what takes place over land. This transition of the jet stream injecting into her could happen over land making this storm worse inland than coming ashore, I don't know. Think about it, the waters aren't warm enough to keep this thing at 90mph but the dynamics and the hybrid of a system with jet stream interaction is causing this....so why would it weaken over land, if anything we could see a 75mph land cane spinning for days up there.


Looks like I found someone else who belives in landcanes ^_^
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Before we jump to any conclusions about anyone being spared, keep in mind this forecast for Storm Surge. Even if it's accelerating, we're probably talking about a landfall at around 5pm, but winds will still be pushing onshore with strong TS winds by 8pm, which is high tide. So far, the storm surge forecast has been nearly 100% right.

Here's for NYC, remember areas of NYC are already starting to flood.
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JFK recently reported a 68MPH gust
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Quoting Articuno:

OMG WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! ASDFQWERRTYTSGIDHGIHL


Yet, dozens of reporters are standing on the boardwalk reporting live.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


And we still have the high tide tonight.

Yeah.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Quoting Articuno:

I agree.


And we still have the high tide tonight.
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We may need to take into account of what takes place over land. This transition of the jet stream injecting into her could happen over land making this storm worse inland than coming ashore, I don't know. Think about it, the waters aren't warm enough to keep this thing at 90mph but the dynamics and the hybrid of a system with jet stream interaction is causing this....so why would it weaken over land, if anything we could see a 75mph land cane spinning for days up there.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Henry Margusity Fan Club
Pressure at 940 mb and winds 90 mph. The tsunami of water is heading into New Jersey.

(this might be a little too much..a tsunami?)

OMG WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! ASDFQWERRTYTSGIDHGIHL
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Still have power here on South Shore of Long Island New York in Massapequa. Surprising because of:

LIPA Electric Outage Details
Affected Customers: 86,409
Active Outages: 895
Last Update: Oct 29, 2:18 PM
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Quoting sar2401:

As an investor, this is killing me, since foreign traders are getting to profit off moves in our stocks while I can't place trades.


Nice to have you with us today, Mr. Bloomberg.

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Quoting sar2401:

This is absolutely nuts. No one needs to be on the floor of the NYSE to trade. It's all done electronically anyway, and the people wandering the floor could all evaporate and the market could still trade. The market closure of ALL trading, including electronic, is disrupting other markets worldwide. Having it closed tomorrow will make it even worse. As an investor, this is killing me, since foreign traders are getting to profit off moves in our stocks while I can't place trades. Assuming these nitwits open the market on Wednesday, you can expect to see a big drop due to this imbalance of trades.


The firms did not want to place their employees at risk.... even with only electronic trading humans would need to be at the member firms, which are in the evactuation zone.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11156
Henry Margusity Fan Club
Pressure at 940 mb and winds 90 mph. The tsunami of water is heading into New Jersey.

(this might be a little too much..a tsunami?)
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Any thoughts on how this hurricane will impact Edison, New Jersey? its in the Raritain River valley, and Dr.Masters said that the Raritain bay will get the worst storm surge could that water travel up the river?
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Quoting GeauxNola:

Just because the center is passed does not mean the surge/wind will stop. As a matter of fact those on the north side will continue to see the water pile up for a while and those on the south side will see the water blow out pretty quickly.


I agree.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2413
Quoting GTcooliebai:
BREAKING (via @CNBCNow Twitter): NYSE to close market tomorrow. Last time NYSE closed for more than 1 day due to weather was in 1888.

This is absolutely nuts. No one needs to be on the floor of the NYSE to trade. It's all done electronically anyway, and the people wandering the floor could all evaporate and the market could still trade. The market closure of ALL trading, including electronic, is disrupting other markets worldwide. Having it closed tomorrow will make it even worse. As an investor, this is killing me, since foreign traders are getting to profit off moves in our stocks while I can't place trades. Assuming these nitwits open the market on Wednesday, you can expect to see a big drop due to this imbalance of trades.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Dr. Ryan Maue seems to think that the greatest surge will lag behind the center a bit, which would be terrible. Whether that actually happens is yet to be seen.
If that does happen ( with the faster than expected forward speed it seems plausible) it would mean that the highest surge could arrive at high tide....no good. Oct-29 Mon
High tide at 8:28 P.M Great Kills Harbor N.Y.

Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21182

Just because the center is passed does not mean the surge/wind will stop. As a matter of fact those on the north side will continue to see the water pile up for a while and those on the south side will see the water blow out pretty quickly.

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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Dr. Ryan Maue seems to think that the greatest surge will lag behind the center a bit, which would be terrible. Whether that actually happens is yet to be seen.


Starting to think that too, she is racing ashore now, all that water is gonna be pouring in behind her with that deep fetch that has been over the Atlantic for days. The winds aren't gonna just die once inland they will be the same over water and driving the surge in. People will hear it made landfall and go out thinking it's done only to be swallowed up by the surge behind her, remains to be seen...
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I thought the storm was going to beat high tide because of the forward speed so wouldnt the storm surge be less for NY?
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Quoting RitaEvac:
According to radar New England isn't gonna get any rain.
Been getting mostly mist/light rain all day, which rarely shows up on radar. Been getting gusty winds...I am way up in the NE corner of MASS, though.
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634. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Dr. Ryan Maue seems to think that the greatest surge will lag behind the center a bit, which would be terrible. Whether that actually happens is yet to be seen.


I agree with Ryan..the surge should peak with the tide. The atmosphere can send the storm on a sprint at the end but the water would gain momentum slower.
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Lindenhurst, near Islip airport: shows that low tide was just a couple feet down and tide will rise soon again. So by 5pm we should be seeing the NYC flood gauges registering...

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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Since Sandy is hitting off tide now, will that mean no subway flood?




At this rate it will be ashore in 2 hours.


It's 110 miles SE of Atlantic City moving NW at 28. 110/28 = 3.92 hours until landfall. Maybe a little earlier than that depending on if it picks up anymore foreward speed.
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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.