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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This is the closest sound to what it sounds like outside. I stepped outside and it sounded like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj_TNnmAlkQ&featur e=fvwrel
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2556
The incompetence in Katrina was the Governor, the New Orleans Mayor, and a boat load of other corrupt local officials in Louisiana. Katrina hit Mississippi far worse than New Orleans, but the elected officials there did a far better job. Amazing how some of you chuckleheads are still bleating on about the "incompetence" you fantasized was happening at the federal level. I'll bet you still believe there was cannibalism going on in the Dome. Snicker.

Quoting DataNerd:



That was an odd case. In that case the role's were reversed because of the Governor's incompetence. And for that matter there was also incompetence in the White House.

But usually not the case.


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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Strange, Atlantic City is reporting 946.2.

Link
Yeah that is odd. I wonder if that is adjusted for sea level. The airport at Atlantic City is 60ft above ground which could make the difference in a mb.
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1479. Msdrown
Quoting Dakster:


Yes a movie ship sunk and it looks like two people could have drowned.


Whats a movie ship?? You mean someone from hollywood or documentery type?? And where is this in the news so I can read about it.
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Quoting DataNerd:



12



Sandy hook climbed to 10.81'.
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Quoting BrickellBreeze:


94mph wind gust reported inland New York. confirmed by The Weather Channel.

I would not doubt it. Irene was incredibly gusty at around 4AM when a huge part of one of our trees snapped off and destroyed the neighbors fence. But this is much worse.

Our fence that's been standing for about 30+ years has fallen.
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Full Vortex Message

Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 29th day of the month at 22:23Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 308)
Storm Number & Year: 18L in 2012
Storm Name: Sandy (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 24
Observation Number: 21
A. Time of Center Fix: 29th day of the month at 22:12:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 3855'N 7412'W (38.9167N 74.2W)
B. Center Fix Location: 34 miles (54 km) to the SSE (158) from Atlantic City, NJ, USA.
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 909m (2,982ft) at 850mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 46kts (~ 52.9mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 82 nautical miles (94 statute miles) to the NNE (26) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 93 at 64kts (From the E at ~ 73.6mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 85 nautical miles (98 statute miles) to the NNE (26) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 947mb (27.96 inHg)
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 11C (52F) at a pressure alt. of 1,524m (5,000ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 16C (61F) at a pressure alt. of 1,526m (5,007ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 15C (59F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Radar, Wind, Pressure and Temperature
N. Fix Level: 850mb
O. Navigational Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 0.05 nautical miles
Remarks Section:
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 88kts (~ 101.3mph) in the south quadrant at 20:27:30Z
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 22C (72F) which was observed 23 nautical miles (26 statute miles) to the NNE (30) from the flight level center
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Latest Vortex says the storm has weakened slightly

H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 947mb (27.96 inHg)

Strange, Atlantic City is reporting 946.2.

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Quoting NCHurricane2009:

What was the prediction for Battery yesterday?



12

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Marketing Exes at TWC are high fiving and breaking out the champagne.
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Battery now at 10.39'
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Quoting 900MB:
Things are starting to get hairy in NYC area. Winds have kicked up bigtime! Probably close to hurricane gusts. Long Beach flooded, East River has topped it's banks on much of the East side. If the battery hasn't flooded yet, it has to be well on it's way. battery water level at 10.10' and still climbing, 140 mins from high tide.


But, but, everybody said everything was fine in NYC and the storm had missed it! Except for the minor datum that peak winds and peak surge hadn't arrived yet!

I still say by midnight, with glass crashing and sea water everywhere, it will be a major catastrophe.
Member Since: August 4, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 158
Latest Vortex says the storm has weakened slightly

H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 947mb (27.96 inHg)
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Quoting SyriboTigereyes:
These must be hurricane force. If not.. wow, I can't imagine hurricane force.

I wonder how much longer of this we will go through. I think if we get through the hurricane force gusts, we may make it through the tropical storm gusts with power but.. not if this goes on for hours and hours and hours.


94mph wind gust reported inland New York. confirmed by The Weather Channel.
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1468. Dakster
Quoting NCHurricane2009:

What was the prediction for Battery yesterday?


11 - 12 feet
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1467. leo305
the strongest area of wind just north of the center.. north and east of the center is moving onshore near RI..

94 mph wind gusts are being reported.. overland..
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Quoting charlottefl:
Battery approaching record levels 10.23'

What's the record?
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1465. vis0

Quoting jaseone:


We are in a different century now.
AGAIN SAFETY FIRST, HEED WARNING SO YOU CAN LIVE TO TELL TALES LATER
SEQUEL? The Perfect Storm II
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:

My parents who are also in Raleigh say its the same like yesterday and are shrugging...but someone who is obssessed with meteorology like you or I maybe more discriminating and may notice the winds are higher than yesterday...interesting...

Since I am not there...hard to say...but I did see the rain shield is descending southward into the Raleigh area. Maybe the rain showers will help mix down the winds more so that the least discriminating observer will see more wind?
It was raining in my area of Raleigh (SE side) earlier, but it haven't done so since about 8 am in the morning. One thing for sure is that the weather felt COLD today and the heavy winds isn't helping.
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These must be hurricane force. If not.. wow, I can't imagine hurricane force.

I wonder how much longer of this we will go through. I think if we get through the hurricane force gusts, we may make it through the tropical storm gusts with power but.. not if this goes on for hours and hours and hours.
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Kings Park, NY now at 11.56Ft
Link
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1461. Dakster
Quoting Msdrown:


What ship, did one sink and where???


Yes a movie ship sunk and it looks like two people could have drowned.
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They found one of the missing crew members of the Bounty, but she's unresponsive and in the hospital. The captain is still missing. :(
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Quoting DataNerd:


Its drifting closer to Atlantic city. That is going to push more water into the Battery further north as well.


Speaking of which stage is now: 10.10 feet in the Battery in New York.

What was the prediction for Battery yesterday?
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Atlantic County and City Fire/EMS
Link
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Battery approaching record levels 10.23'
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Quoting aspectre:
LurkyMcLurkerson: Maybe it's just because I live on the Pacific, but I cannot imagine why anybody would think some sand berms would stop an angry ocean. Watching them bust all over the local news over there, and I just -- really? Do they ever work? Loose sand?

Actually they do work... quite well... until some idiots decide that they can out-engineer Nature by eg building seawalls or cutting canals through barrier islands (often a new sand berm on top of an old sand berm naturally cemented together through chemical interaction on top of a natural below-sea-level prominence).
How do you think those berms got there in the first place?
Hurricanes and other LARGE storms scour the seabed to depths approximately equal the their wave heights, churning the sand beneath upward and forward, then downward
and a little backward before sending it upward and forward again... imparting an overall forward motion during their rolling process.


Oh, I hear you on the natural barriers -- that all makes sense to me. I mean some simple piles or "walls" of loose sand on the beach, placed there over the past few days by people and meant to hold back the surge from, say, Long Beach, LI. Which gave out, it's flooding like mad now.

Maybe those could work in a smaller storm, with less dramatic wave action generally. Wouldn't take much of one on the pacific I know, though, for those to just erode right off into the ocean, probably in less than an hour. Just seems so unlikely to work to me, but I can't claim experience there.
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1455. 900MB
Things are starting to get hairy in NYC area. Winds have kicked up bigtime! Probably close to hurricane gusts. Long Beach flooded, East River has topped it's banks on much of the East side. If the battery hasn't flooded yet, it has to be well on it's way. battery water level at +10.10' and still climbing, 140 mins from high tide.
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
1446. Don't even bother guys, just flag and ignore.
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Quoting CatfishJones:


Indeed, but I went through my first major when I was eight years old...and I was packing as soon as I connected the keywords "Hurricane," "Serious," and "(insert your location as probable point of landfall)." One would expect people would learn a lesson from the Katrina debacle re: listening to your mayor about the severity of tropical systems...



That was an odd case. In that case the role's were reversed because of the Governor's incompetence. And for that matter there was also incompetence in the White House.

But usually not the case.


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New York Harbor Entrance

Wave Height (WVHT): 29.9 ft

Wind Speed at 10 meters (WSPD10M): 46.6 kts


Link
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1451. centex
Hope this does not become the norm in the future.
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1450. Msdrown
Quoting violet312s:
They just found a 15th person from that ship. Unresponsive (no other info). Captain still missing.


What ship, did one sink and where???
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Quoting SyriboTigereyes:
Every time a gust comes that's bad, you think "Wow that was bad, it can't get worse", and then it does. We are on borrowed time with the power. It's going out any moment now. It's a miracle we lasted this long. I didn't think it would be as bad as it is as far as the wind goes.

And it all started to go downhill around 5PM. Before that the gusts were strong, but not too bad. Now?

Our street lights just went out now too.. so.. any moment now. Going to miss the power!

Stay safe!
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Getting hammered by probably High tropical storm gusts here in Pasadena MD. Surprised I haven't lost power yet.. I probably will. Maybe I won't and I will fare out well.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2556
Quoting Manhattancane:


Cause he's a Republican.


Did you just say that!!!??!! I'm sure you are kidding.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
No, but I could tell the wind speed pretty well while outside. One thing for sure is that the today's winds had been blowing way harder today than the last couple of days when Sandy is off coast of NC.

My parents who are also in Raleigh say its the same like yesterday and are shrugging...but someone who is obssessed with meteorology like you or I maybe more discriminating and may notice the winds are higher than yesterday...interesting...

Since I am not there...hard to say...but I did see the rain shield is descending southward into the Raleigh area. Maybe the rain showers will help mix down the winds more so that the least discriminating observer will see more wind?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Recon actually has the center farther north and east than I had it.



Its drifting closer to Atlantic city. That is going to push more water into the Battery further north as well.


Speaking of which stage is now: 10.10 feet in the Battery in New York.
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I know when Iccac hit branches falling and when you can't see makes it more of a challenge..Again stay safe...All so had to clean drains in the of it so the street would'nt flood...
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Quoting ncstorm:

'
Felt like stronger than 25 mph gusts but we'll see once NWS Raleigh release the information on winds in few days.
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Quoting DataNerd:



Look if elected officials tell you two different things it can be bloody hard to understand for some folks.


The problem is the Mayor, this is on him as are any deaths. He sent a conflicting (and illegal) message at a critical time. Lay blame there.

Granted if you ever find yourself in that position listen to the State authority not the local authority, state takes precedent (governor).


Indeed, but I went through my first major when I was eight years old...and I was packing as soon as I connected the keywords "Hurricane," "Serious," and "(insert your location as probable point of landfall)." One would expect people would learn a lesson from the Katrina debacle re: listening to your mayor about the severity of tropical systems...
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Amazing that this system is effecting such a huge area... Great Lakes reporting 25' waves, snow, impact in Canada and the list goes on...

And on a humorous note, twc showed surfers on Lake Michigan. You can tell they usually don't see much action... Really bad form. Lol.
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If anyone want's to hear what Sandy sounds like, just go here, btw, turn your speakers down, a lot!!!
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

I think the drop this morning was due to the combination of normal tropical processes (it did develop a nice eyewall for a short period there) and extratropical processes, but this one is purely baroclinic.



That data I posted is current.

But yes you are correct.


What a monster:

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This is major, very Katrina-like. People up there have no idea what kind of flooding is occurring and will still occur overnight, so many will not see it coming. I pray for everyone.

Surge will push up the Delaware Bay so watch out Philly...

So will this will likely complicate the election next Tuesday?

I heard something that historically natural disasters get blamed on the incumbent. So Romney's plans for FEMA will be forgotten.

October 29 is auch an inauspicious date.
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Every time a gust comes that's bad, you think "Wow that was bad, it can't get worse", and then it does. We are on borrowed time with the power. It's going out any moment now. It's a miracle we lasted this long. I didn't think it would be as bad as it is as far as the wind goes.

And it all started to go downhill around 5PM. Before that the gusts were strong, but not too bad. Now?

Our street lights just went out now too.. so.. any moment now. Going to miss the power!
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Battery Park City up to 10.10 Feet.
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The wind field near appears to be dying back on radar somewhat...
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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