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 islander101010:
insurance business pays good until something like this happens l

As long as it is the consumer that is paying. Collecting is not as easy.
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Quoting leftlink:


Forget the surge... in central long island this will mean waves breaking 1/2 mile inland, if the elevation is not too high!





Waves are less of a problem for Long Island as it is sheltered. Its many channeling of the surge and local generated wind waves, which are still significant. Dont overhype this, there is no way you are going to see +30ft waves crashing into manhattan.
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One bright note from Toms River NJ, The rains have been very light even for a nor easter, Im hoping the ground wont be too saturated and perhaps less trees will fall?
Thanks to everyone for the updates and minute to minute info. Good luck to everyone in the path of Sandy over the next few days
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Quoting Grothar:



Well, that can't be good. I'm somewhere under a black hole!
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Quoting wxmod:
Aerosol Geoengineering and Hurricane Modification Program Run by Homeland Security


I've seen a lot of aerosols dumped in the low to the east of Sandy that are a strong indication that Sandy was manipulated, big time. If Obama looses the election, it will be cause the north east didn't vote. This is storm warfare. Wake up folks.


Seriously?..LOL..
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127. yoboi
Quoting Tazmanian:
looks like sandy is going too come in right overe new York


elnino yet????
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
still no Hurricane Warnings?


there NEVER WILL BE
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Quoting islander101010:
insurance business pays good until something like this happens l
Now maybe our legislators will have a serious and fruitful discussion about National windstorm insurance.
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Will ANY subway system on the East coast be operating tonight?

Historic shutdown...
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I've seen a lot of aerosols dumped in the low to the east of Sandy that are a strong indication that Sandy was manipulated, big time. If Obama looses the election, it will be cause the north east didn't vote. This is storm warfare. Wake up folks.

Are you 300 miles offshore in a boat?
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Quoting HarryMc:


http://www.tropicalatlantic.com/recon/


Thank you very much.
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Quoting leftlink:
That "demo2" floating robotic buoy, if accurate, indicates what conditions will be like on LONG ISLAND in just 5 hours, according to the following projection (showing sandy's likely position at 4pm, and the DEMO2 BUOY POSITION RELATIVE TO LONG ISLAND):



Forget the surge... in central long island this will mean waves breaking 1/2 mile inland, if the elevation is not too high!




Both the NAM and short range models such as the RAP have consistently shown very strong winds developing in that area. Looks like that is verifying now.



Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
A lot of people is talking about NY but I think NJ is going to be literally underwater and get the worst of the surge and water damage..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14446
On fox 5 Allison and Tony un-professionally express their opinion about how tiresome they are of talking about Sandy earlier.When you have a life threatening situation in your area what do you expect?.Retarded I tell ya.
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Quoting Maryland1:


Hey Largo, your alarms are all worth it. Nicely called, days ago.



Absolutely right.
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Quoting wxmod:
Aerosol Geoengineering and Hurricane Modification Program Run by Homeland Security


I've seen a lot of aerosols dumped in the low to the east of Sandy that are a strong indication that Sandy was manipulated, big time. If Obama looses the election, it will be cause the north east didn't vote. This is storm warfare. Wake up folks.


You are out of your mind with this garbage.
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still no Hurricane Warnings?
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Quoting Snowlover123:


http://www.tropicalatlantic.com/recon/
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The Ocean City pier is being taken apart:

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With the projected high tide and storm surge later today and into Tuesday, anyone in potential Areas flooded now should prepare for a worse impact than is being currently reported and experienced. Residents can lessen the impact on their insurance claims by moving vehicles to higher ground, moving valuables from lower floors of homes to higher floors if possible, or moving altogether. From what we are seeing in media and reports now though, the time window to make these preparations is closing quickly, or in some instances has already closed. If evacuations are being urged they should be already underway or in some areas, pushed to completion for safety well in advance.
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Ocean City, MD..from Facebook..

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14446
Folks: Figure I have about 6 hours, give take on power in my piedmont area of Maryland. Thanks, again for all of the help in tracking and education here. Might be a while before I talk to you all again. Those of us up here, about time to hunker down and be safe.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
Quoting washingtonian115:
I don't think Sandy will top Katrina's price tag.Irene was expecvted to and look waht happened.


This thing would eat Irene for breakfast
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Link
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Quoting Snowlover123:
Where can I get the latest recon data?
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Quoting DoctorDave1:
DEMO2 bouy at 10am EST:

Wind at 98 mph gusting to 134 mph.

Historical trace provides no reason to believe that these wind speeds are not legitimate.


These speeds have also been recorded by recon on the SFMR. As such, I believe it is possible that Sandy is a Category 2 hurricane again.
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I don't think Sandy will top Katrina's price tag.Irene was expecvted to and look waht happened.
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103. yoboi
Quoting wxmod:
Aerosol Geoengineering and Hurricane Modification Program Run by Homeland Security


I've seen a lot of aerosols dumped in the low to the east of Sandy that are a strong indication that Sandy was manipulated, big time. If Obama looses the election, it will be cause the north east didn't vote. This is storm warfare. Wake up folks.


wow
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Quoting ecupirate:
Im not aware of any piers in NC collapsing.


Avalon Pier in Kill Devils Hill, NC
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14446
Quoting dogsgomoo:
Anyone know how Normandy Beach NJ is faring?


Here's the WU page for Normandy Beach NJ..the webcams are still up in that area.. :)
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face book link of people evacuating in oc maryland:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1015122637 7889539&set=a.232790174538.135589.219252434538&typ e=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf
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That "demo2" floating robotic buoy, if accurate, indicates what conditions will be like on LONG ISLAND in just 5 hours, according to the following projection (showing sandy's likely position at 4pm, and the DEMO2 BUOY POSITION RELATIVE TO LONG ISLAND):



Forget the surge... in central long island this will mean waves breaking 1/2 mile inland, if the elevation is not too high!



Member Since: December 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
Quoting LargoFl:
same here


Hey Largo, your alarms are all worth it. Nicely called, days ago.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
DEMO2 bouy at 10am EST:

Wind at 98 mph gusting to 134 mph.

Historical trace provides no reason to believe that these wind speeds are not legitimate.
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insurance business pays good until something like this happens l
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I had to travel east towards the storm to come to work, but there isn't too much going on this far inland yet. However, it looks like we are about to be hit with a good gob of rain heading west out of Winchester VA. Glad I have the outside work done :)
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Quoting AGWcreationists:
Could the conspiracy nutcases please give it a rest until after this is over? There are also right-wingers who say NOAA is over-hyping the storm to distract from Benghazi. Both wings of the nutbar spectrum are loons.


Based on what I see, I don't think storm surge was hyped...
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Eyewall forming?
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I hope Dr. Masters doesn't take this the wrong way....but from 4 days ago...



However, it is likely that the models are overdoing the strength of Sandy at landfall. The models have trouble handling the transition from tropical storm to extratropical storm in these type of situations, and I expect that the 940 mb central pressure of Sandy predicted at landfall Monday in Delaware by the ECMWF model is substantially overdone.

Jeff Masters


Looks like they may have actually underdone it...amazing storm.
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Looks like the eye is headed right for the Delaware bay.I wonder if that has happened before?
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Quoting Articuno:

Dear god please don't let this be a cat 3 at landfall. Pleaseeeeeeeee.


It has 2 or 3 hours more on the gulf stream. It should peak then, unless the barocyclonic effect enhances. Could maintain a near Cat 2 at landfall in S Jersey.
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GOES Rapid Scan loop of a monster:

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
Thanks Dr. Masters,
We all are witness to a disaster that I know I won't forget..
Thanks also for the many Links you and my fellow bloggers are posting for those who may need them..
And for those taking notes,this is a very rare set-up and I hope you can do so safely..
Thanks so much again Dr.Masters..
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Where can I get the latest recon data?
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Quoting wxmod:
Aerosol Geoengineering and Hurricane Modification Program Run by Homeland Security


I've seen a lot of aerosols dumped in the low to the east of Sandy that are a strong indication that Sandy was manipulated, big time. If Obama looses the election, it will be cause the north east didn't vote. This is storm warfare. Wake up folks.
Could the conspiracy nutcases please give it a rest until after this is over? There are also right-wingers who say NOAA is over-hyping the storm to distract from Benghazi. Both wings of the nutbar spectrum are loons.
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Quoting plutorising:
having trouble loading things on my computer right now, and wondering how lkely it is that everybody's internet will go down because of the wallop.
same here
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Quoting RussianWinter:


Is there a live cam of water near battery park?


not that i know of but TWC goes to coverage of their guy there every few minutes.
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


At this rate, it could just about get sub-930mb before landfall.


It is simply amazing. What a huge mess we have coming in the next 24 hours. Going out to check on my low spots and drainage right now.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
Im not aware of any piers in NC collapsing.
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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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