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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Im not aware of any piers in NC collapsing.
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A boat with seven aboard is missing in Sandy-roiled waters in the Caribbean. Source

At least one forecaster says dollar damages from Sandy could top Katrina's. Source
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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.
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While Dr. M. noted that an eyewall was not forming per the Hunters' data, there might be a small window of opportunity for an eye wall to form if the pressure continues to drop.

HURRICANE SANDY DISCUSSION NUMBER 29
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL182012
1100 AM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

WITH BOTH AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT DATA
AND VARIOUS MICROWAVE SATELLITE DATA INDICATING A 20 N MI DIAMETER EYE HAS DEVELOPED SINCE THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY......................
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10:30 AM: 942.8mb
11:20 AM: 937.5mb

5.3mb drop in less than an hour.

Boy, that escalated quickly!
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Quoting 900MB:

Wow! To think that the big surge is still 8-10 hours away.
Looks like the Battery is in trouble! So is the whole coast line in Bkln, Queens. Even the FDR drive on the East Side of Manhattan is still closed. Still fairly calm here in Manhattan.


Is there a live cam of water near battery park?
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Quoting HurricaneCamille:


how can it be undergoing RI without an eyewall?


Baroclinic bombing due to the same processes that generate superstorm nor'easters.
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Quoting TerraNova:


Lovely...
I think I'm haveing PTSD flash backs from Isabel..was not pretty..
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I haven't been on in a while so sorry if this has been discussed. I haven't heard much discussion about the so-called collision of low pressures lately. Is that still forecast and what will be the result of it...snow...tornado's etc?
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Quoting HurricaneCamille:


how can it be undergoing RI without an eyewall?

It has an eyewall.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2465
Quoting Levi32:
Recon pass is finding lower pressure yet again, down to 937.5mb extrapolated. That is a 6mb fall in 1 hour 40 minutes.

More graphical recon data here



RI flag.... On?
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Quoting Levi32:
Recon pass is finding lower pressure yet again, down to 937.5mb extrapolated. That is a 6mb fall in 1 hour 40 minutes.

More graphical recon data here



how can it be undergoing RI without an eyewall?
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Huge gusts and rain here in Lakehurst, NJ. We are experiencing rain bands about out every four to five minutes. I saw one band about ten minutes ago that had the tree here bent almost in half.
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What amazes me is how a few days ago we all were saying that the models were WAY overdoing the pressure drops and low pressures...and now it seems they we SPOT ON!
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Of course, that could mean large portions of just a few small portions. But either way, that's bad, bad news for NYC's many commuters.

Say, you think damage could be avoided if the New Jersey and New York legislatures were to meet in emergency session this morning and, like North Carolina, pass a law declaring that the ocean isn't rising? :\


It depends, if its only the first entrances to the subway breached, the sandbags and plywood covers may work.
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[Updated 11:10 a.m.] Power officials were reporting nearly 45,000 customers without electricity across 10 states on Monday morning.
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Recon pass is finding lower pressure yet again, down to 937.5mb extrapolated. That is a 6mb fall in 1 hour 40 minutes.

More graphical recon data here

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Quoting 900MB:


That has got to be a Cat 2!

Dear god please don't let this be a cat 3 at landfall. Pleaseeeeeeeee.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2465
Quoting Dr. Jeff Masters:
...it appears likely that portions of the NYC subway system will flood.
Of course, that could mean large portions of just a few small portions. But either way, that's bad, bad news for NYC's many commuters.

Say, you think damage could be avoided if the New Jersey and New York legislatures were to meet in emergency session this morning and, like North Carolina, pass a law declaring that the ocean isn't rising? :\
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60. HCW
Impressive snowfall totals so far

Gatlinburg, TN 7 inches

Wise county VA 5 inches


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THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOUNT HOLLY NJ HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING FOR... CAMDEN COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY... GLOUCESTER COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY... BURLINGTON COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY... OCEAN COUNTY IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY...

* UNTIL 730 PM EDT MONDAY

* AT 730 AM EDT...MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN WAS CONTINUING TO MOVE INTO SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY. SOME LOCATIONS IN THE COUNTIES OF GLOUCESTER, CAMDEN, BURLINGTON AND OCEAN COUNTIES HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED AN INCH OR TWO OF RAINFALL. MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN WILL CONTINUE THROUGH THE DAY AND INTO TONIGHT WITH TOTALS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES POSSIBLE BY THE END OF THE DAY ON TUESDAY. AS A RESULT, THIS WARNING WILL LIKELY NEED TO BE EXTENDED.

* FLOODING IS EXPECTED ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS AND IN AREAS OF POOR DRAINAGE. ROADWAY FLOODING IS ALSO ANTICIPATED. DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS, THE WATER MAY BE DEEPER THAN YOU THINK IT IS. IF YOU LIVE IN A FLOOD PRONE AREA, BE PREPARED TO MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE FLOODING OF SMALL CREEKS AND STREAMS...HIGHWAYS AND UNDERPASSES. ADDITIONALLY...COUNTRY ROADS AND FARMLANDS ALONG THE BANKS OF CREEKS...STREAMS AND OTHER LOW LYING AREAS ARE SUBJECT TO FLOODING.

&& IOVINO
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
937.5 mb
(~ 27.68 inHg)


At this rate, it could just about get sub-930mb before landfall.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
937.5 mb
(~ 27.68 inHg)


That has got to be a Cat 2!
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
Quoting SubtropicalHi:
My son moved from San Antonio to NYC. To attend grad school. His dorm room is on the 16th floor.

It will be his first hurricane. It's ironic, after living in San Antonio his entire life and watching local news go nuts every time something pops up in the GOM, Bay of Campeche etc.

hopefully that dorm will make everyone get down to the very lower floors..16 stories up the winds will be aweful
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Anyone know how Normandy Beach NJ is faring?
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Quoting ncstorm:


Piers are collapsing from NC to MD and will continue up north..

I estimated (guessed) a day and a half ago that half the piers between the Outer Banks and Rhode Island would go. Could be about right.
Member Since: August 4, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Atlantic City this morning. Expect several feet higher by waters with this evening's high tide.

Sandy

Wow! To think that the big surge is still 8-10 hours away.
Looks like the Battery is in trouble! So is the whole coast line in Bkln, Queens. Even the FDR drive on the East Side of Manhattan is still closed. Still fairly calm here in Manhattan.
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The impact of Hurricane Sandy will be big enough to lower the country’s gross domestic product, economists tell CNNMoney.

The losses can’t yet be calculated, but will include billions in property damage, lost business, lost stock market trades, and more.
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937.5 mb
(~ 27.68 inHg)
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24167
Quoting LesBonsTemps:


Hudson Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to close at 2 p.m. Still time to get out, barely.
i feel sorry for those folks who have to work till 5pm..they'll be stuck there
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145900 3738N 07137W 6973 02595 9375 +161 +114 191032 035 019 004 00
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oh oh sandy has an eye again
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Quoting oracle28:
something tells me this is not going to be a fish storm...
Fish...rigth. No one saying that now.
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18L/PTH/S/CXX
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Quoting LargoFl:
Looks like they closed the verrazano bridge in NYC, most of the bridges in NYC will be closed soon,maybe they all are by now..those that went to work in manhattan will be stuck there til this is over i think


Hudson Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to close at 2 p.m. Still time to get out, barely.
Member Since: August 4, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
My son moved from San Antonio to NYC. To attend grad school. His dorm room is on the 16th floor.

It will be his first hurricane. It's ironic, after living in San Antonio his entire life and watching local news go nuts every time something pops up in the GOM, Bay of Campeche etc.

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HURRICANE SANDY DISCUSSION NUMBER 29
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL182012
1100 AM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

SANDY IS MAINTAINING A SMALL AREA OF DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THE
CENTER...WITH BOTH AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT DATA
AND VARIOUS MICROWAVE SATELLITE DATA INDICATING A 20 N MI DIAMETER
EYE HAS DEVELOPED SINCE THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY. MAXIMUM 700 MB
FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS HAVE BEEN 94 KT IN THE SOUTHERN QUADRANT...AND
SFMR-ADJUSTED SURFACE WINDS OF 80-83 KT HAVE BEEN OBSERVED IN THE
SOUTHWESTERN QUADRANT MORE THAN 90 N MI FROM THE CENTER. THE
AIRCRAFT DATA ALSO INDICATE THAT THE CENTRAL PRESSURE HAS FALLEN A
LITTLE...TO ABOUT 943 MB. BASED ON THE LATEST RECONNAISSANCE
DATA...THE INITIAL INTENSITY HAS BEEN INCREASED TO 80 KT.

RECONNAISSANCE CENTER FIXES INDICATE THAT SANDY HAS BEEN GRADUALLY
TURNING TO THE LEFT AND IS NOW MOVING NORTH-NORTHWESTWARD OR ABOUT
330/16 KT. THE LATEST RECON FIXES HAVE BEEN FALLING ON THE PREVIOUS
FORECAST TRACK...AND SO HAVE THE LATEST 12Z NHC FORECAST MODELS.
THEREFORE...NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO THE ADVISORY PREVIOUS TRACK
OR REASONING ARE REQUIRED. SANDY IS NOW LOCATED NORTH OF THE AXIS
OF A STRONG NEGATIVELY TILTED MID-/UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH...AND THE
HURRICANE SHOULD TURN NORTHWESTWARD VERY SOON. LANDFALL ALONG OR
JUST SOUTH OF THE SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY COAST IS EXPECTED LATE THIS
EVENING...AT WHICH TIME A TURN TO THE WEST-NORTHWEST IS EXPECTED.
AFTER MOVING INLAND OVER THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES A DECREASE IN
FORWARD SPEED IS EXPECTED. BY 48 HOURS...THE POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE
IS FORECAST TO MOVE NORTHWARD AND THEN NORTHEASTWARD. THE OFFICIAL
NHC FORECAST TRACK IS SIMILAR TO THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY TRACK...AND
LIES CLOSE TO A BLEND OF THE CONSENSUS MODELS TV15 AND TVCN.

SANDY IS CURRENTLY TRAVERSING A NARROW RIDGE OF WARM SSTS AROUND
27C...WHICH ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THE GULF STREAM. THIS EXTRA
LOW-LEVEL HEAT INPUT HAS LIKELY CONTRIBUTED TO THE RECENT INCREASE
IN CONVECTION AROUND THE EYE. HOWEVER...SANDY WILL BE MOVING OVER
THE NORTH WALL OF THE GULFSTREAM WITHIN THE NEXT 3 HOURS...WHICH
WILL BRING A HALT TO ANY SIGNIFICANT INNER-CORE CONVECTIVE
DEVELOPMENT. HOWEVER...THIS SHOULD HAVE LITTLE IMPACT ON THE
OVERALL INTENSITY OR THE SIZE OF THE EXTREMELY LARGE WIND FIELD
THAT IS NOW MORE THAN 1000 N MI IN DIAMETER. AT THE MOMENT...
HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ARE ONLY OCCURRING IN THE SOUTHWEST
QUADRANT...BUT MODEL GUIDANCE SUGGESTS THAT THESE COULD SPREAD INTO
THE NORTHERN SEMICIRCLE BEFORE LANDFALL.

SURFACE DATA INDICATE THAT WELL-DEFINED WARM AND COLD FRONTS LIE
VERY NEAR THE CENTER OF SANDY...AND THE COMBINATION OF COLDER OCEAN
WATER AND NEARBY FRONTAL SYSTEMS ARE EXPECTED TO RESULT IN
EXTRATROPICAL TRANSITION BEFORE THE CENTER OF THE CYCLONE REACHES
THE COAST. HOWEVER...THIS TRANSFORMATION WILL NOT DIMINISH THE
OVERALL IMPACTS FROM WINDS TO HURRICANE STRENGTH...LIFE-THREATENING
STORM SURGE... AND FLOODING RAINS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS DANGEROUS
WEATHER SYSTEM. BASED ON THE GLOBAL MODELS...THE CYCLONE SHOULD
WEAKEN FAIRLY RAPIDLY AFTER LANDFALL.

INTERESTS ARE REMINDED NOT TO FOCUS ON THE CENTER OR THE EXACT
FORECAST TRACK OF THIS SYSTEM...SINCE STRONG WINDS COVER AN AREA
SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES ACROSS...AND THE HIGHEST WINDS WILL NOT
NECESSARILY BE NEAR THE CENTER...ESPECIALLY JUST A FEW HUNDRED FEET
ABOVE THE GROUND.

AS NOTED IN PREVIOUS ADVISORIES...TO AVOID A HIGHLY DISRUPTIVE
CHANGE FROM TROPICAL TO NON-TROPICAL WARNINGS WHEN SANDY BECOMES
POST-TROPICAL...THE WIND HAZARD NORTH OF THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING
AREA WILL CONTINUE TO BE CONVEYED THROUGH HIGH WIND WATCHES AND
WARNINGS ISSUED BY LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICES.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 29/1500Z 37.5N 71.5W 80 KT 90 MPH
12H 30/0000Z 39.0N 74.0W 80 KT 90 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
24H 30/1200Z 39.9N 76.7W 60 KT 70 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
36H 31/0000Z 40.4N 77.9W 45 KT 50 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
48H 31/1200Z 41.5N 77.2W 35 KT 40 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
72H 01/1200Z 44.5N 75.6W 30 KT 35 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
96H 02/1200Z 45.9N 72.7W 25 KT 30 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
120H 03/1200Z 47.5N 68.5W 20 KT 25 MPH...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
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Hurricane Sandy has begun flooding areas of Norfolk, Virginia. This video was posted on YouTube.

Hurricane Sandy @Norfolk, VA ODU area
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A tree just went down behind my apartment building! The maintenance crew are already out there breaking it down and getting it out of the way. Very startling. Be safe out there, everyone!
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Thanks, Dr. Masters.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8028
Thank you for the update!



Convection near the center lighting up.
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36. HCW
3 inches of snow on the ground already in Tazwell County VA per storm spotter
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Thanks Dr..What a large and devastating storm.
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Quoting oracle28:
something tells me this is not going to be a fish storm...


That's old news!
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Queensboro bridge from manhattan to queens is still open so far........
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Thanks Dr. Masters
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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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