Superstorm Sandy delivers a devastating blow to the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:23 PM GMT on October 30, 2012

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In a stunning spectacle of atmospheric violence, Superstorm Sandy roared ashore in New Jersey last night with sustained winds of 90 mph and a devastating storm surge that crippled coastal New Jersey and New York. Sandy's record size allowed the historic storm to bring extreme weather to over 100 million Americans, from Chicago to Maine and from Michigan to Florida. Sandy's barometric pressure at landfall was 946 mb, tying the Great Long Island Express Hurricane of 1938 as the most powerful storm ever to hit the Northeast U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, NC. New York City experienced its worst hurricane since its founding in 1624, as Sandy's 9-foot storm surge rode in on top of a high tide to bring water levels to 13.88' at The Battery, smashing the record 11.2' water level recorded during the great hurricane of 1821. Damage from Superstorm Sandy will likely be in the tens of billions, making the storm one of the five most expensive disasters in U.S. history.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Superstorm Sandy taken at 10 am EDT Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Image credit: NASA GSFC.


Figure 2. Sandy's storm surge (green line) at New York City hit 9' near 9 pm EDT, right when water levels due to high tide (blue line.) The total storm tide (red line) reached 13.88 above Mean Lower Low Water, an all-time record for NYC. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.


Figure 3. Storm surge forced the Delaware River in Philadelphia to a crest of 10.62 feet at 4 a.m. EDT this morning, breaking the previous record of 10.50 feet set Apr. 17, 2011 and Nov. 25, 1950. Image credit: NOAA.

Sandy sets all-time low pressure records
Sandy's impact has been so severe over such a wide area that it is difficult to adequately document the event. I'll start with some of the major cities that set all-time low pressure records during Sandy, with the new record followed by the old record and date of occurrence (thanks go to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt for putting this list together):

Atlantic City, NJ: 28.01"/948mb 28.37"/961mb 3/6/1932

Philadelphia, PA: 28.12"/953mb 28.43"/963mb 3/13/1993

Harrisburg, PA: 28.46"/964mb 28.62"/969mb 1/3/1913

Scranton, PA: 28.69"/971mb 28.72"/973mb 2/25/1965

Trenton, NJ: 28.31"/958mb 28.43"/963mb 3/13/1993

Baltimore, MD: 28.49"/965mb 28.68"/971mb 3/3/1932

Harrisburg, PA: 28.46"/964mb 28.62"/969mb 1/3/1913

Cities that came close to setting their all-time low pressure record:

Newark, NJ: 28.51"/965mb 28.45"/963 3/13/1993

New York, NY: 28.53"/966mb 28.38"/961mb 3/1/1914

Washington D.C. 28.63"/969mb 28.54/966mb 3/13/1993

Lynchburg, VA: 29.12"/986mb 28.84"/977mb 3/6/1932

Elkins, WV: 29.22"/989mb 28.85"/977mb 2/25/1965

Sandy's snows
Sandy's snows have clobbered the town of Davis, WV with an estimated 26 - 28" of snow. Most of the town is without power, and winds are blowing 20 - 30 mph with 40 mph gusts. Sandy brought the snowiest October day on record to both Elkins, WV (7" of snow) and Bluefield, WV (4.7".)


Video 1. Multiple trees fall during powerful gusts during Superstorm Sandy's landfall in New Jersey Monday evening (warming: foul language.)

There's so much more to say about Sandy--including how the storm may have been influenced by climate change--but I'll save this for later posts, as it's time to get something posted.

Angela Fritz has a 2:30 pm EDT post that discusses the latest on Sandy's impact and forecast.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Sandy (Biskitten)
Amazing waves at high tide and the storm is just beginning here in Seacoast NH!
Hurricane Sandy
Downed Sycamore (deltabird)
Weehawken NJ
Downed Sycamore
Davis, West Virginia - 4 PM (beaudodson)
Snow increasing in intensity.
Davis, West Virginia - 4 PM
Corn Neck Road, Block Island, RI (JudyGray)
Corn Neck Road, Block Island, RI
Harlem, NYC (ArsenalNYC)
Part of the roof of my building ripped off during Hurricane Sandy and landed on two cars across the street
Harlem, NYC

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Quoting Neapolitan:
"OK" is acceptable, but "okay" is more common in a formal context. ;-)


This is fun. :)
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Quoting kwgirl:
Nope. usually the rains are sporadic in a hurricane. They come in feeder bands, unless you are in the eye wall. The winds fan the flames. Anyway, any steady breeze will cause the same effect. Half of Key West burnt in the 1800's because of the wind fanned flames racing from building to building. Of course, the one fire pumper at the time was out of service. When the Copa burned down, several shops, about a half a block of stores burned as well due to wind driven flames. Only an alley helped stop the flames as well as the courageous efforts of our fire department. But without that fire brake(the alley) a lot more of downtown would have gone. And that was about 15-20 years ago.
Plus, even a rainfall rate of 5" per hour is not going to put out a structure fire...the water doesn't get inside. To do that you need more like 5" per *minute*.

This is a horrific storm. I hope the reality-impaired who insisted all the warnings were government hype are finally silenced for good. If you saw the NASA radar images for Sandy you'd have run for your life if you were any where near a coastline.
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Quoting Grothar:


I would have written incorrect and unnecessary, but that's OK. :)
"OK" is acceptable, but "okay" is more common in a formal context. ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13597
Quoting VAstorms:


I tried to get State Farm pay for power surge damage and they would only pay if we had a documented lightning strike so good luck with any other insurer.


Also, bare in mind that surge protection and lightning protection are two completely different animals. A proper surge protection system may (hopefully) protect your stuff from a surge in power lines caused by a nearby lightning strike, but not a direct hit. Lightning Protection is a much more extensive and far costlier procedure than a complete surge protection system.
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Quoting Bentleyboy:


You're a good boy.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Ever heard of "The Perfect Storm?"
I have. Sandy beat that 1991 event in pretty much every respect.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13597
Quoting kwgirl:
When our firemen run out of fresh water they use salt water. They don't like to do it because it can ruin the pumps but I have seen a time or two where our main water system failed and they had to throw a line into the ocean.
It can ruin pumps if they left the saltwater in the impellers. I would flush them out after!
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Quoting tiggeriffic:


those two pics are to pristine to not be shopped...i have seen boats tossed by hurricanes...first hand..and that one is just to clean to have been thru a storm...and the playground...sorry, don't believe that one either...no debris anywhere...sitting in the middle of what looks like an open ocean...not convinced regardless of where the pic came from


okay..thanks
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Quoting NOLALawyer:


And, the period goes inside the quotation marks, not outside. LOL.


LOL. That was tpyo.
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wow...after all of the talk of fire and we are under a fire warning in the SE...no burning, etc due to increase chance of it spreading...
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Quoting Neapolitan:
The comma after "And" is unnecessary and incorrect.


I would have written incorrect and unnecessary, but that's OK. :)
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on a side note..IF your having puter problems today, google apple and others..their centers took a hit yesterday from that storm, problems should resolve themselves in time, i did notice a few problems myself yesterday and today
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With new images coming in on the local New York news channels, it is much worse in some places than imagined. 90% of Long Island is without power. There are over 4 million people on the Island. Communication is still very bad and many of the coastal areas on both shores received a lot of damage.

By looking at the damage along the Jersey shore, it is much worse.
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Quoting Grothar:


What do I know. After all, I posted a graph 8 days ago showing a 940-950mb storm striking Ocean County, NJ and got laughed off the blog. Why would you listen to me now? :)
No laughing here.  I saw that and starting getting ready. 
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Quoting NOLALawyer:


And, the period goes inside the quotation marks, not outside. LOL.
The comma after "And" is unnecessary and incorrect.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13597
Quoting percylives:


Somewhere in that period we are scheduled to have a national election. Seems like we better re-think this.


Totally off topic, but me and my old man were talking about that Saturday afternoon that if this comes to happen and the storm does what it does,and it did, Mitt Rommey would say the hell with those million of people's votes, I win! wait you can't halt the election America this must go on! the votes are in and that's it
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Quoting ncstorm:


Yes, Bellport, NY


those two pics are to pristine to not be shopped...i have seen boats tossed by hurricanes...first hand..and that one is just to clean to have been thru a storm...and the playground...sorry, don't believe that one either...no debris anywhere...sitting in the middle of what looks like an open ocean...not convinced regardless of where the pic came from
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Quoting mikatnight:


Good luck with getting compensation from the power company.
The best bet is to have surge protection at your home. Surge Suppression is best achieved in layers. Officially, there are 3 stages (A,B,&C):

A - Individual equipment protection. The kind you plug your tv or pc into.

B - Whole dwelling protection. Installed at your main electric panel. Cost around $150 and takes minutes to install.

C - At the pole. Provided by the power company.


I tried to get State Farm pay for power surge damage and they would only pay if we had a documented lightning strike so good luck with any other insurer.
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Quoting kwgirl:
When our firemen run out of fresh water they use salt water. They don't like to do it because it can ruin the pumps but I have seen a time or two where our main water system failed and they had to throw a line into the ocean.
yes thats true i guess, and these firemen were working under hurricane conditions etc..it must have been one horrible time for them, seeing all these houses burning, probably a whole neighbor hood..80-90 homes..guess they did their best under horrible conditions, just couldnt stop the flames from jumping house to house, you fight one fire 10 more start..geez
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


So the HAARPers are going at it again,


when I left for work this morning I happend to catch a few minutes of Coast to Coast and yea the HAARPers were at it strong this morning. Had to change the station, was lauging so hard and I had to conentrate to drive...LMAO
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Oh ok, is pic #49 in New York state.


Yes, Bellport, NY
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Quoting AGWcreationists:
Do you have a link or source? Thanks.


From an email
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Quoting Grothar:


Also, the word "if" should have been inserted between the words "couple" and "typos". Actually, one of the commas should have been a semicolon.


And, the period goes inside the quotation marks, not outside. LOL.
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Quoting icmoore:
#247 - Grother

Alright I'll bite just for a temporary distraction. Are any models hinting at anything and/or does the Blob Doc forsee anything coming out of the Carrib?


What do I know. After all, I posted a graph 8 days ago showing a 940-950mb storm striking Ocean County, NJ and got laughed off the blog. Why would you listen to me now? :)
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Quoting RitaEvac:


If power is going on and off you need to take notes of the exact time, they have records and know full well that it happened. If your tv or refrigerator gets messed up they are responsible, the general public doesn't know this but it's legit, they just don't want people to be knowledgeable and educated and know about it. You need to be a sheep and live in your fake bubble and be dumbed down out there. Trust me....that's how the system works and how it is rigged.


Good luck with getting compensation from the power company.
The best bet is to have surge protection at your home. Surge Suppression is best achieved in layers. Officially, there are 3 stages (A,B,&C):

A - Individual equipment protection. The kind you plug your tv or pc into.

B - Whole dwelling protection. Installed at your main electric panel. Cost around $150 and takes minutes to install.

C - At the pole. Provided by the power company.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Damage estimate now at $45 billion


That would make it the second costliest hurricane in US history, after Katrina, and costlier than Ike (2nd) and Andrew (3rd).

Given the size of the affected area, I wouldn't be surprised to see it overtake Katrina
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Quoting ncstorm:


I cant tell which pic you are asking about in the quote but I pulled them from the Atlantic website..they have captions with them..


Oh ok, is pic #49 in New York state.
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14542
Quoting RitaEvac:
8.1 million without power now, Restoration time 7 days to 2 weeks


Somewhere in that period we are scheduled to have a national election. Seems like we better re-think this.
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I wonder how much of those rain bands off of the Great Lakes are "lake effect". There's a pretty good one coming off of Michigan and another off of Erie.
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Quoting kwgirl:
If he is on the shore of the north gulf, then he was seeing the water being pushed away from shore. It landed up on the streets of Key West at the end of Duval and all low spots, including Flagler Ave. It comes up the storm drains that drain to the ocean.
Quoting bappit:

Water levels can drop dramatically along the Gulf Coast after a strong cold front. Happens regularly.

The water in the oceans is not just sitting there. It is always moving. The tides move lots of water every day. I've been out in the Gulf and watched the water flowing by. Don't know where it was coming from or going to, but it was flowing.
well there it is.. water didn't 'come from' the gulf, nor was displacement from distant pooling a factor :)
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Quoting yoboi:



you missed 2 comma's in your grammer.....


Also, the word "if" should have been inserted between the words "couple" and "typos". Actually, one of the commas should have been a semicolon.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Damage estimate now at $45 billion
Do you have a link or source? Thanks.
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Very interesting piece;

Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy
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Quoting Minnemike:
i would think the observation implies displacement only.. not that the 'source' of water from Sandy was from the gulf. it's a curious observation as well, has me wondering if other comparable tropical cyclones have pooled enough water to register sea level drops thousands of miles away. of course, that depends on whether this observed drop is correct or not..

Water levels can drop dramatically along the Gulf Coast after a strong cold front. Happens regularly.

The water in the oceans is not just sitting there. It is always moving. The tides move lots of water every day. I've been out in the Gulf and watched the water flowing by. Don't know where it was coming from or going to, but it was flowing.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6088
Quoting pottery:

A very sad combination of Idiotness.
Needless, tragic death.
many are not aware a downed power line could be a block away, you step in water the line is in zap
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Quoting ncstorm:
the Debris that they will find up washed up along the east coast is going to baffle a lot of folks..

Bellport, NY


Some little kid would love to see that washed up on the beach,
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Quoting LargoFl:
and..people are forgetting..when the firemen went to the hydrants..they were all under water
When our firemen run out of fresh water they use salt water. They don't like to do it because it can ruin the pumps but I have seen a time or two where our main water system failed and they had to throw a line into the ocean.
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G'day folks,
Thanks for the update and reports, Dr Jeff.
It's as bad as anticipated and then some.

As a related side note -
Amazing temp contrast early this morning as all stations on N / NE side of Sandy'easter storm thru Maine / E Canada were stuck in 50's / 60's, incl a mere 43F at Mt Washington... while far colder down here in the Gulf coast states!

Observed / recorded my 1st frost of season in Houma, LA today.

Sampling of cold low temp readings across Louisiana, Tue Oct 30 2012 - Tallulah: 27F (note: Vicksburg, MS nearby fell to 26F!), Alexandria: 32F, Covington: 33F, Ruston: 34F, Slidell: 35F, Donaldsonville: 35F, Baton Rouge: 36F, Hammond: 36F... My local Houma metro area - KHUM airport: 38.7F, Bayou Cane home: 37.9F, Thibodaux: 37F, USDA PWS: 35.7F, Bayou Blue / Gray: 34F... To the best of my knowledge, these low temps are the coldest October readings locally since Oct 20 1989, when dipped to 32F, earliest recorded freeze in Houma Terrebonne area... Houma LA's Record coldest October low was on this date 102 years ago - 30F on Oct 30 1910.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


In what state is that?


I cant tell which pic you are asking about in the quote but I pulled them from the Atlantic website..they have captions with them..
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Sea Side Heights Boardwalk, famous from MTV's series Jersey Shore is gone.
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Quoting goosegirl1:



We had 8 inches of wet, heavy snow last year for a Halloween treat. It was, strangely, the last measurable we had.


yea last winter was a VERY mild one overall. Only had 1 or 2 snowfalls that actually covered the grass. I expect this year we will pay for it.
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Quoting Minnemike:
i would think the observation implies displacement only.. not that the 'source' of water from Sandy was from the gulf. it's a curious observation as well, has me wondering if other comparable tropical cyclones have pooled enough water to register sea level drops thousands of miles away. of course, that depends on whether this observed drop is correct or not..
If he is on the shore of the north gulf, then he was seeing the water being pushed away from shore. It landed up on the streets of Key West at the end of Duval and all low spots, including Flagler Ave. It comes up the storm drains that drain to the ocean.
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262. Skyepony (Mod)
Final numbers on Sandy model error. Sorry ECMWF is about the only one that isn't worked out numerically here. Listed is some highlights. Low numbers are good here. It's ave error in nm...0hr, 24hr, 48hr & etc.

AEMN 16.3 28.6 43.5 48.4 110.5 177.0
AVNO 16.9 32.2 57.4 69.2 147.1 223.2
CMC 33.6 65.5 95.7 120.6 142.5 171.0
FIM9 18.8 29.7 56.7 66.6 - -
GFDL 8.7 41.7 72.4 94.1 117.1 133.5
LGEM 0 40.8 61.3 100.9 153.4 258.6
MRCL 0 38.6 56.1 70.1 - -
MRFO 13.3 29.9 49.7 85.8 145.5 277.0
NAM 22.5 58.3 109.4 135.2 - -
NGX 33.1 62.2 128.0 146.0 208.6 220.5
OFCL 1.0 36.5 54.7 68.3 95.2 168.1
RYOC 0 35.4 25.9 74.2 73.2 109.8
TVCN 0 38.4 56.3 72.2 113.5 202.1
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#247 - Grother

Alright I'll bite just for a temporary distraction. Are any models hinting at anything and/or does the Blob Doc forsee anything coming out of the Carrib?
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Quoting ncstorm:


In which state is that?
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14542
Barrier islands have been cut in half in some places
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Quoting zoomiami:


Thanks for all the answers, had never really heard about that before. Guess with all the other news, the house fires get lost in the noise.
When we had the Wilma flood, once the salt water hit some batteries or alternators, the cars caught fire. It was real bad when someone had their car parked under their house and the car was burning. Even after some cars were dried out, if they were working, they didn't work for long and some even caught fire on the highway. Real bad things happen when you mix in salt water.
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This shark, fell out of the sky..onto a golf course in california lol.............was dropped by a bird
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8.1 million without power now, Restoration time 7 days to 2 weeks
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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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