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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8.1 million without power now, Restoration time 7 days to 2 weeks
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Quoting tiggeriffic:


that is shopped...


I dont think so..it came from The Atlantic
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Wouldnt the torrential rains put it out?
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.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


More now?
not over yet, lil more time yet
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Damage estimate now at $45 billion
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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


that is shopped...
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the Debris that they will find up washed up along the east coast is going to baffle a lot of folks..

Bellport, NY
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Quoting LargoFl:


More now?
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Tornado threat?

A couple could be possible, but it is by no means a high-risk event, as stated by the SPC this morning. They don't even mention tornadoes in the most recent mesoscale discussion. For the most part, everything is too unidirectional.



MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 2094
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0942 AM CDT TUE OCT 30 2012

AREAS AFFECTED...COASTAL MAINE

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...WATCH UNLIKELY

VALID 301442Z - 301615Z

PROBABILITY OF WATCH ISSUANCE...20 PERCENT

SUMMARY...CONVECTIVELY-ENHANCED WIND GUSTS MAY OCCUR THROUGH THE
AFTERNOON ACROSS PORTIONS OF COASTAL MAINE. A WATCH IS NOT CURRENTLY
ANTICIPATED.

DISCUSSION...A RECENT INCREASE IN LOW-TOPPED CONVECTION HAS OCCURRED
SINCE 14Z IN ASSOCIATION WITH A NNW-MOVING/INLAND-PIVOTING BAND OFF
THE COAST OF MAINE...WITH THIS INCREASE EVIDENT VIA MID-LEVEL RADAR
REFLECTIVELY AND CLOUD-GROUND LIGHTNING PRODUCTION. SIMILAR TO THE
12Z OBSERVED SOUNDING FROM GRAY MAINE...THE INLAND/NEAR-COASTAL
BOUNDARY LAYER LIKELY REMAINS RELATIVELY STABLE AMID CLOUD COVER.
HOWEVER...THE POSSIBILITY OF A FEW DEGREES F OF WARMING /THROUGH THE
LOWER 60S F/ INTO THE AFTERNOON MAY GRADUALLY ABATE LOW-LEVEL
CINH...WHILE STRONG LOW LEVEL FLOW /50-60 KT/ WITHIN THE LOWEST 2-3
KM /PER GYX WSR-88D VWP/ MAY ACCOUNT FOR SOME ENHANCED WIND GUSTS AS
CONVECTION CONTINUES TO MATURE NEAR COASTAL MAINE AND MOVE INLAND.

..GUYER/MEAD.. 10/30/2012


ATTN...WFO...CAR...GYX...

LAT...LON 44487054 45057003 44406881 43156899 43387040 44487054
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


When?


I wasnt speaking in specifics about when the next storm will be but the way this hurricane season is shaping up, aint no telling how many more we can get before the year is out..
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Quoting Dakster:
Zoomiami,

Regarding fires and houses during storms in South Florida we have a few different things going for us here to keep fires down. These are just my theories, I could be totally off base here.

1. Alot of areas have underground power - so no above ground lines into houses or apartments to arc/spark one up. Lightning will create fire from time to time.

2. At least in most of the areas I have seen, we don't have that many homes that are build with common walls. (Yes - there are some, but not as widespread) This makes it tougher for the fire to jump from house to house.

3. Most houses are built with CBS block and not a lot of wood.

4. Not as strong of a reason, but our environment is different -more humid and typically hot/wet and not cold/dry.

5. Another Distant cause/possibility - we don't have natural gas plumbed into most of our houses or stacks of wood to burn in the winter time. Less fuel...

P.S. When power gets turned on, I have seen some houses/power poles/trees go up in flames from down/broken power lines becoming energized. Lots of small fires happen then -but when they do the fire department can quickly respond and put them out. Unlike DURING a storm.
and..people are forgetting..when the firemen went to the hydrants..they were all under water
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Quoting guygee:
You get compensated for damage from surges? I never even thought to ask. Once time I was sitting at my computer and there was a huge surge that jolted everything in the house, then the power was out on a sunny day. I looked in back and there was some idiot contractor up on the pole who had turned off the power at the transformer without even warning anyone. Fried my motherboard. I guess I should have complained.

Living in a salty area we get a lot of small surges, but that one nearly shook the house with a big zapping sound.


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.
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Quoting Dakster:
Zoomiami,

Regarding fires and houses during storms in South Florida we have a few different things going for us here to keep fires down. These are just my theories, I could be totally off base here.

1. Alot of areas have underground power - so no above ground lines into houses or apartments to arc/spark one up. Lightning will create fire from time to time.

2. At least in most of the areas I have seen, we don't have that many homes that are build with common walls. (Yes - there are some, but not as widespread) This makes it tougher for the fire to jump from house to house.

3. Most houses are built with CBS block and not a lot of wood.

4. Not as strong of a reason, but our environment is different -more humid and typically hot/wet and not cold/dry.

5. Another Distant cause/possibility - we don't have natural gas plumbed into most of our houses or stacks of wood to burn in the winter time. Less fuel...

P.S. When power gets turned on, I have seen some houses/power poles/trees go up in flames from down/broken power lines becoming energized. Lots of small fires happen then -but when they do the fire department can quickly respond and put them out. Unlike DURING a storm.


Did think about the concrete houses, and I bet fewer gas lines also contributes.
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Quoting Wiiilbur:


The water came from the northern Gulf? You're kidding, right? Couldn't be that a cold front had blown through and the winds blowing offshore lowered water levels below predicted, could it?
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..
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Zoomiami,

Regarding fires and houses during storms in South Florida we have a few different things going for us here to keep fires down. These are just my theories, I could be totally off base here.

1. Alot of areas have underground power - so no above ground lines into houses or apartments to arc/spark one up. Lightning will create fire from time to time.

2. At least in most of the areas I have seen, we don't have that many homes that are build with common walls. (Yes - there are some, but not as widespread) This makes it tougher for the fire to jump from house to house.

3. Most houses are built with CBS block and not a lot of wood.

4. Not as strong of a reason, but our environment is different -more humid and typically hot/wet and not cold/dry.

5. Another Distant cause/possibility - we don't have natural gas plumbed into most of our houses or stacks of wood to burn in the winter time. Less fuel...

P.S. When power gets turned on, I have seen some houses/power poles/trees go up in flames from down/broken power lines becoming energized. Lots of small fires happen then -but when they do the fire department can quickly respond and put them out. Unlike DURING a storm.
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LOVE THIS!!!

Little Ferry, NJ




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Quoting entrelac:

If it helps, there were house fires on the TX coast during Ike because of electrical arcing.


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.
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Quoting guygee:
You get compensated for damage from surges? I never even thought to ask. Once time I was sitting at my computer and there was a huge surge that jolted everything in the house, then the power was out on a sunny day. I looked in back and there was some idiot contractor up on the pole who had turned off the power at the transformer without even warning anyone. Fried my motherboard. I guess I should have complained.

Living in a salty area we get a lot of small surges, but that one nearly shook the house with a big zapping sound.
In that case is was the contactors' fault and he was probably doing something he shouldn't. Lucky he didn't get fried. The power company has the responsibility to recompense you for their failure to provide safe steady electricity. They even paid when we had rolling black outs that caused the food in the frig to go bad. But it is real hard to prove sometimes. There has got to be more than one person reporting those surges.
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folks in the northeast. dont let your guard down just yet..this storm is NOT over...........................
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Quoting kwgirl:
I am sorry, I worded that wrong. When there is a wind blowing like a hurricane and there happens to be a fire started by whatever (candle, gas, electric) the wind will cause the fire to race out of control. Fans it even.


Wouldnt the torrential rains put it out?
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Convective activity in Maine:

A typical extra-tropical storm is usually more comma shaped. Even after almost a day over land Sandy's remnants remind me more of a tropical system than any nor'easter that I've seen retrograded onshore.
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Quoting goosegirl1:



I won't ask who, that's too personal for a blog, but it's cool to find a connection to a bitty little place in WV :)


ck your mail on here...
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Quoting zoomiami:


I don't remember fires being started by the hurricanes here in Florida. Do you?
I am sorry, I worded that wrong. When there is a wind blowing like a hurricane and there happens to be a fire started by whatever (candle, gas, electric) the wind will cause the fire to race out of control. Fans it even.
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Quoting ncstorm:


and next storm..(yes there will be another one unfortunately) might have the GFS beating all of them..its back and forth with accuracy..the models have to get better..all of them..


When?
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Convective activity in Maine:



Tornado threat?
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Quoting zoomiami:


I don't remember fires being started by the hurricanes here in Florida. Do you?

If it helps, there were house fires on the TX coast during Ike because of electrical arcing.
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Convective activity in Maine:

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Quoting guygee:
Even the CMC beat the GFS by catching the west turn earlier, that sure is a rare event.


+10 on that..
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Quoting guygee:
Even the CMC beat the GFS by catching the west turn earlier, that sure is a rare event.


and next storm..(yes there will be another one unfortunately) might have the GFS beating all of them..its back and forth with accuracy..the models have to get better..all of them..
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...............this wind needs to stop
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Quoting txag91met:


It nailed the pattern 7 days in advance. While the other models remained out to sea...except the Canadian

I forgot to mention the NOGAPS.

B+
Even the CMC beat the GFS by catching the west turn earlier, that sure is a rare event.
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Quoting tiggeriffic:


i should have mentioned earlier Goose that my friend use to live in Keyser...her girls graduated from school there



I won't ask who, that's too personal for a blog, but it's cool to find a connection to a bitty little place in WV :)
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Ever heard of "The Perfect Storm?"
yes and this almost was one for sure
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Quoting txag91met:


It nailed the pattern 7 days in advance. While the other models remained out to sea...except the Canadian

I forgot to mention the NOGAPS.

B
sure seems to me the Nam did a good job with sandy, most of the models did ok, I like the NAEFS model it had it all along its track pretty darn well.. well anyway..its over for the coastal storms for awhile
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Quoting LargoFl:
well i dont want to start up the GW things again but they did say the storms would start getting stronger in the years to come..we'll see if this..is the beginning or..this was just a fluke..never saw a storm combine with two there weather entities like sandy did, all three seemed to come together and boom..we saw what happened huh


Ever heard of "The Perfect Storm?"
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Quoting Chucktown:
Weather Channel has over 250 amazing photos from Sandy.

Link


Thanks... that is the most widespread and easily accessible set of photos I have seen.
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216. yoboi
Quoting chizarlie:
Another great post as always Dr. Masters. I hate to be the grammar nazi but I think you've got a couple typos in your Figure 2 caption:

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, and all-time record for NYC.

And one in the Video 1 caption:

(warming: foul language.)



you missed 2 comma's in your grammer.....
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Quoting FunnelVortex:
Sandy has officialy been given status as a Superstorm.
well i dont want to start up the GW things again but they did say the storms would start getting stronger in the years to come..we'll see if this..is the beginning or..this was just a fluke..never saw a storm combine with two there weather entities like sandy did, all three seemed to come together and boom..we saw what happened huh
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:



ECMWF wasn't perfect, it continued a straight up south drive into New Jersey while the other models from up north switched to the hook out to sea and back situation before it did.


It nailed the pattern 7 days in advance. While the other models remained out to sea...except the Canadian

I forgot to mention the NOGAPS.

B+
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Quoting goosegirl1:
West Virginia

... Berkeley County...
1 N Martinsburg Arpt 60 833 PM 10/29 ASOS

... Jefferson County...
1 NNW Ranson 65 843 PM 10/29 trained spotter
2 NNE Halltown 53 824 PM 10/29 mesonet

... Mineral County...
2 SSW Keyser 64 900 PM 10/29 co-op observer
1 E Wiley Ford 53 854 PM 10/29 AWOS

... Pendleton County...
2 SW Brushy Run 49 517 am 10/30 mesonet


The station near Keyser is just 2 miles from home- I did not know the wind was quite that high, but I do know it was a noisy, wet night.


i should have mentioned earlier Goose that my friend use to live in Keyser...her girls graduated from school there
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Quoting zoomiami:


I don't remember fires being started by the hurricanes here in Florida. Do you?

There were some fires in Galveston with Ike. There is some video on YouTube. Houses burned down to the water line.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6061
Quoting zoomiami:


I don't remember fires being started by the hurricanes here in Florida. Do you?
Yes, I do. But a different reason. People using candles or kerosene lanterns gets to be dangerous for careless folk.
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CNN

Update 2:31 p.m.] About 8 million customers are without power in 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to numbers compiled by CNN from local power providers. Our previous count, around 10 a.m., was about 7.5 million customers.

[Update 2:09 p.m.] From Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley:

Early voting resumes tomorrow with all locations open from 8am to 9pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday #MDSandy
30 Oct 12


[Update 1:56 p.m.] Restoration of power to all customers in areas served by overhead power lines could take at least a week; restoring underground lines will take four days, according to Con Edison, which provides power in most of New York City and Westchester County, New York.

[Update 1:49 p.m.] Half of Hoboken, New Jersey, is flooded, Mayor Dawn Zimmer told CNN.

"The Hudson River came in and filled half of Hoboken like a bathtub," she said. Pump stations are flooded, and much of the city will not be able to get power back until that flooding is gone.

There's "major concern" about people walking in the streets, because live wires could be in there, Zimmer said.

[Update 1:39 p.m.] CNN has video of a crane's partial collapse in New York City today.

[Update 1:19 p.m.] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweets:

We have no reports of storm-related fatalities at any NYC hospitals, despite loss of power at several bit.ly/WRCnd3 #SandyNYC
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Quoting txag91met:
Model scores:

ECMWF A+++
GFS C
NAM C---
GFDL B (925 mb was too much).

Amazing that American model can't predict a major storm like this 5 days out, but ECMWF nails it a week in advance.




ECMWF wasn't perfect, it continued a straight up south drive into New Jersey while the other models from up north switched to the hook out to sea and back situation before it did.
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Quoting kwgirl:
Here in Key West in the 60's while I was growing up, it seemed that our lights would go out the minute we had a puff of wind from a hurricane. Then I was told that the City purposely turned off the electric for safety reasons. In present day, if we get a lot of surges that destroy appliances, the electric company has to pay recompense. I don't think they do it now, but feel it is a good precaution to take in turning off the power.
You get compensated for damage from surges? I never even thought to ask. Once time I was sitting at my computer and there was a huge surge that jolted everything in the house, then the power was out on a sunny day. I looked in back and there was some idiot contractor up on the pole who had turned off the power at the transformer without even warning anyone. Fried my motherboard. I guess I should have complained.

Living in a salty area we get a lot of small surges, but that one nearly shook the house with a big zapping sound.
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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.