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

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

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


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