30 October 2012

Superstorm Sandy managed to live up to the hype

For many, Sandy certainly lived up to the seemingly impossible forecasts of impacts. For starters, it made landfall with a central pressure of 946mb... the second lowest pressure ever recorded for any storm to hit the northeastern U.S. (first place was the 1938 Great New England Hurricane at ~941mb).  Maximum sustained winds were 80mph, and higher gusts were reported from Rhode Island down to North Carolina.

The center came ashore near Atlantic City NJ around 8pm EDT last night, though its effects were of course felt far from the center.  This satellite image shows Sandy at landfall on Monday evening.

In terms of a human toll, 84 lives have been taken by the storm (as of 9am today) across the Caribbean, the U.S., and Canada.

At least 7.5 million people in the northeast are without power.  The only silver lining there is that the temperatures after the power outages aren't sweltering or frigid, so it's generally not as life-threatening as it could be.

The Battery in downtown NYC ended with a peak water level of 13.88', which is about 2'8" higher than the previous record (set in 1821).  That, of course, resulted in a total catastrophe.  By around 8pm, the subways and automobile tunnels were filling with sea water.  And before that, both JFK and La Guardia airports had flood water pouring across the runways and into the terminals.  The flooded areas of NYC also experienced large fires, collapsed buildings, and the power company shut off electricity to the city before the flooding got too bad and damaged the equipment.  The iconic fishing pier at Ocean City MD has been completely destroyed.  The streets of Wildwood NJ became the beach as the storm surge inundated the huge beach they used to have.  The Atlantic City boardwalk is now rubble and the city flooded.  The full range of impacts across all of the states are too numerous to detail here, but you will undoubtedly see and read more in the news.

A buoy at the entrance to the New York Harbor recorded a peak wave height of 32.5 feet... but I'm not yet aware of what affects such large waves had on the immediate area.

As of this morning, the Potomac River reached its highest level since 1996 due to the heavy rainfall.  5-7" of rain fell in much of Maryland, Delaware, and northern Virginia; southern New Jersey received about 7-9", northern New Jersey saw about 2-4", while much of southest Pennsylvania was in the 3-5" ballpark.  Meanwhile, it's still snowing hard West Virginia and they are expecting 2-3 feet of very wet snow.

It's not over yet either.  Heavy rain is still falling over an enormous area, and storm surge and coastal flooding continues to be a very large danger.  This image shows the current radar depiction of the precipitation still affecting 17 states.  I also have very long radar loops covering Sandy available at http://andrew.rsmas.miami.edu/bmcnoldy/tropics/radar/

Sandy will certainly be a storm for the record books, and will also end up being a retired name.  Going back to 1953, the only storms so late in the alphabet to be retired were Stan (2005), Wilma (2005), and Tomas (2010).

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