Slow-Motion Disaster: Sandy’s moves in

Hurricane Sandy: Latest Storm Headlines

Hurr flags.gif

Sandy strikes Monday Effects from Hurricane Sandy intensify Monday

Landfall: Likely early Tuesday AM in southern or central New Jersey.

Eyewall redevelops: Satellite trends show Sandy’s eyewall has reformed. Sandy’s eye is clearly visible Sunday night.

Some intensification? Warm water and jet stream energy may intensify Sandy before landfall

Triple Whammy: 5-11 ft storm surge; 15-20 ft waves, full moon high tide at 9pm EDT Monday for New Jersey, New York & Long Island

10 Million in the Dark? 10 million may lose power according to John’s Hopkins University estimate (and that number may be low…)

60 million+ people affected in the “megalopolis” of NYC, Baltimore, Philly, Washington D.C. & Boston by Sandy’s wrath

800 mile wide monster 40+ mph winds from Maine to Georgia

60 mph winds & 15-25 foot waves on Lake Michigan? as Sandy’s northerly “fetch” pounds the south shore

“Blizzacane” 2 to 3 feet of snow and blizzard warnings for the Appalachian Mountains

NYC Subway System flood threat? a 6 to 11 foot storm surge on in Manhattan may flood a portion of NYC’s Subway System

Multi-Billion Dollar Disaster? Irene caused 15.8 billion in damage. Sandy has the potential to exceed that total

NOAA did what?? No “Hurricane Warnings?” I’m aghast at this decision by NOAA & NHC…more below

145 vis.PNG

Sandy Micro Update:

Thanks to Bill Endersen for keeping us up on the latest developments with Hurricane Sandy this weekend. I posted some pretty hefty blogs recently that fully describe the unique, even unprecedented character of Hurricane Sandy.

These are great reading if you want some deeper background on the storm, but way too time consuming (several hours each) to keep up with during the storm’s rapidly changing “landfall evolution.”

So I’m going to transition to a more headline driven approach the next few days, with supporting links so you can dig deeper into each aspect of this historic storm.

I’ll also give you my latest synopsis and perspective on what’s unfolding.

Here’s the Sunday night version.

Latest Trends:

Sandy is showing (disturbing) signs of intensification…or at least better organization Sunday night. The inner core of the storm is getting better organized…more intense and more symmetric. Sandy’s eye has refromed. You can see this clearly on the enhanced IR floater loop.

145 eye IR.gif

Sandy is still feeding off water over 25C, and beginning to absorb an injection of energy from the jet stream, cold front and upper air low pressure trough digging over the eastern USA.

Sandy’s will actually deepen over the next 24 hours, with pressure falling below 950 millibars at landfall. That’s the equivalent of a Category 3 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

145 saffir-simpson_scale.jpg

Landfall: Near worst case scenario

NHC places official landfall in southern New Jersey…near Cape May or Ocean City.

145 nhc track.gif

Sunday night’s NAM run brings it farther north and closer to New York City.

Either scenario is bad news for New York & Long Island. Southerly winds will drive a huge wall of water, a storm surge of 6 to 11 feet into New York Harbor at high full moon tide Monday night.

145 surge.png

Waves of 15 to 20 feet are possible on top of the higher ocean surface for almost 24 hours. These waves will batter, severely test and possibly breach shoreline defenses.

145 ny battery.PNG

Slow & Huge:

Sandy will slow down as it reaches shore Monday night. This is not good. This will increase the duration of pounding on the shoreline, and increase rainfall totals inland.

Sandy is huge, near record in size for a hurricane. With tropical storm force winds extending out 520 miles from the center, damage will be widespread. Trees in leaf will fall, and power lines will go down with them in at least a dozen states.

No Hurricane Warnings??


My jaw literally dropped when I heard this.

Because Sandy is transition into a “Post Tropical Cyclone” NOAA will not issue any Hurricane Warnings anywhere north of North Carolina for Sandy!

That means that even though a Category 1 Hurricane with 75 mph winds (and Category 3 central pressure) is forecast to slam into the East Coast Monday night, there will not be any Hurricane Warnings in effect at the time.

As a meteorologist who spends 365 days a year trying to painfully explain the difference between watches, warnings and constantly changing NWS definitions to listeners I am floored.

This is Hurricane Sandy. The effects on 60 million residents of the eastern USA will be that of a hurricane. People need to prepare for a hurricane, not a “post tropical cyclone.” How do you even prepare for a “post tropical cyclone” anyway? Does NOAA have a “post-tropical cyclone” preparedness guide?

This may be the most blatant case of a “distinction without a difference.”

NOAA and NHC have really dropped the ball here. The most important thing is to convey a sense of urgency and preparation to the public in advance of a dangerous storm.

Expect repercussions, and changes to official NWS “policy” after this one.

What the experts are saying:

WxUnderground’s Jeff Masters:

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 is now forecast to bring a near-record storm surge of 6 – 11 feet to Northern New Jersey and Long Island Sound, including the New York City Harbor. This storm surge has the potential to cause many billions of dollars in damage if it hits near high tide at 9 pm EDT on Monday. The full moon is on Monday, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month. This will add another 2 – 3″ to water levels. Fortunately, Sandy is now predicted to make a fairly rapid approach to the coast, meaning that the peak storm surge will not affect the coast for multiple high tide cycles. 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 at least a foot higher than Irene’s. If the peak surge arrives near Monday evening’s high tide at 9 pm EDT, a portion of New York City’s subway system could flood, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. I give a 50% chance that Sandy’s storm surge will end up flooding a portion of the New York City subway system.

TWC’s Bryan Norcross:

And in a possibly related cog-slipping development, the National Weather Service decided NOT to issue a Hurricane Watch for the Northeast coastline… are you ready for this… because it would be confusing to switch from that to a Coastal Flood Watch and a High Wind Watch after the storm – which will come ashore with hurricane-force winds – morphs into another kind of storm according to the meteorology dictionary.

Whether the missing Hurricane Watch sent the Mayor off-kilter, we’ll see. But the criticism came hot and heavy… enough that the Weather Service wrote up a big media release to explain why the clearest possible communications is a bad thing.

I grant that a technical reading of the “rules” says that you can’t put up a Hurricane Watch and a Coastal Flood Watch and a High Wind Watch at the same time. But I’m betting the rules didn’t envision a super-mega-combo freak of a storm slamming into the most populated part of the country. When all hell is breaking loose, sometimes you’ve got to break a few rules to do the right thing.

There will be a whole lot of talk about this when the storm is over. Hopefully that will result in a communication policy that meets the world-class standards of the forecasting that goes on at the Hurricane Center and at Weather Service offices all over the country.

The bottom line… let’s all get on the same page. The forecast calls for a massive, destructive storm to affect tens of millions of people. If the forecast is wrong, hooray. But so far it’s been right, and the odds are this is going to be really bad for a lot of people. Everybody’s goal should be to be sure that as many people as possible are as ready and aware as they can be.

Bottom Line: We are about to watch an unprecedented, slow motion weather disaster unfold in the eastern USA, with damaging effects from Maine to North Carolina and as far west as Chicago with pounding surf and 20-25 foot waves on Lake Michigan.

Stay tuned as we track the twist and turns of Hurricane Sandy as she turns for the coast Monday.


  • Erin

    Thank you so much for all your thorough, painstaking work, Paul. It’s appreciated!

  • Kate

    Agreed!! Best stuff out there….science and lay person translation

  • Craig Edwards

    NWS forecast for NYC last night was very poorly worded to define the danger. Mondays forecast said rain, heavy at times. Almost as a matter of fact, they included becoming very windy with gusts to 70 mph.

    During extraordinary events (historical) there needs to be original, out of the box craftmanship of forecast wording. Unofficially naming this monstor Frankenstorm was clever early on, but this very serious situation warranted much more.

    By the way,earlier this month there was a day when the wind gusted greater than 60 mph in Pierre, SD for about 14 hours. High Wind warning was appropriate for that event.