Eastern US braces for "Frankenstorm" Sandy's strike

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this image of Hurricane Sandy Oct. 28. The line of clouds from the Gulf of Mexico north are associated with the cold front with which Sandy is merging; the western cloud edge is already over the mid-Atlantic and northeastern US. Credit: NASA GOES Project.

Our readers along the East Coast of the US are in the path of Sandy, a storm expected to cause considerable rainfall, flooding, and high winds, with correspondingly high risk for property, structures, and life in more vulnerable areas. Sandy is now the largest tropical cyclone on record, with a radius of 520 nautical miles. The biggest threat? Too much water.

Turn off the breathless cable news coverage and instead read the reports from Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground. Snip:

Massive and dangerous Hurricane Sandy has grown to record size as it barrels northeastwards along the North Carolina coast at 10 mph. At 8 am EDT, Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended northeastwards 520 miles from the center, and twelve-foot high seas covered a diameter of ocean 1,030 miles across. Since records of storm size began in 1988, no tropical storm or hurricane has been larger (though Hurricane Olga of 2001 had a larger 690 mile radius of tropical storm-force winds when it was a subtropical storm near Bermuda.) Sandy has put an colossal volume of ocean water in motion with its widespread and powerful winds, and the hurricane's massive storm surge is already impacting the coast. A 2' storm surge has been recorded at numerous locations this morning from Virginia to Connecticut, including a 3' surge at Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and Sewells Point at 9 am EDT. Huge, 10 - 15 foot-high battering waves on top of the storm surge have washed over Highway 12 connecting North Carolina's Outer Banks to the mainland at South Nags Head this morning. The highway is now impassable, and has been closed. The coast guard station on Cape Hatteras, NC, recorded sustained winds of 50 mph, gusting to 61 mph, at 5:53 am EDT this morning. In Delaware, the coastal highway Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach has been closed due to high water. Even though Sandy is a minimal Category 1 hurricane, its storm surge is extremely dangerous, and if you are in a low-lying area that is asked to evacuate, I strongly recommend that you leave.

Much more here at Weather Underground, including anticipated rainfall charts.

His colleague Bryan Norcross, Hurricane Specialist at The Weather Channel, says Sandy is "serious as a heart attack."

The ocean will rise along the coast as Sandy makes it's way north, but the biggest coastal problems will come when the center makes landfall. We're unlikely to know exactly where that will be until Monday, but this is critical. The ocean will be pushed toward the coast north of that point and away to the south. The onshore flow of water is exaggerated where bays, inlets, or the shape of the coastline focus the water to make it rise even higher. The most prominent problem spot is New York City, where Long Island and New Jersey make an "L".

Raritan Bay and New York Bay and the south end of Manhattan are especially susceptible to rising water if the center of Sandy comes ashore in New Jersey or south. Much as we saw in Irene, it is potentially a monstrous problem due to the threat to NYC infrastructure and transportation. There are tough decisions ahead for the Mayor and his people.

Right now, the odds favor that southern track. The threat from this situation is serious as a heart attack for anybody near the rising water.

Then there's the wind which is expected to be MUCH higher than Irene at the skyscraper level. The city will also have to be thinking about the threat to people in tall buildings.

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced emergency shelter plans, and news that subways and MTA buses will shut down ahead of the storm's expected landfall.

Our readers in New York City would do well to follow our friend Scott Beale, who has been tweeting and blogging resources and updates.

Here's a NASA video of the hurricane approaching, as seen from a NOAA sattelite. And at the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal explains with four simple graphics why Sandy has meteorologists scared.

Below, a photo from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite. Check out how much of the *planet* Sandy covers right now. This storm ain't no joke.


  1. Great article, thanks for posting it.  As a NJ resident with a leaky basement and a history of prolonged power outages during inclement weather conditions, FML.

    1.  Fellow NJ resident wishes you luck. We were out of power from last October’s show storm for 8 days.

  2. The only tree worth worrying about already fell on my house during Irene.

    I put away the umbrella on my picnic table, but beyond that, there’s not a whole lot I can do other than charge my gadgets and wait for this whole thing to be over with.

  3. As a human who watched the eye of Katrina pass overhead, I can offer the following protips: 1. Don’t buy bread. It spoils quickly or it goes quickly, either way it is a waste. 2. Don’t buy candles and lanterns; buy LED lanterns and flashlights. It is 2012, and if the power is out longer than the lifetime of a LED lantern or your supply of batteries, you are in the apocalypse. 3. Fill bathtubs with water, for flushing, not for drinking. 4. Buy water for drinking. Three gallons per person. 5. Charge everything and don’t use it until you must. 6. If you use gasoline, get it now. Gas lines suck. 7. If you live outside of the city, buy a chainsaw and a generator, gas powered.

    1. I bought a motorcycle yesterday at a Honda dealer (DC area), and they could barely pay attention to me due to the overwhelming demand for generators.

    2. 1. Flour, on the other hand, (or, say, biscuit or pancake mix) keeps a good long time. The latter can be turned into food with pretty rudimentary equipment if you have any cooking skill at all.
      2. The LED flashlight should include a hand crank and a solar panel. Those models are cheap enough these days to have at least one of.

      Other than that, yeah.

    1. It’s likely to merge with both a cold front from the west and a mass of arctic air from the north as it hits land; hence, the nickname evokes a powerful entity cobbled together from separate, unrelated parts.

      Three storms later and they could have named it “Hurricane Voltron”.

  4. I’m in Brooklyn, NY right now & we are—as always—being entertained by “Miguel Bloombito”:

    Todos los escuelas esta closedo. Pero yo soy will givero un lesson de españish for todos los estudentos.


  5. When a storm’s pressure is below the range on most barometers (as Sandy is predicted to be) it tells you that people who make barometers for a living never expected to see a storm like this.

    1. Can a weather nerd please elaborate on this? What is considered a normal level of barometric pressure during a storm?  Or even normally?

      Yes I can Google this, but BoingBoing seems like a decent hub of info right now.

      1. We may be comparing oranges to walnuts here… for extra-tropical storms in New England, this may break the current record:

        *LOWER 48 STATES: 952 mb (28.10”) Bridgehampton, New York on 3/3/1914″

        Still at sea, it seems to have broken the low of 952 during the 1893 NY Hurricane:


        Here are the records for individual cities, but I don’t know the conversion factor to millibars.


        Assuming it’s just classic inches of mercury here, and not some weather-specific unit I don’t know, the 28.38 for NY City would be 961 millibars of mercury, but that doesn’t seem right considering the 1893 and 1914 numbers above.

        I hope people are getting to safety, and that in the aftermath we take long-neglected infrastructure repairs and reinforcements more seriously than we have for the past 30 years of lost time.

        1. NYC’s sewage & drainage systems are pretty much mixed together. Any infrastructure repairs here will most likely be mired in red-tape & corruption for decades. We can’t even get the 2nd Avenue subway built.  Wish us luck!

    2. It’s a predictive instrument, mostly. If it gets that low and you’re not sure a store is coming, you look outside.

  6. I’m still waiting for somebody to ‘shoop a smiling Senator Al Franken face onto the eye of the hurricane.  Or at least a Frankenberry cereal monster.  Don’t make me have to learn ‘Shoop just for this, Internet!

  7. One of those “floating hotel” cruise ships just sailed out of New York harbor.
    That’s probably the last anyone will see of that “Love Boat.”

    1. I realize you’re kidding, but that’s actually the smartest thing a ship of that size could possibly be doing right now.

  8. All major issues from this storm will be caused by the high winds and the combination of a Spring tide and storm surge hitting simultaneously. The wind is driving the water into the NY harbor from the south/east as well as from the north east (from the LI sound). The Spring tide is running on average 4 feet or so. The combined tide is what’s going to bring the NY waterfront to a street near you. You can count on most of Manhattan’s edges being under a few feet of water. The subways are going to be flooded. Probably a big chunk of Hoboken, the NJT terminal, and the PATH, too.

  9. I’m in Washington, DC. It’s a bit tricky to know what to expect, they seem to be anticipating bad things on all fronts. Flooding like Isabel, winds like the Derecho, only more widespread, and power outages complicated by downed trees blocking roads all over the place.

    As I write this (7:45pm local time), Metro has announced that bus and rail service are suspended tomorrow, and the Federal government, DC public schools, and nearby county school systems, are all closed both Monday and Tuesday.

    So, officialdom is taking it pretty seriously around here.

  10. I’m ecstatically glad all my family has moved away from the East Coast, although I still have one sister in Hurricane Alley. At least she’s not in the path of this particular monster.

  11. I spent nearly twenty years living at the mouth of the Cape Fear, where I became very adept at hosting hurricane parties. So for everybody to be freaking out about a big storm but our area not having to pay attention to it is rather strange.

    1. All the years my daughter was growing up in Honolulu, a hurricane never hit us (though we had a very near miss.)  Last year she moved to Brooklyn before Irene, and now Sandy.  At least she has the hurricane preparedness drill down as second nature.

      1. I grew up in Kaneohe, where I experienced Ewa and a few other less dramatic storms. Moving to Wilmington NC, I thought I was an old hand at hurricanes. Then I went through Bonnie, Fran, Bertha, and Floyd within a five year period.

    1. You can be certain that somewhere in Virginia Beach right now, in seedy room inside Regent University, Pat Robertson is conjuring the ghost of Jerry Falwell to ask him exactly what combination of gay people and Obama can be blamed for all this…I’m sure Bill Ayers will at least make honorable mention. ;)

      1. Pat Robertson in a seedy room inside Regent University

        In the basement.  Suit, tie and socks, no shoes.  Rolling on the floor, which is smeared in his own bodily excretions, all of ’em, the whole ball of earwax.  Well at least that what his mind looks like from here.

      2. Well clearly…it grazed Eastern Florida, and that den of sin Miami before skipping NC, SC, and VA, except for the Outer Banks where “the gays vacation,” before hooking left to slam into NJ, MD, DC, and PA, all while slapping NY.  It’s like gay central in that corridor, plus Democrats, since Northern VA, et al are trending blue in this election.  Clearly God’s backing the Mormon.  ;-D

        — if you take the above as my serious opinion, relax and take a deep breath.  It’s not.

  12. We’re getting mildly clobbered here in Baltimore, with the forecast calling for increased clobbering as the day continues.  I’m not worried.
    Bread.  Check.
    Books.  Check.
    Beer.  Check.
    Water.  Check.
    Whiskey.  Check.

  13. Here in Central PA, near Harrisburg we’re facing a double-whammy.  First off, we have the actual storm coming through, and dropping as much as ten inches of rain while blowing at 50+mph (and the chance of tornadoes on the right side of the storm), but then as the storm treks North dropping more rain on northern PA and Central NY, all of the water will flow back down the Susquehanna causing flooding for long after.  When Tropical Storm Lee came through yesterday it dropped that much and was…well, a disaster.

  14. I lived for a spell in Delaware, and I recall a hurricane making its way up there during the late 90s, early 00s (such a crappy mem…uh, what was I saying?).  60+ mph winds knocked over scads of trees and the deluge of rain kept the area waterlogged for quite some time afterwards.  I’m hoping people prepared as best they could by filling their tubs with water, having rechargeable or hand cranked lights and radios, etc. etc.  Here’s to hoping all that preparation is for naught and that the storm dissipates into double rainbows and sparkly unicorns…
    On the flip side of things, some friends and I scored epic surf over at Cocoa Beach yesterday, so at least Sandy isn’t all evil destruction.

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