Hurricane Sandy – New York City Impacts

Below is a post from my friend and colleague John Morales.  He posted this at about noon Sunday, October 28.

John is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and currently works as the Chief Meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Miami.  He has extensive qualifications in tropical meteorology.

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Hurricane #Sandy midday comments .. people often accuse the media of overhyping weather events. This time around all hype is justified. We are witnessing an unprecedented sequence of atmospheric dynamics in action which have led to a giant wind field which encompasses a good portion of the far western Atlantic, stretching from New Jersey’s to Grand Bahama’s latitude and as far east as Bermuda.

The biggest concern with such a large wind field is all the water that’s being shoved towards the Mid Atlantic and Northeast shore due to the counterclockwise flow around the hurricane. The storm surge is now being forecast to reach heights of up to 11 feet in NY Harbor and Long Island Sound. Coastal inundation with seawater will cause tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of damage to property and infrastructure including the NYC public transportation system.

There is a 6-foot seawall in southern Manhattan that would not be able to contain a surge this high. Some subway lines could be shut down for weeks or months due to the damage from this corrosive ocean water. Have you ever watched those shows on History Channel or The Weather Channel about hurricanes striking New York? Many of those hyperbolae may be coming to fruition with Sandy.

Another problem with such a large wind field is the long duration of damaging 50 & 60 MPH sustained winds with gusts to hurricane force that cities and communities in the northeastern quarter of the country will face. Trees (still with full foliage in most places) and power lines may be able to withstand a few hours of this. But with rain accumulating 5 to 10 inches — softening the ground — and hour after hour of pounding winds, the trees and light poles eventually will topple.

Power could be out for weeks because the local electric companies will be overwhelmed. Even with reinforcements coming from the west and south to help with the repairs, it could be a long time before all power is restored. I have little doubt that there will be places where the power will not be restored before November 6th — election day.

Finally, 10 inches of rain is nothing to sneeze at. When hurricane Irene struck last year, much of the damage was seen inland and caused by flash flooding. Rain accumulations with Sandy will be similar to Irene’s.

Finally, a message about human nature and hurricanes and big storms. Folks generally refuse to think of worst-case scenarios. The “that would never happen here” or “never happen to ME” feeling is reinforced when you have a recent event like Irene — when the perception for many in New York City (the media heartbeat of the USA) was that the media blew things out of proportion and that “nothing much” happened. The truth is that no two hurricanes are the same, and you have to resist the urge to compare what happened in Irene to what might happen in Sandy.

We’re likely going to set the record for the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in New York and New Jersey. EVER! The lower the pressure, the stronger or wider the wind field is. And this leads to WATER, from the ocean and from the sky and from the rivers. Listen to and follow the instructions of your local officials and emergency managers. If they’re asking you to leave, it’s because your life is in danger. All preparations around your property must be rushed to completion, and you must have sufficient supplies to withstand days without power and/or heat. Be ready, and take this super-storm of the millennium seriously.


About seansublette

Meteorologist at Climate Central. Broadcast meteorologist in Virginia from 1995 to 2015. Born and raised in Richmond, VA. Penn State alumnus. Loves baseball and the rock band Rush. Views are independent of my employer. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
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