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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sandy’s Surge Was NOT Unexpectedly High

October 31st, 2012 - 12:31 pm

An Associated Press story this morning propagates a total falsehood that’s gaining in currency:

With all the planning, and all the predictions, planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger [than previous storms] — a surge of 14 feet.

“Nobody predicted it would be that high,” said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury.

[FRIDAY UPDATE: Mayor Bloomberg has now repeated the same claim, asserting that "no one expected" a surge as high as what occurred.]

THIS IS UTTERLY, COMPLETELY AND DEMONSTRABLY FALSE. The Associated Press must issue a correction and retraction immediately (as basically the entire story is premised on the falsehood), and the journalistic repetition of this factually incorrect statement needs to stop NOW.

First of all, Sandy’s “surge” in NYC was not 14 feet; it was 9 feet. 14 feet was level of surge + tide. More on that in a moment.

Secondly, the storm surge that occurred — 9 feet — was predicted, well in advance, by the computer models and the National Weather Service and countless others. In fact, you need look no further than this blog’s wee-hours Saturday morning update, titled in part “NYC In Peril”:

[W]e could be looking at a 6-10 foot storm surge in NYC, plus astronomical high tide — as opposed to the 3-5 foot surge in Irene — if Sandy slams New Jersey from the east.

Did you get that? A 6-10 foot storm surge plus high tide? That’s what I wrote at 1:08 AM Saturday, more than 64 hours before landfall.

The “plus high tide” part is critical. To explain why, let’s go over some terminology. Here are NOAA’s definitions of the terms storm surge and storm tide:

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic tide from the observed storm tide.

Storm Tide: The actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge. Most NWS flood statements, watches, or warnings quantifying above-normal tides will report the Storm Tide.

To repeat: the “storm tide” is the total water level, caused by the “storm surge” plus the regular (“astronomic”) tide.

Sandy’s storm tide (or total water level) was 14 feet because the 9-foot storm surge peaked at high tide — and Monday’s high tide at Battery Park was to be 5 feet even without any surge. Now, remember those definitions. 5 feet is “the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone.” 14 feet is “the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.” 9 feet is the storm surge alone. 9 + 5 = 14.

This is no mere semantic distinction. It completely obliterates the entire notion that Con Edison, or Mayor Bloomberg or anyone else, can reasonably claim they were unprepared for a “14-foot surge” that was higher than anyone predicted. Here’s what the National Weather Service predicted at 11:23 PM Saturday, almost 48 hours before the storm hit:

TIDAL DEPARTURES…1 TO 1 1/2 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES SUNDAY NIGHT…2 TO 4 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES MONDAY MORNING…AND POTENTIAL FOR 5 TO 10 FT ABOVE MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING. THE HIGHER END OF THE RANGE RELEGATED TO THE MOST FLOOD PRONE COASTAL LOCATIONS.

So the National Weather Service predicted, as of Saturday night, a storm surge of 5 to 10 feet “above astronomical tides,” with the higher end of the range (closer to 10 feet) quite possible in New York Harbor specifically. Since astronomical high tide is 5′, that means NWS was necessarily predicting a potential storm tide of 10 to 15′ if the surge happened to arrive at high tide, which was obviously possible. (Hence the widespread pre-storm concern about “astronomical high tides” making matters worse.)

The NWS forecast was revised upward at 1:29 PM Sunday:

TIDAL DEPARTURES…BETWEEN 2 TO 3 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES [SUNDAY NIGHT] DURING HIGH TIDE WITH LOCALLY HIGHER VALUES…3 TO 4.5 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES MONDAY MORNING…AND POTENTIAL FOR 6 TO 11 FT ABOVE MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING. THE HIGHER END OF THE RANGE RELEGATED TO THE NEW YORK HARBOR…WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND AND THE LONG ISLAND SOUTH SHORE BACK BAYS.

So, roughly 30 hours before landfall, that’s a prediction of a storm surge 6 to 11 feet “above astronomical tides,” again with the higher end of the range (closer to 11 feet) possible in New York Harbor.

To review:

New York Harbor got a storm surge 9 feet above astronomical tides.

Forecasters predicted a storm surge 6 to 11 feet above astronomical tides, leaning toward the higher end of the range (i.e., 9 to 11 feet) in New York Harbor specifically.

And these people have the audacity to claim “nobody predicted” the surge that occurred?!?

Any public official who says the surge was “unexpected” or higher than predicted is either criminally incompetent, or blatantly lying, or both.

(More information and outrage after the jump.)

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With These Hands

October 30th, 2012 - 12:14 pm

Superstorm Sandy

The photo is by Frank Franklin II of the AP, found on Twitter via Chris Heller this morning. It shows Breezy Point in the Rockaways section of Queens, ravaged by a fire last night that reportedly destroyed as many as 80 homes. Devastating. (Colorado sympathizes.) Mayor Bloomberg says there were 23 blazes across New York City, as Sandy’s aftermath made fires difficult to reach and difficult to fight. We often forget that it’s the second-order effects of these disasters that can sometimes be the worst parts — like in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when fires did far more damage than the quake itself. Thankfully, it appears no one was hurt in the devastating Breezy Point blaze.

10 people are already reported dead in New York, though, and Mayor Bloomberg says, Tragically we expect that number to go up.” As I said last night, I have no sense for how high it’s likely to go. We can only hope and pray it remains relatively low. There were also, if I have this right, at least 5 deaths elsewhere in New York state, 3 in New Jersey, 2 each in Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, 1 in West Virginia, and 1 on the HMS Bounty, for a total of 26 U.S. deaths so far. Along with the 67 deaths in the Caribbean and 1 in Canada, that’s 94 deaths total — and counting, I’m afraid.

Meanwhile, here’s another remarkable photo, which I didn’t publish last night because I was concerned it might be fake, but now The Atlantic appears to have confirmed it. It’s a shot of flooding last night in Manhattan’s East Village, apparently taken by jesseandgreg on Instagram (or posted on them, anyway):

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Yikes. That’s gonna take a while to clean up.

It kind of feels like a good day to watch this video:

I’ll leave you again with a donation link for the American Red Cross. Please help the victims of this tragedy if you can.

Oh, and follow me on Twitter for my latest updates.

On Bloomberg

October 30th, 2012 - 11:31 am

InstaPundit is heavily pushing a number of my tweets, including this one and this one, which bash Michael Bloomberg for his indefensible (as I said at the time) pre-storm comments and actions. So I imagine I’ll get some questions about them. That’s fair, and I stand by what I said last night on Twitter, when I went on quite a tear about the issue.

Yes, I’m angry at “Hizzoner.” Not for failing to prevent an act of nature, but for failing to do his damn job properly — and, worse, grossly misleading the public — during the run-up to this extremely well-forecasted storm. Yes, I think a public accounting of his gross errors is required, at a bare minimum.

But I also don’t want to keep obsessing endlessly about this right now. I’ve made my point. I’ve made it firmly. And I will keep calling out any dishonest CYA statements by public officials about storm “expectations,” like this one by Bloomberg (see also here). I think it’s critical to do that in real time, lest inaccurate memes take hold in the public consciousness. At the same time, I don’t want to be perceived as grandstanding, and as having an axe to grind against Bloomberg in particular, while people are suffering. Certainly, I am not trying to beat my chest and brag about having been “right.” I wish I’d been “wrong” (in the sense that NYC had lucked out). This isn’t about me; what I said was obvious and unremarkable, in my view. It’s about Bloomberg. But anyway, y’all know where I stand; I don’t need to keep repeating it.

For the record, though, I did add a lengthy “update” last night to the bottom of my “Get The Hell Out.” I knew that post would get some attention in retrospect, and I wanted to flesh out my position a bit, and address the obvious counterarguments, in the body of the post. I’ll reprint that update here, after the jump, for those who are interested. And that’s all I’ll have to say about the matter in this space, at least for the moment.

UPDATE: Okay, so Kathleen Parker forced me to say a little bit more…

Okay… now for that “update” to my earlier post, reposted after the jump:

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[NOTE: Follow me on Twitter for my latest updates.]

LES flood

You all don’t need me to tell you what happened tonight; you’ve all seen the pictures by now, and watched the live TV reports, and heard the accounts. Hurricane Sandy, precisely as feared, brought a 9-foot storm surge — well within the predicted 6- to 11-foot range — into New York Harbor, which combined with the 5-foot astronomical high tide to create a record-shattering water level of 13.88 feet at Battery Park.

The water level was above 10 feet — the approximate threshold for major NYC flooding — for more than 5 consecutive hours. The results, of course, were devastating. Neighborhoods submerged; cars floating in the streets; the subway system flooded; a major hospital forced to evacuate; raging fires all over the city, with limited ability to fight them; and on and on. And it’s not over yet.

At the peak of the flood, Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan looked like this:

Ground Zero flooded

We’re going to wake up Tuesday to a terribly changed and damaged New York. I fear we may also wake up to more deaths than any of us can bear, as someone once said on another terrible day in the city’s history — although I confess I really have no idea what to expect in terms of death toll. We can only hope and pray it’s relatively low.

Of course, Sandy didn’t just hit one city. Eight years ago, a friend of mine commented on the movie The Day After Tomorrow: “Once again, the whole world is endangered, and to us that means…New York.” It felt a bit that way on Monday, as the Big Apple’s troubles overshadowed the equally calamitous impact that Sandy had along the New Jersey shore, where places like Atlantic City and Ocean City were hugely devastated by the surge. Long Island and Connecticut was also very hard-hit. We’ll learn more about the extent of damage in the coming days, but it’s clear this storm was very much the monster we feared, and that its impact was widely felt.

On that note, don’t forget what I wrote earlier, and reiterated tonight in a tweet RTd almost 500 times now: I do not want to hear any government or civic official saying that Sandy “caught us off guard,” or that it was “unexpected,” or that its impacts were “worse than we expected,” or anything like that. Such statements are blatantly false. Sandy was an extraordinarily well-forecasted storm (and thank goodness for that), and what it did yesterday is precisely what has been forecast for many days now by the computer models. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to be surprised, and you should not tolerate CYA excuses that claim otherwise. That includes claims about the “surprising” surge, which, as I mentioned, was not 14 feet in New York, but rather 9 feet, well within the 6-11′ forecast range (high tide provided the other 5′ of the 14′ total water level). I would view any “caught us off guard” statement by any public official as, effectively, a letter of resignation.

Relatedly, anyone who did not realize how much damage a 6-11′ surge on top of a 5′ high tide could do to New York City simply has not been paying attention, because this scenario has been discussed ad nauseum for years. What we saw on TV out of the Big Apple last night was distressing and horrifying, but it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, surprising. Rather, like Katrina in New Orleans, it was a long-feared nightmare come true.

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Anyway… I’m beat, folks. I’ve had some long days of almost nonstop blogging and tweeting about this storm, as it became clear what a threat it was — I think I slept a combined total of six hours the last two nights, and while I could do that sort of thing more easily during Katrina at age 23, I just don’t have the stamina for it anymore, at age 30 (er, 31…today, post-midnight, is my birthday). So I don’t have time to put together a comprehensive summary right now, and my coverage Tuesday will probably be a lot lighter, too. Really, with the exception of some Great Lakes winds and some Appalachian snows, plus the ever-present threat of inland flooding, we’re mostly past the “Weather Nerd”-geared part of this story now, anyway. I’m your guy for obsessive tidal-gauge analysis, one-stop landfall data shopping, and wildly premature hurricane-related election speculation, but there are countless other, better sources for the more ordinary task of reporting or aggregating news about storm damage now that it’s happened. Even so, I will probably do a wrap-up post at some point, once we know more, and I will certainly keep updating my Twitter with some regularity. But I will be gradually winding down my Weather Nerd coverage of Sandy. Thanks for reading, everyone.

I’ll leave you with a donation link for the American Red Cross.

Major New York City Flood Appears Imminent

October 29th, 2012 - 3:52 pm

[NOTE: Follow me on Twitter for my very latest updates on Hurricane Sandy. To track live data, including tidal gauges, buoys, satellite and radar, go to my "One-Stop Shop" landfall tracking post.]

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If my reading of the Battery Park tidal gauges (charts here and here; raw data here) is correct … and if my understanding is right that a water level (i.e., the red line on the charts) higher than 10 to 10.5 feet would cause a major flooding event in New York City that would inundate the subways and swamp low-lying areas of the city … it appears to me that, unless the storm surge (i.e., the green line on the charts) slows down from its current pace of increasing approximately 1 foot per hour, a significant New York City flooding event will begin sometime in the 5:00 to 6:00 PM hour local time, probably closer to 5:30 or 5:40 PM, but in any event well before the 9:00 PM high tide (and thus, presumably, continuing unabated for several hours).

Tidal Gauge at The Battery, New York, NY:

Caveat: I’m neither a meteorologist nor a hydrologist. But I can do arithmetic, and this is what I’m seeing.

If you are in a flood-prone area in New York City, and you are reading this, and you can get safely to higher ground, DO SO IMMEDIATELY!!!

I hope and pray that everyone who needs to be on higher ground is already there, and that this is solely a property damage event, with no loss of life.

The same goes, of course, for New Jersey and Long Island and Connecticut and everywhere else. I’m just focusing on New York City here because, well, it’s New York City. But the suffering is going to be widespread.

UPDATE, 4:21 PM: Literally as I was publishing this, the surge’s acceleration slowed down from ~1 foot of additional surge per hour, to ~1/2 foot of additional surge per hour. (That’s on top of the normal increase in water level due to the tide coming in, i.e., the blue line.) But this deceleration only delays the inevitable. Unless the storm surge (green line) not only slows its increase, but reverses itself and begins going down — which presumably won’t happen until the winds from Sandy shift, which does not appear imminent — the NYC flood will begin no later than 7:00 PM, and likely sooner.

UPDATE, 5:15 PM: Knock furiously on wood, but it appears that the storm surge stopped rising at 4:40 PM, and may now be very slowly decreasing. (The overall water level is still going up, but the storm surge — the difference between a “normal” tide and the surge-driven tide — is now stalling or dropping.) This is probably related to Hurricane Sandy’s acceleration toward the coast; the storm made a further left turn, and is about to make landfall. It is now possible that NYC will be spared the major flood that appeared imminent 90 minutes ago. However, it is going to be a very, VERY close-run thing, and a significant flood is still entirely possible. As it stands now, the current 6.6-foot storm surge would, without any further increase, be enough at high tide (which would be 4.74′ today with no surge) to push total water levels to 11.34′. So we need the surge to drop somewhere between 1 and 1.5 feet in the next few hours.

UPDATE, 5:44 PM: The surge is plateauing, not dropping, so for now, we’re still on course for the water level to reach 10 feet around 6:30 PM, and 10.5 feet around 7:00 PM, peaking at 11.4 feet just before 9:00 PM — if the surge doesn’t start to drop by then. That timing assumes the surge holds steady at 6.7 feet; the projected water level rise is due solely to the “normal” tide coming in.

New York City may well still flood, but at a minimum, if this trend holds, the flood will be less severe and less long-lasting than if the surge had kept accelerating, as it likely would have if Sandy hadn’t taken the left turn and sped up toward the coast.

UPDATE, 6:16 PM: It now appears the surge (green line) has resumed increasing, albeit at a much slower rate: 0.02′ per 6-minute update on the tidal data, or 0.2′ per hour. If that continues, the total water level will top 10′ very shortly — at around 6:20 PM — and will top 10.5′ at around 6:45 PM.

UPDATE, 6:36 PM: The water level at the Battery has topped 10 feet and will soon reach 10.5 feet, with 2 1/2 hours until high tide. I assume that the flood is underway, though I haven’t seen confirmation of that yet.

UPDATE, 7:10 PM: Parts of New York City are, indeed, flooding. Here are two photos by Julian Ehrhardt, apparently in Brooklyn:

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Parts of Lower Manhattan are reportedly flooding, too, and power has been shut off because of the flooding. See my Twitter feed for the latest.

UPDATE, 7:49 PM: The surge is accelerating again, increasing at a pace of more than 1.5 feet per hour over the last 30 minutes. Surge is now 8.41′, water level is 12.75′. If this surge pace continues, the water level will be above 15′ by high tide, more than 10′ of it from the surge alone.

Again, see my Twitter feed for the latest.

[NOTE: Follow me on Twitter for my very latest updates on Hurricane Sandy. To track live data, including tidal gauges, buoys, satellite and radar, go to my "One-Stop Shop" landfall tracking post.]

atlantic city flood
(Photo by christimallia on Instagram.)

It’s looking bad out there, as the above photo of Atlantic City, NJ indicates. Any hopes that Hurricane Sandy had been “overhyped” — that its storm surge would underwhelm, like Irene’s did in many places; that computer models’ forecast of last-minute deepening was implausible and wouldn’t happen; or perhaps that Sandy would simply turn away and go out to sea — have now been dashed. A disaster is underway. The only question is how severe it will end up being.

What’s happening is precisely what the computer models have said, consistently for days now, was going to happen. Sandy is strengthening in the hours before landfall — down to an incredible, record-setting 937.5 millibars, according to the most recent reconnaissance data, a drop of 6 millibars in less than 2 hours (!). At least one buoy, about 100 miles south of Montauk, NY, is reporting extreme wind gusts equivalent to Category 3 strength, although I have some doubts about that data. Regardless, the recon planes flying over the storm have measured increasing wind speeds near the center, prompting the NHC to estimate that Sandy now has 90 mph sustained winds at the surface. That suggests we could see a few 100+ mph gusts right on the coast. This is presently closer to a Category 2 hurricane than it is to a tropical storm.

Even more significantly, and also precisely as expected, Sandy is pushing an enormous storm surge toward the heavily populated coastline, well ahead of its center, as it makes the long-forecast sharp left turn that will force the full brunt of this uniquely destructive storm directly into the mid-Atlantic coast. More specifically, it now appears that Sandy will hit South Jersey or Delaware Bay this evening around 8:00 PM local time. Check out the NCEP NAM model forecast from WeatherBell:

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8:00 PM is right at high tide, on the button, in Atlantic City — so that’s an extremely destructive scenario. It’s going to get even worse — and it already looks quite bad:

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That photo of Atlantic City is by @NNJ_WxAuthority. See also Ken Shane’s photo of Ocean City, NJ (just south of Atlantic City):

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(That’s one of several great pictures Ken Shane has posted.)

As I mentioned, high tide is 8:00 PM in Atlantic City. It’s 9:00 PM at Cape May to the south (particularly relevant if the storm jogs a bit more to the left) and Battery Park to the north. Which brings me to the question of the hour: will New York City flood? It is my understanding the the storm surge in New York needs to reach roughly 5.3 to 5.7 feet at tonight’s high tide in order to cause a serious flood that will swamp the subways and the like. As you can see in my “One-Stop Shop” post, the tidal gauge for Battery Park is showing a surge (the green line) of 4.5 feet as of 1:00 PM, and slowly rising. Live data:

Tidal Gauge at The Battery, New York, NY:

The surge only needs to rise another foot or so from where it stands at 1:00 PM, and then maintain that heightened level until 9:00 PM, to cause a big flood in New York. That seems, to me anyway, highly likely at this point. Even if landfall occurs an hour or two before NYC’s high tide, and even if it happens over South Jersey or Delaware Bay instead of North Jersey, there should be enough onshore wind and water movement into New York harbor in the hours surrounding landfall to keep pushing the surge higher. We’ll see. I hope I’m wrong.

It’ll be bad on the south coast of Long Island, too, and along Long Island Sound. I’m deeply concerned about reports that thousands of people in low-lying areas did not evacuate. I can only hope they are able to seek shelter in higher floors of high rises (although the wind will be stronger there) and ride out the storm safely. It would be doubly tragic if lives are lost in this fashion — first because all such deaths are tragic, but second because these, in particular, would be so completely preventable. It’s not like Sandy caught us by surprise. Many local officials, notably Michael Bloomberg but others too, should have been more decisive in ordering evacuations sooner. The National Hurricane Center should have set aside semantic quibbling and issued Hurricane Warnings instead of “High Wind Warnings.” Above all, residents in flood-prone areas should have taken responsibility for themselves and Gotten The Hell Out. I sincerely hope that lives are not lost because of these failures.

Regarding the storm’s behavior in the next few hours, if you’re looking for something to hope for — now that most of our hopes have been dashed — I can offer two suggestions. First, hope for Sandy to move as quickly as possible toward the shore. Perhaps it could manage to make landfall a few hours before high tide. That’d be good. Second, hope the peak storm surge at the center of Sandy won’t be as severe as might be implied by the remarkably destructive surge hundreds of miles away. This is the “hive, not pimple” effect (© Alan Sullivan, RIP) that you may remember from Hurricane Ike. I don’t think it will be enough to meaningfully spare the threatened areas in this case, but we can always hope. So, hope for that. And watch those tidal gauges.

One last note. I want to put down a marker here. Actually, I put it down yesterday on Twitter, and reaffirmed it this morning, but let’s reiterate it here, because this is important: I do not want to hear ANY government official saying, post-storm, that Sandy “caught us off guard,” that it was “unexpected,” that its impacts were “worse than we expected,” or anything like that. TO SAY SUCH A THING WOULD BE A COMPLETE LIE. What’s happening right now is precisely what has been forecast for days. So, I would view any such statement by any public official as, effectively, a letter of resignation.

Again, follow me on Twitter for my very latest updates, and go to my “One-Stop Shop” post for live landfall tracking data.

P.S. Some live video streams to follow the storm:

The Weather Channel
CNN
News 12 (Long Island, NY)
NBC 4 (New York, NY)
ABC 7 (New York, NY)
WTNH (New Haven, CT)
WFSB (Hartford, CT)
WVIT (New Britain, CT)

NOTE: This post briefly included a stirring photo by Henry Mack III, now going viral on Twitter, of soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Sandy’s pouring rain. It’s a great picture — but it’s not from today, and has nothing to do with Sandy. I apologize for propagating the error. I should have checked more closely.

[NOTE: For my latest updates on Hurricane Sandy, follow me on Twitter.]

As I did with Irene and Isaac, I thought it would be helpful to create a “one-stop shop” of live data about Hurricane Sandy, so you can track everything in one place as the storm moves ashore.

For the sake of everyone’s browsers and processors, I’ll split this post up into multiple pages/sections by type of image (tidal gauges, satellite, radar, etc.). But if you think your computer can handle it, you can view everything on one page here.

The pages/sections are:

Tidal Gauges
Satellite Maps
Radar Maps
Wind, Pressure & Wave Heights

Here’s a quick sampling of the sort of images on those pages/sections of this post:

Tidal Gauge at The Battery, New York, NY:

(NOTE: The main Battery Park tidal gauge display is having on-again, off-again issues. If the above image is blank, try this backup. Remember: the storm surge is the green line, i.e., the red “Observed Height” minus the blue “Predicted Height.”)

Northeast Sector Radar:

RGB Satellite, Eastern U.S.:

Wind & Pressure, Cape May, NJ:

Also, I’m not going to embed them all in this post, but you may want to check out these webcams, as well as this webcam with sound from the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

Anyway… on with the “one-stop shop.” I’ll start with tidal gauges. Again, click here to view everything on one page.

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The Board Is Set; The Pieces Are Moving

October 28th, 2012 - 10:32 am

[NOTE: For my latest updates on Hurricane Sandy, follow me on Twitter.]

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Hurricane Sandy’s barometric pressure dropped from 960 millibars at 5am EDT to 951mb at 8am, and new convection is appearing around the center. The lessening of wind shear, and the influence of the warm Gulf Stream waters underneath Sandy, are having the expected effect: deepening of the low pressure at the storm’s core. Meanwhile, the wind field continues to expand, to historic proportions. Sandy is now the largest hurricane in Atlantic history, with its tropical storm-force winds having a diameter of more than 1,000 miles!

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The computer models continue to forecast this storm remarkably well, particularly given its uniqueness and complexity, and there’s really no reason at this point to doubt the remainder of their prediction: Sandy will keep getting better organized today, will “bomb out” tomorrow — not long before landfall — into a monster storm with possibly record-low pressures for the Northeast/mid-Atlantic, will hang a sharp left turn into New Jersey, and will bring a huge, devastating, life-threatening, wind-driven storm surge (worsened by extremely high surf and astronomical high tide) into Long Island Sound, New York Harbor, the south shore of Long Island and the Jersey Shore. Coastal damage will be extensive. Wind damage will also be severe, including well inland, due to the sustained battering and the possibility of unusually extreme gusts due to PV towers and tropopause folds. Property losses will be extraordinary. Loss of life is probable if people do not take this storm very, very seriously.

After making landfall, Sandy will finish its transition to an extratropical (but still-powerful) storm, and will dump heavy snow on portions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Elsewhere, it will dump heavy rain, producing inland flooding in some areas (though it probably will not be as bad as the devastating inland floods from Irene, because the ground is less saturated). Millions will lose power, many through Election Day and beyond.

If you’re in an impacted region, today is your last day to prepare. By tonight, weather conditions will already be deteriorating. So, as the weather service always says at times like these, “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.” (Preparedness links can be found at the bottom of this post.)

If you’re in a surge-vulnerable coastal area, you may need to leave. Listen to what local officials say about whether you should evacuate — unless you live in New York City, in which case you should ignore your foolish mayor and, if you live in Zone A or Zone B and are vulnerable to a possible surge of up to 10 feet, GET THE HELL OUT! (Criticism of Bloomberg’s bizarre, inaccurate press conference yesterday is damn near universal in the meteorological community. I’ve never seen anything like it.) Wherever you are, DO NOT STAY PUT, IGNORING EVACUATION ORDERS, SIMPLY BECAUSE YOUR HOME WAS FINE IN SOME PREVIOUS STORM. Every storm is different, and this storm will be historically bad in many places. If you’re ordered to leave — leave. If it’s even suggested by your local officials that you leave — leave. Do not risk it. It’s not worth it.

Beyond that, it’s difficult to think of new things to say about Sandy. Assuming the computer models — so accurate to this point — aren’t totally out to lunch, we basically know what the storm is going to do, and where its center will go (with the computer model forecast “envelope” now being essentially from South Jersey to North Jersey), and what its impacts will be. We’re now pretty much just waiting for it all to happen. The board is set; the pieces are moving.

Connecticut meteorologist Geoff Fox writes:

Hurricane Sandy is less than two days away. It is a major threat to our state. Don’t think that kind of weather doesn’t happen here, because it does and there’s every indication it will!

I am fearful. I suspect fear is now a common emotion in Connecticut. It is warranted.

What struck me today is how few surprises there were. Considering Hurricane Sandy has a structure like no other storm we’ve seen and is taking a path unlike any I’ve experienced, the computer guidance has been amazingly consistent.

Consistent model agreement implies the computers have properly latched onto Sandy’s salient features.

What’s come into sharper focus is the potential for shoreline flooding. If the guidance is right this will be a coastal inundation of historic proportions. The damage and destruction will be the most seen since the Hurricane of ’38, maybe more! …

Stay safe. Protect your family. Protect yourself. Be smart.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has ordered a Zone A evacuation in NYC, thank goodness. I’m still a bit concerned about Zone B, or at least parts of it. The water level at Battery Park is currently forecast to exceed 11 feet at its peak. That would break records.

More this evening. I intend to do a live tidal gauge / radar / satellite / wind gauge / etc. post, like I did with Irene and Isaac. That will go live sometime tonight. Stay tuned.

Get The Hell Out

October 27th, 2012 - 8:35 pm

[NOTE: This post was written and published Saturday night, 48 hours before New York City was inundated. It's now getting some retrospective attention, driven in part by my subsequent criticisms of Mayor Bloomberg (which this post proves are not based on unfair 20/20 hindsight). So I've tacked on a "POST-STORM UPDATE" to the end of this post, adding context, trying to fully elucidate my position, and explaining why the fact that Bloomberg did, finally, order a belated Zone A evacuation on Sunday isn't enough to insulate him from the criticisms I made on Saturday. Please read the post-storm update before you start an argument with me about how I'm wrong, because the update most likely addresses the point you were thinking of making. Better yet, instead of arguing with me, donate to the Red Cross. I'm going to go do that now.

And now, for the original post, as written Saturday...]

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Being up in Wyoming with my older girls, away from my computer, I have limited information about Sandy right now. But from what I’m seeing on Twitter, it appears: 1) the computer models indicate that the threat of a catastrophic storm surge in New York City has increased, and is a VERY real (though, of course, not certain) threat; and 2) Mayor Bloomberg has affirmatively decided NOT to evacuate even the most low-lying areas of his vulnerable city, nor even to close the city government or schools Monday.

If I have all of that right, it makes no damn sense at all.

Bloomberg’s error here could be even worse than that of Ray Nagin, who merely delayed too long, but who at least did ultimately give the obviously necessary evacuation order. It’s also hard to square Bloomberg’s inaction with his proactive — and correct — actions in advance of Irene. Perhaps he’s now gun-shy because of ignorant hindsight 20/20 criticisms of that “unnecessary” evacuation. If so, he’s a damn fool, along with those who criticized him then for an evacuation that was fully justified by contemporaneous information.

In any case, if I lived in a “Zone A” or “Zone B” area of NYC, I’d get the hell out, tonight. (Or tomorrow, if I could easily travel by foot to my non-flood-prone destination.) It’s not even a close call. Same goes for any other location in the cone of uncertainty that’s vulnerable to a potential (not certain–it’s never certain–but realistic potential) storm surge of 6-10 feet, plus very high surf on top of that, at astronomical high tide.

Ugh.

If I’m missing or misunderstanding something here, let me know. (For what it’s worth, I’m seeing plenty of meteorologists on Twitter saying the same thing. They’re baffled by Bloomberg’s decision. So am I.)

UPDATE: I’ve now seen and read Bloomberg’s statement. It’s even worse than I thought. He said:

We are not ordering any evacuations as of this time for any parts of the city. We’re making that decision based on the nature of this storm. Although we’re expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or hurricane-type surge. With this storm, we’ll likely see a slow pileup of water rather than a sudden surge, which is what you would expect from a hurricane, and which we saw with Irene 14 months ago.

So it will be less dangerous – but make no mistake about it, there will be a lot of water and low-lying areas will experience flooding. The City’s Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection will be deployed throughout the city to address flooding conditions.

Let me be clear: I have literally no f***ing idea what Bloomberg is talking about. As closely as I’ve been following Sandy, I have not seen anyone else — literally not a single meteorologist or any other person — suggest that Sandy will produce a “slow pile up of water” rather than a typical “sudden” storm surge. On the contrary, AccuWeather’s Mike Smith writes:

“So it will be less dangerous.” We don’t know that to be the case. The latest barometric pressure associated with Sandy is 960 mb. It is forecast to drop to 937 mb when it is south of NYC (see posting below from 11:40pm CDT). With a pressure that low the winds and surge could be very comparable to a hurricane. It would be an all-time record low for the region, hurricane or not.

All storm surges are, in their initial stages, somewhat slow, gradual pile-ups of water … which then rapidly peak when the storm’s center moves ashore. That’s exactly what’s to be expected here. Bloomberg’s idea of a uniquely slow drip-drip-drip surge doesn’t even make logical sense, and has no scientific basis that I’ve heard anyone articulate. Is he high? Has he lost is mind? I am simply stunned and baffled by this ignorant pronouncement, which will cause people to become complacent, and thus endanger lives.

Can New Jersey please annex New York City so we can get Chris Christie in there to fix this? Good lord.

Perhaps Bloomberg is confused by the National Hurricane Center’s hotly debated nomenclature decision to not use the terms “Hurricane Warning” and “Tropical Storm Warning” north of the Virginia/North Carolina border, choosing instead to use “High Wind Warning” because they expect Sandy to transition to an extratropical storm just before landfall — even though Sandy is a hurricane now and will be bringing hurricane-like conditions to the shore. (If you can’t tell, I disagree with the decision. Almost everyone in the meteorological and weather-nerd community seems to.)

Whatever Bloomberg’s rationale, he’s just absolutely dead wrong, as noted by The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and Bryan Norcross (who calls Bloomberg’s press conference “incomprehensibly inexplicable”), The Wall Street Journal’s Eric Holthaus, New York Fox 5′s Nick Gregory, WeatherBell’s Ryan Maue (“Bloomberg has baffled everyone with his bizarre press conference”), and many others.

Indeed, let me quote Norcross a little more extensively, to fully explain the problem here:

[Norcross & more after the jump.]

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[NOTE: For my latest updates on Hurricane Sandy, follow me on Twitter.]

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Hurricane Sandy was briefly downgraded overnight to a tropical storm, then was re-classified as a hurricane this morning when a reconnaissance airplane found hurricane-force winds. It continues to look ugly on satellite, and might be re-downgraded to a tropical storm later today. Again, none of this matters. This temporary weakening trend was and is expected. It doesn’t (yet) suggest that the models are wrong, or that Sandy will underperform its forecasts (as Irene and Isaac did). That might happen — there’s always the possibility that models are wrong — but we have NO EVIDENCE to suggest that yet. As Bryan Norcross wrote yesterday, “Either every model is wrong or this is serious as a heart attack.”

Please read Norcross’s whole excellent post from last night, and understand that — distracting noise about downgrades and “hybridization” aside — Sandy remains a deadly serious threat, including to hyper-vulnerable New York City.

Beyond that reminder, there isn’t too much new to report this morning. There continues to be some disagreement among meteorologists about precisely when, and how, this storm will fully transition from tropical to extratropical — but that’s a bit of a sideshow for the public, since Sandy will be a very serious storm regardless of whether it has a warm, cold, or hybrid core at landfall. As for its target, the European model still favors landfall in the Delaware Bay vicinity, while most other models are further north along the New Jersey coast, in a very dangerous position for a potentially catastrophic New York City storm surge. It’s too early to say who’s right. What’s clear is that some portion of the Megalopolis will take a very significant hit.

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Everyone from the Beltway north to New England needs to prepare — and do so TODAY. (Preparedness links can be found at the bottom of this post.) Don’t wait until tomorrow to prepare. Sandy’s forecast track is speeding up. Landfall is now expected to occur Monday night, not Tuesday, and bad weather will begin well in advance of the center. If you’re in the potential strike zone, PREPARE NOW.

By the way, you’ll note I mentioned New England. I would specifically include interior New England, not just the shoreline. You won’t hear a lot of talk about this in the media, but from an analysis by Dr. Ryan Maue (link is on a premium section of his WeatherBell site; free trial here) has me concerned about the possibility of higher-than-forecast winds and wind gusts north and east of the center. I’ll try to do a post later tonight explaining why that is so (though the meteorological mechanics of it, involving “tropopause folds” and “potential vorticity towers,” are a bit above my pay grade), but for now, suffice it to say, folks in New England — and throughout the area, for that matter — should make sure they secure any potential flying debris to the extent possible, and prepare for lengthy power outages, because I think interior wind may take a real toll there.

I am taking my older daughters to a football game in Laramie, Wyoming today (we live in Denver), so I won’t be in front of my computer for the rest of the day. I’ll have my iPhone and will undoubtedly update my Twitter account (@brendanloy) periodically, and I’ll try to post a quick update on this blog if major developments occur. But I would also highly recommend the following sources to stay abreast of developments:

(List after the jump.)

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