Weather Nerd

"Superstorm" Sandy Devastates New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

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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.


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.