Hurricane Sandy slammed into the New Jersey Coast near Atlantic City last night, and brought a ferocity rarely seen from storms systems in this part of the country. The storm was near a record low pressure at landfall at landfall, and the track and intensity brought severe hurricane force winds, heavy rain, beach erosion, historical damaging coastal flooding and storm surge. As the cleanup continues, we step aside but also answer some questions you may have remaining and analyze several pieces of the storm.
Storm Surge: The storm surge began early Monday in Central New Jersey as Sandy was still hundreds of miles southeast of the area. By later Monday, the surge was rapidly pushing sea water into the streets of coastal cities such as Atlantic City, Ocean City, Long Beach Island, and Long Branch. The waters continued to flood into Tuesday morning up and down the New Jersey shore.
Historical storm surge occurred after the system made landfall, as high tide juxtaposed with hurricane force southeast gales. This pushed a wall of water into the south shores of Long Island and New York Harbor. Record storm tide levels were reached at The Battery, where the water reached nearly 14 feet. The previous record stood at 10.1 feet. The surge in the Hudson and East rivers sent water pouring into the streets of mid and lower manhattan. The rivers also spilled into Jersey City and Hoboken. Significant flooding was observed in the subway stations near and underneath the East River. The subway system may inoperable for weeks.
The southeasterly gales also brought a wall of water to the south facing shores of Long Island, Long Beach, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn, as well as many other locations which saw the water pour into the streets from the beach.
Winds: Hurricane force wind gusts were widespread throughout the area — almost everyone experienced them at some point. Arguably the strongest winds occurred after the system was near landfall, as mixing improved in the low levels of the atmosphere with cold air advection beginning as the system transitioned to post tropical. This was a disaster waiting to happen, as strong winds were ripping just above the surface and could not more effectively mix down to the surface. Gusts of near 90 miles per hour were reported at many official stations in the NYC Area — unprecedented.
The winds downed thousands of trees in towns and transformers were seen flashing in the sky, exploding as trees and branches fell on power lines and winds continued. The winds also attributed to what will eventually be seen as one of the most severe beach erosion episodes in history.
We compiled as list of some of the highest wind gusts in the area:
Eatons Neck, LI – 96 mph
Islip – 90 mph
Montclair- 88 mph
Madison (New Haven) – 86 mph
Kennedy Airport – 79 mph
La Guardia Airport – 74 mph
Central Park – 62 mph
Flooding Rain: The flooding rain was not as much of an issue over Northern NJ and NYC as it was over Southwestern New Jersey. The flooding (rain aside) was tremendous in response to the aforementioned storm surge and winds. Thousands of homes are destroyed, millions are without power.
Was this storm everything we expected it to be? Yes, and the damage more than we thought it would be. The storm was historic in many aspects — and the billion dollars of damage it caused, and effect it had on people’s lives, is remarkable
Will we see something like this again? Not likely for a very, very long time. The storm you just witnessed was a once in a century type storm. It required a specific set of events to go completely according to plan in exact order, and certain atmospheric variables needed to be perfectly in place. As a meteorologist, watching this unfold was truly remarkable and humbling. But most importantly, I hope that in disseminating the information we did, that we helped to keep you informed and prepared..and hopefully saved lives.
To all affected, wish you all the best.