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Given that the approaching storm has become the event that it eating news coverage, at least if you live in the Eastern US, I thought readers might want to discuss what they are seeing locally and how it tracks with the weather predictions. At least here in Manhattan, conditions outside have been consistently milder than what Weather.com has been predicting (not their weather porn on TV, but their hour-by-hour forecast, which shows, among other things, expected wind speeds and precipitation levels). The wind so far is a lot less than the forecast level (which was for 19 MPH now-ish, with higher-speed gusts; I was just out and the air was close to still, with only occasional gusts perhaps up to the 20 MPH). But the real damage from the storm isn’t to come from the wind, but the storm surge. Even the reports from sites that don’t benefit from weather sensationalism are pretty grim. For instance, this summary comes from Wunderground (hat tip Lambert):
Published: 9:58 PM GMT on October 28, 2012
Hurricane Sandy has changed little in intensity today, and remains a very large, powerful hurricane. Sandy is going to cause billions of dollars in damage Monday and Tuesday in the Eastern U.S. due to storm surge, high winds, and heavy rains. Sandy is of near record-size, with tropical storm-force winds extending up to 520 miles from its center, covering an area larger than a Texas-and-a-half. This afternoon, Sandy brought winds gusting to 64 mph at Cape Hatteras, NC, 60 mph at Kitty Hawk, NC, and 60 mph at Cape Henry, VA. Sandy’s rain is onshore from North Carolina to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jacksonville, NC and Suffolk, NC have recorded 2 inches of rain today, Greenville, NC has seen 1.6 inches, and Ahoskie, NC has seen 1.5 inches.
With peak impact still 24 to 36 hours away, water levels are already 2 – 4 feet above normal from Virginia to New York. At 4 pm EDT, Lewes, Delaware was at 3.3 feet above normal, Cape May, New Jersey was at 3.1 feet above normal, Wachapreague, Virginia was at 3.6 feet above normal, and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel station was at 3.6 feet above normal, up more than half a foot since 10:30am. The National Weather Service in Upton, New York mentioned today that the predicted maximum water level of 11.7 feet at The Battery in New York City, which is expected to occur at 8:13pm ET on Monday, would break the record of 10.5 feet which was set on September 15, 1960 in Hurricane Donna.
In a poignant, powerful Public Information Statement this afternoon, the National Weather Service in New Jersey is begging that people heed warnings, and evacuate if they are asked to. They write, “If you are reluctant [to evacuate], think about your loved ones, think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued, think about the rescue/recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive.”
For real junkies, one place to look (hat tip Richard Smith) is Eric Holthaus (WSJweather) on Twitter. There’s some amazing stuff here, like FEMA telling people in high rises to be prepared to take shelter below the 10th floor. Huh? This isn’t a storm where the wind speeds are the risk factor.
In Manhattan, the MTA is implementing a system-wide shutdown of the subway system and Metro North starting at 7 PM. Most of the natives seem perplexed and disgruntled, but are also cleaning out the local grocery stores (although the manager of one of the local chains says it will be open tomorrow). Many stores closed between 5 and 6 PM, and it’s interesting to see who is hard core and staying open (the afore-said grocery store, a local drug store chain, many of the small food stores, particularly the ones near the local hospital, pretty much every news stand I’ve walked past, and the small convenience stores). A lot of who plans on opening up is a function of whether it has enough staff that can get in and want to work. For instance, my gym has e-mailed me saying it will open tomorrow but no assurance as to how long it will stay open (remember, in NYC, people live in small apartments, so we are more integrated into our local little communities of local vendors and service providers than people in less dense communities).
Of course, here a big storm surge means flooding of the subway, and an unclear recovery time. What are the risks to you and in your area?
Yours truly will be in the saddle no matter what during our very much hyped weather event, but I might not have a horse to ride some of this week. The most extreme scenario is a power outage in Manhattan (I was in Oz during the last one; the locals who lived in low rise buildings tell me they had a great time, everyone went out on the stoops, hung out with their neighbors and drank, but with lots of rain, that won’t be a great option this time). What is more likely is generally kludgey internet service. That happened during the last big storm, Irene, and this one looks like it going to hit more of the East Coast harder. Kludgey internet makes it really hard to surf the web and can make it hard/impossible to post. Richard Smith is standing at ready in England, and Lambert (in Maine) might be able to pitch in if need be.
Most important, I hope all of you who are in the Eastern part of the US are reasonably prepared and get through this safely and with minimal damage. Let us know how things look from where you are.’
Update 3:30 AM, 10/29: As of this hour, this Hurricane That Will Eat New York City is nowhere to be found. Weather.com’s hour by hour forecast has consistently been calling for showers and winds of 19 MPH with gusts higher from 5-6 PM yesterday onward (obviously getting worse later, my dim recollection is the winds were expected to notch up to the 22-24 MPH range in the middle of the night, with ongoing rain).
I’ve been listening and when I get up to pad around, looking out the window. Every time I gaze out, I can’t see ANY leaves on the trees moving. This isn’t lower than expected winds, this is bloomin’ still. Dry as a bone too. Weatherporn.com is still saying that the winds will by 24 MPH in a half hour. So I suppose I suppose I should believe them rather than my lyin’ eyes.