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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Brings Record Storm Surge & Damaging Winds

 Cosey Beach in East Haven from Hurricane Sandy, just a year after the area was devastated by Irene. Pic by Michael McAndrews, to see more visit
I got to work at noon on Monday.  After spending nearly a week and a half tracking Sandy’s every move, it was finally time to see if the monstrous storm would behave as forecast.  I wanted to be wrong!

At noon Sandy was moving faster than the official National Hurricane Center track.  I wondered if that meant the winds would diminish earlier too.  At 4 PM there were only 100,000 outages (little compared to Irene). Wind gusts reached 65 miles an hour in Groton.  But inland gusts were unimpressive. The fast moving winds in the upper atmosphere were not mixing down to the ground.

Not yet…

As the center of the storm moved onto the New Jersey coast, a warm front followed. In two hours, the temperature climbed eight degrees in Hartford.  The dew point came up too. Squall lines in the feeder bands provided enough turbulence in the atmosphere to mix those higher winds to the surface. So our peak wind gusts did not occur until after Sandy made landfall!  Power outages increased exponentially.

The forecast for coastal flooding was dead on. But I don’t take credit for that.  Local meteorologists like myself rely on the National Weather Service’s storm surge predictions. Bridgeport set a new record storm tide of 13.3’, beating the 12.1’ storm tide during Irene and the record of 12.3’ set back in the Hurricane of 1938. Eastern Long Island sound faired a little better.  New London’s storm time was 8.04’.  This did not break the record of 10.6’ set in the Hurricane of ’38 or the flooding during Hurricane Donna in 1954.

The European model nailed this forecast...again.
Last week I was skeptical.  Can you blame me?  Sandy’s track was unprecedented.  An October hurricane in Connecticut?  These storms normally bend harmlessly out to sea! 1000 miles of tropical storm winds? A hurricane merging with the polar jet stream? Hurricanes don’t normally strengthen after moving into cooler water! If I was at the casino two weeks ago…I’d put all my money on Sandy being a bust.
But Sandy made history.

Millions are without power including 600,000+ people here in Connecticut
Winds gusted up to 76 mph in Bridgeport
The snow in West Virginia is being measured in FEET
Battery Park City (my home town) experienced record storm surge, flooding the subways

And Sandy isn't done yet....

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