- Weather forecasters predict the storm could hit in the days before Halloween as a ‘Perfect Storm’
- Up to 400,000 New Yorkers could be evacuated
- State of emergency means the state will have access to federal funding and national guard
- Subways facing possible shutdown – the second in history
- Sandy could be ‘worst case’ superstorm, more powerful than Irene
- Some U.S. airlines offering waivers to customers
- Could cause up to $1billion worth of damage
- Thousands could be without power and millions of children could have their Halloween ‘trick or treat’ ruined
- 21 people reported dead across Caribbean as super storm moves north
PUBLISHED: 09:07 EST, 25 October 2012 | UPDATED: 18:27 EST, 26 October 2012
A state of emergency has just been declared in New York in advance of Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast late on Sunday – with the possibility it could shut down airports, cripple mass transit and flood densely populated low-lying areas.
Governor Cuomo said the declaration allows the 62 counties to better prepare for the storm with access to federal funding and the national guard, with the possibility that up to $1billion damage could be caused and up to 400,000 people evacuated.
The city’s emergency management situation room has been activated and those in low-lying areas may have to evacuate, including zones like Battery Park City, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway and Midland Beach and South Beach in Staten Island.
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The National Weather Service is predicting sustained winds of up to 80mph for at least a 24-hour period and said it has the potential to be one of the worst in the city’s history with major flooding.
Experts say the tempest has a 90 per cent chance of making landfall with the potential to wreak havoc with heavy winds, rain, flooding, and downed trees and power lines.
‘After 26 years in TV weather and two years with NOAA, Sandy may pose the greatest risk to human life that I have seen’
In fact, longtime weatherman Chad Myers, who works for the NOAA, wrote: ‘After 26 years in TV weather and two years with NOAA, Sandy may pose the greatest risk to human life that I have seen.’
Gov Andrew Cuomo has activated the state’s emergency crews and urged people to prepare storm kits, which include non-perishable food, water, cash, filled prescriptions, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, first aid kit, flashlights and batteries.
‘We want to take every precaution possible,’ he said.
State Division of Homeland Security commissioner Jerome Hauer said: ‘They’re saying it’s a worst case. It certainly has a possibility of being one of the worst. We’re at a point of time where people need to take precautions now.’
He warned that New York could face even more devastating storm surge flooding than was anticipated during Hurricane Irene last year when large swaths of the city were evacuated.
Officials will decide by Saturday whether evacuations will again be needed this week, according to the New York Daily News.
The MTA, which shut down all buses and subways ahead of Irene’s blast last year, is considering its second subway shutdown in history.
The transportation authority’s hurricane plan ‘calls for an orderly shutdown of service before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher’ in the elevated portions of the subway system and the agency’s railroad.
Parts of the subway that are below sea level are particularly susceptible to flooding.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the city’s agencies were meeting today to decide what action to take.
IS THIS JUST ANOTHER IRENE – THE HURRICANE THAT NEVER WAS?
Almost one year ago, President Obama declared a federal emergency for New York state and warned the U.S. was about to experience a ‘historic hurricane’
The five main New York City airports were put on lockdown and Mayor Bloomberg told people in Coney Island and Far Rockaway to find somewhere else to stay.
He also ordered an unprecedented mandatory evacuation of low-lying zones.
New Yorkers were warned that Irene was a life-threatening storm as they were urged to stay indoors to avoid flying debris, flooding or the risk of being electrocuted by downed power lines.
There were calls for people to flee Jersey Shore, with Gov Christie famously telling people to ‘get the hell off the beach’.
New York came to a standstill after initial massive panic buying as politicians and storm experts laid out apocalyptic warnings.
The entire subway, bus and MTA networks were shut down.
But after hundreds of thousands fled in anxious anticipation, Irene arrived as more of a heavy thunder storm than the devastating hurricane it was supposed to be.
In the city, projected winds of 75mph hit at closer to 40mph and while streets in lower Manhattan briefly flooded, the water had receded within hours.
Irene was being branded the biggest hurricane that never was.
Bloomberg was criticized for his over-reaction to the storm which was said to cost the city billions of dollars in lost revenue.
It came after he was blasted in the winter of 2010 when an unexpected fierce blizzard dumped 20 inches of snow on a woefully unprepared city.
Mayor Bloomberg said: ‘The world has not come to an end, The city’s going on. Many people are taking the day off. Most stores are open. There’s no reason for anybody to panic.’
Yet in the days between Christmas and New Year, everything that could go wrong did go wrong and complaints were flooding in from all over the city about snow-clogged roads and AWOL plows.
He said: ‘Obviously, this is a very strong storm and there are a lot of different weather patterns that could come into play as it makes its way up the coast. It’s already done damage in the places that it’s been and so we’re taking it very seriously.’
Mayor Bloomberg advised New Yorkers to be ready for Sandy with a ‘go kit’ that includes bottled water, a flashlight, first aid kit and other emergency supplies.
‘Our city is very likely to feel its effects in the form high tides, high winds and heavy rainfall lasting for several days,’ the mayor said.
‘We are taking all the steps that we need to take. But the storm is moving at a rate that we’re still not going to have a good sense of when and where it’s going to hit land.
‘It’s better to be safe than sorry but at the moment we do not think it is necessary to make the decision to evacuate just yet.’
He added: ‘During Hurricane Irene, these (low-lying) areas were put under a mandatory evacuation order, and as of now, we are not going to require evacuations of these areas.
‘But if that changes, we will make an announcement giving further details. The course of the storm is unpredictable, and it’s simply premature to make decisions about evacuations or other disruptive measures.
‘The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering either a partial or total suspension of service, but no decision has yet been made.
‘No matter where the storm hits, New York City is likely to experience high tides, high winds and heavy rainfall that lasts several days.
‘There’s a significant possibility for flooding, and high winds could force some bridges to be shuttered. Anything can happen. What I want to stress is we are so far away from the main event that you just don’t know.
‘Everybody should plan to go to school and plan to go to work on Monday. We are trying to be balanced and not too early worry people.
‘But common sense says you should start taking precautions, get ready just in case. This is a potentially dangerous storm. There are some forecasts that say it’s going to weaken.
‘Some forecasts say it’s going to strengthen. Some forecasts say it’s going to hit south of us or north of us or on us. Nobody really knows.’
He also requested that hospitals and nursing homes in the most flood-prone parts of the city release patients that can be discharged safely and cancel elective hospital stays.
The first evacuations in New Jersey were issued Friday afternoon for Cape May County. The voluntary order for the county’s barrier islands would become mandatory on Sunday, the county emergency office said.
Gov Chris Christie is urging residents to closely monitor the storm and prepare to put in motion their own emergency plans.
‘I encourage all of our families to stay informed, get ready and reach out to those you know who may be isolated, or in need of extra assistance during adverse conditions,’ he said in a statement to NBC New York.
Some U.S. airlines are giving travelers a way out if they want to scrap their plans due to Hurricane Sandy.
JetBlue, US Airways and Spirit Airlines are offering waivers to customers who wish to reschedule their flights without paying the typical fee of up to $150. The offers cover passengers flying just about anywhere from Latin America to New Hampshire.
Most other airlines are monitoring the storm and plan to update passengers later Friday. The airlines have only canceled a handful of flights so far, nearly all of them in and out of Florida and the Caribbean.
Local forecaster’s in Philadelphia have warned that the storm could directly hit the City of Brotherly Love and residents in South Jersey have begun stocking up on bottled water and batteries to prepare.
One sixth of the U.S. population or 50 million people are directly in the path of the storm and the general consensus is that the super-storm will make a direct hit on Monday or Tuesday somewhere from Virginia to New England.
The perfect storm? An infrared satellite image shows of Hurricane Sandy after it made landfall over Cuba and Jamaica in the Caribbean; the storm is forecast to track North and possibly affect the North East US at the beginning of next week
Hurricane Sandy has already cut a swathe through the Caribbean, leaving 21 dead as it left the area over the Bahamas and passed into the Atlantic.
Utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with expected power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared. And President Barack Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One.
‘It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,’ said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. ‘Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.’
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname Frankenstorm, said: ‘We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.’
Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance — up from 60 percent two days earlier — that the East will get pounded.
Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, but the storm is expected to vent the worst of its fury on New Jersey and the New York City area, which could see around five inches of rain and gale-force winds close to 40 mph. Eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania and western Virginia could get snow.
And the storm will take its time leaving. The weather may not start clearing in the mid-Atlantic until the day after Halloween and November 2 in the upper Northeast, Cisco said.
‘It’s almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event,’ he said from a NOAA forecast center in College Park, Md. ‘It’s going to be a widespread, serious storm.’
It is likely to hit during a full moon, when tides are near their highest, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. And because many trees still have their leaves, they are more likely to topple in the event of wind and snow, meaning there could be widespread power outages lasting to Election Day.
Eastern states that saw outages that lasted for days after last year’s freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 are already pressuring power companies to be more ready this time.
Asked if he expected utilities to be more prepared, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick responded: ‘They’d better be.’
Jersey Central Power & Light, which was criticized for its response to Irene, notified employees to be ready for extended shifts. In Pennsylvania, PPL Corp. spokesman Michael Wood said, “We’re in a much better place this year.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said the city was striking a tone of calm preparedness.
‘What we are doing is we are taking the kind of precautions you should expect us to do, and I don’t think anyone should panic,’ Bloomberg said. The city has opened an emergency situation room and activated its coastal storm plan.
Some have compared the tempest to the so-called Perfect Storm that struck off the coast of New England in 1991, but that one hit a less populated area. Nor is this one like last year’s Halloween storm, which was merely an early snowfall.
‘The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion’ this time, Masters said. ‘Yeah, it will be worse.’
As it made its way across the Caribbean, Sandy was blamed for more than 20 deaths. The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season hit the Bahamas after cutting across Cuba, where it tore roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops.
Norje Pupo, a 66-year-old retiree in Holguin, was helping his son clean up early Thursday after an enormous tree toppled in his garden.
‘The hurricane really hit us hard,’ he said. ‘As you can see, we were very affected. The houses are not poorly made here, but some may have been damaged.’
Experts from the Weather Channel are also cautioning residents across the north eastern states, including North Carolina, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Residents in coastal areas are advised to take precaution as the deadly storm barrels its way up the U.S. shoreline. Early forecasting by NOAA reveals that the storm could hit somewhere between Pennsylvania and Long Island, putting central New Jersey at the greatest risk thus far.
Those in the tri-state area are no strangers to deadly super storm threats. Only last year, Hurricane Irene ploughed through the greater New York City area, causing extensive damage. However, the overall impact was less than expected.
The ‘Frankenstorm’ could also deposit snowfall as far south as North Carolina, according to WThe Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis blog.
Government meteorologists are giving the storm a 70 percent chance of hitting land next week, ruining Halloween celebrations for millions of children who have dressed up for trick or treating door knocks.
‘The potential is there,’ said National Weather Service scientist Charlie Foley.
The horrific storm could happen if Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean, an early winter storm in the West, and a blast of arctic air from the North collide, sloshing and parking over the country’s most populous coastal corridor starting Sunday.
The worst of it should peak early Tuesday, but it will stretch into midweek, forecasters say.
‘It’ll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod,’ said forecaster Jim Cisco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction center in College Park, Maryland. ‘We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.’
It is likely to hit during a full moon when tides are near their highest, increasing coastal flooding potential, NOAA forecasts warn. And with some trees still leafy and the potential for snow, power outages could last to Election Day, some meteorologists fear. They say it has all the earmarks of a billion-dollar storm.
Currently, Sandy is moving through the Caribbean with high winds and heavy rain.
It made landfall in southeastern Jamaica yesterday with a wind speed of 80 mph and has already been responsible for the death of one person in Haiti and two in Jamaica.
Some have compared it to the so-called Perfect Storm that struck off the coast of New England in 1991, but Cisco said that one didn’t hit as populated an area and is not comparable to what the East Coast may be facing. Nor is it like last year’s Halloween storm, which was merely an early snowstorm in the Northeast.
Multiple elements must come together for Hurricane Sandy to become a repeat or match the ‘Perfect Storm’ of 1991.
This nightmare outcome is referred to by meteorologists as an atmospheric ‘bomb’ according to Accuweather.
Fearing this, people from North Carolina to Maine and Nova Scotia have been told to keep watching weather forecasts in case the Halloween storm does hit with full force.
This has much more mess potential because it is a combination of different storm types that could produce a real whopper of weather problems, meteorologists say.
‘The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion,’ said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground. ‘Yeah, it will be worse.’
But this is several days in advance, when weather forecasts are far less accurate. The National Hurricane Center only predicts five days in advance, and on Wednesday their forecasts had what’s left of Sandy off the North Carolina coast on Monday.
But the hurricane center’s chief hurricane specialist, James Franklin, said the threat keeps increasing for ‘a major impact in the Northeast, New York area. In fact it would be such a big storm that it would affect all of the Northeast.’
Late Thursday, the hurricane’s center was about 185 miles (300 kilometers) east-southeast of Freeport, Bahamas. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).
Sandy, which crossed Cuba and reached the Bahamas as a category 2 hurricane, was expected to maintain its category 1 storm status for the next several days.
In the Bahamas, power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.
On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded.
‘We have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down,’ said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. ‘But nobody lost a life, that’s the important thing.’
Steven Russell, an emergency management official in Nassau, said that docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and that the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.
Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expected to ride out the storm with their two young children, three cats, two dogs and a goat at their Cat Island resort.
‘We brought all of our animals inside,’ she said, though she added that a horse stayed outside. ‘She’s a 40-year-old horse from the island. She’s been through tons of hurricanes.’
On Great Exuma island, guest house operator Veronica Marshall supplied her only customer with a flashlight and some food before Sandy bore down. She said she was confident that she and her business would make it through intact.
‘I’m 73 years old and I’ve weathered many storms,’ she said.
Tropical storm conditions were possible for Florida’s southeastern coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to churn through the central and northwest Bahamas by Friday afternoon and then head northward off the U.S. coast.
The forecasts keep getting gloomier and more convincing with every day, several experts said.
Cisco said the chance of the storm smacking the East jumped from 60 percent to 70 percent on Wednesday.
Masters was somewhat skeptical on Tuesday, giving the storm scenario just a 40 percent likelihood, but on Wednesday he also upped that to 70 percent.
The remaining computer models that previously hadn’t shown the merger and mega-storm formation now predict a similar scenario.
The 1991 Perfect Storm lasted from October 28th to November 4th and struck from Canada to Florida.
HOLLYWOOD’S TAKE ON THE PERFECT STORM
The 1991 Perfect Storm began when a cold front exited over the east coast of the U.S. on October 28th.
The front created an area of very low pressure to the east of Nova Scotia which hit a ridge of strong high pressure that had emanated from eastern Canada.
This blocking front was met by the remnants of Hurricane Grace which increased in power again when it hit the two conflicting fronts – deepening the strength of the new storm.
At its peak the storm had winds of up to 70 mph creating large waves and strong winds.
The storm caused damage at the time totalling $200 million over a three day period all along the East Coast.
Thirteen people died during the storm including the six crew of Andrea Gail a swordfishing boat. Their last hours were dramatised into the 1997 film The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney
It resulted in massive flooding as 30-foot waves smashed into seafront communities – resulting in the deaths of 13 people.
A Hollywood film, ‘The Perfect Storm’ starring George Clooney told the story of the event through the eyes of a fishing boat the ‘Andrea Gail’ which sank offshore.’
‘The weather system could have some similarities to the perfect storm,’ said Paul Walker, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com in State College, Pa. “
‘I’m not quite sure if it will be that bad.’
If the weather systems do not converge, then all the panic could have been for nothing.
It is unusual for tropical storms and non-tropical colder systems to come together and if it doesn’t happen this time then Sandy will be a side-show out in the Atlantic.
There would be a more common and predicatble nor-easter, but offshore with significantly less damage, with drenching rain and winds which may cause only minor flooding.
But, while the experts have not fully agreed on the path of the ‘Perfect Storm 2’, the likelihood is of a massive weather system causing some damage to the Atlantic coast of the U.S.
The biggest question mark is snow, and that depends on where the remnants of Sandy turn inland.
The computer model that has been leading the pack in predicting the hybrid storm has it hitting around Delaware. But another model has the storm hitting closer to Maine.
If it hits Delaware, the chances of snow increase in that region. If it hits farther north, chances for snow in the mid-Atlantic and even up to New York are lessened, Masters said.
NOAA’s Cisco said he could see the equivalent of several inches of snow or rain in the mid-Atlantic, depending on where the storm ends up. In the mountains, snow may be measured in feet instead of inches.