Dangerous Hurricane Sandy is increasing in size and intensity as it approaches the Greater New York metropolitan area. According to meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics, the city is “insufficiently prepared.”
After initially downplaying storm surge from the hurricane, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed course on Sunday and began ordering mandatory evacuations for low-lying areas in the city. The subway stopped running Sunday evening, and will remain closed through at least Tuesday morning.
The surge in Long Island Sound and New York Harbor is likely to be extremely distractive.
For those of my readers in Rhode Island, where my family and I are based, it is the next 12 hours that will be critical. A packet of strong winds should be start taking the state in the next 30 minutes and last for four or more hours. If power lines are going to come down, this is the most likely time for it to happen.
The storm surge in Narragansett Bay will largely coincide with the evening high tide at 8:26 pm, and will cause flooding. As of 12 noon EST, the National Hurricane Center indicated a probably peak surge for the bay of 5 to 7 feet.
Beach erosion from Cape Cod to the Outer Banks of North Carolina will range from severe to extreme, with waves of 15 to 20 feet pounding the coastline for 24-48 hours.
In the midst of the extreme conditions, the National Hurricane Center has chosen to play games with terminology. The NHC, anticipating a transition of Sandy from a “pure” hurricane with tropical characteristics to an extratropical cyclone, declined to issue hurricane warnings throughout New England and even the New Jersey coast where the storm is expected to make landfall.
Although Sandy has been a hurricane for longer than ten days, and may yet make landfall as a hurricane, the likelihood of the extratropical transition has convinced the meteorologists employed to serve the public to instead confuse it with the designation protocol.
Make no mistake. Under normal circumstances Cape Cod to Montauk would be under a tropical storm warning. Montauk to Delaware Bay would be under a hurricane warning. And Delaware Bay to the Outer Banks would be under a tropical storm warning.
People understand these designations, and they should be used in situations like this, academic purity be damned.
If you are in Rhode Island, the time to seek shelter and ride out the storm is right now. How’s that for clarity?