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Hurricane Sandy barrels towards East Coast, bringing commerce and travel to a halt

One of the most destructive storms ever to threaten the United States is hours away from slamming into the Atlantic seaboard, meteorologists are warning.

Hurricane Sandy, which has already killed dozens of people in the Carribbean, is projected to make landfall sometime tomorrow evening between the Chesapeake and the mouth of the Hudson River. The hurricane – or what’s left of it after it hits the mid-Atlantic states – is expected to collide with a couple of other weather systems as the week gets going, creating a monster tempest that meteorologists are dubbing “Frankenstorm” or “the Hur’easter”.

The latest outlook provided by the National Weather Service is pretty grim.

AT 1100 PM EDT…0300 UTC…THE CENTER OF HURRICANE SANDY WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 34.5 NORTH…LONGITUDE 70.5 WEST. SANDY IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTHEAST NEAR 14 MPH…22 KM/H. A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS…WITH A TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST EXPECTED ON MONDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK… THE CENTER OF SANDY WILL MOVE OVER THE COAST OF THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES LATE MONDAY OR MONDAY NIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 75 MPH…120 KM/H…WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SANDY IS EXPECTED TO TRANSITION INTO A FRONTAL OR WINTERTIME LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM PRIOR TO LANDFALL. HOWEVER…THIS TRANSITION WILL NOT BE ACCOMPANIED BY A WEAKENING OF THE SYSTEM…AND IN FACT…A LITTLE STRENGTHENING IS POSSIBLE DURING THIS PROCESS. SANDY IS EXPECTED TO WEAKEN AFTER MOVING INLAND.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 175 MILES… 280 KM…MAINLY TO THE SOUTHWEST OF THE CENTER…AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 520 MILES…835 KM. A NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE STATION AT THE WILLOUGHBY DEGAUSSING STATION NEAR NORFOLK NAVAL STATION VIRGINIA RECENTLY REPORTED SUSTAINED WINDS OF 45 MPH…72 KM/H…WITH A GUST TO 53 MPH…85 KM/H. A WEATHERFLOW STATION AT THIMBLE SHOALS VIRGINIA RECENTLY REPORTED SUSTAINED WINDS OF 44 MPH…70 KM/H…AND A WIND GUST OF 52 MPH…83 KM/H.

Coastal areas can expect to experience dangerous winds, heavy rainfall, and surf-related flooding. Areas further inland, like the Appalachian mountains, may see substantial snowfall accompanied by strong winds.

In an effort to save lives and property, governors up and down the coast have declared states of emergency, mobilized the National Guard, and instituted mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying areas.

Public transportation has already ground to a halt, stranding thousands.

New York’s MTA has stopped running  the city’s subways, buses, and commuter trains, while D.C. authorities have suspended Metro service. New Jersey Transit is also implementing a system-wide shutdown.

Airlines have already cancelled more than four thousand flights in and out of major airports like JFK, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty, Dulles, Reagan National, and Baltimore/Washington. Amtrak, meanwhile, has cancelled all service in the Northeast Corridor, including its popular Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains.

Intercity bus service is also affected. Greyhound has announced it will not serve major cities such as Atlantic City, Baltimore, New York, Richmond, the District of Columbia, or Ocean City. Peter Pan has cancelled all of its service.

Schools in New York, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and other affected states will be closed as well. With public transportation shut down, many businesses are following suit. Restaurants across the region are closed and major employers are telling their workers to stay home.

FedEx and UPS are warning that their operations may be severely curtailed by the hurricane. The U.S. Postal Service is also warning of service disruptions.

The New York Stock Exchange will be completely closed for the first time since the September 11th attacks. NYSE Euronext, which runs the exchange, had initially planned to only close the trading floor, permitting electronic trading to take place. But now NYSE has decided not to open at all.

Insurance companies, meanwhile, are readying response teams and hoping the impact will be lighter than what has been foreast.

Authorities continue to plead with people who are in evacuation zones to get out.

“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,” National Weather Service personnel in New Jersey warned.

What many people may not have heard – or may not understand – is that Sandy is not expected to weaken when it makes landfall.

Instead, it is projected to linger, thrashing the coast and causing immense damage to infrastructure and property.

NASA has been tracking Hurricane Sandy from space and has some sobering images. Take a look at the size of this storm. It’s huge:

Image of Hurricane Sandy on October 28th, 2012

NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite captured this visible image of the massive Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 28 at 1302 UTC (9:02 a.m. EDT). The line of clouds from the Gulf of Mexico north are associated with the cold front that Sandy is merging with. Sandy’s western cloud edge is already over the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States. (Photo and explanation: NASA GOES Project)

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy was blunt in a press briefing earlier today about the severity and destructive power of the storm.

“This is the largest threat to human life this state has experienced in anyone’s lifetime,” he said. “This is not a joke. This is a real warning of possible death by drowning.”

“The last time we saw anything like this was never,” he added.

President Barack Obama has wasted little time in authorizing federal assistance. He has signed emergency disaster declarations for more than half a dozen states. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is serving as the administration’s point person.

Unlike Bush appointee Michael Brown, who resigned in disgrace after the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, Fugate has experience preparing for and responding to disasters. He used to run Florida’s equivalent of FEMA and is highly regarded.

“As conditions worsen along the Mid-Atlantic and other parts of the East Coast, residents need to listen to the direction of local officials,” Fugate said in a message to the American people. “This is a large storm and the potential impacts from wind, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain and snow will affect many states.  If you’re on the coast, it’s time to act and follow evacuation orders. If you’re inland, now is the time to make final preparations.  Be ready for power outages and stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, medications, and other supplies.”

One Comment

  1. Tyler Shea
    Posted October 29th, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for your coverage of Hurricane Sandy.