Superstorm Sandy
High Wind Event
Monday-Tuesday October 29-30, 2012

90 mph Hurricane Sandy Monday October 29, 2012 around 2pm when it was 155 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey
Hurricane Sandy at 825am Monday October 29, 2012, approximately twelve hour prior to landfall near Atlantic City, NJ 

Sandy: A Meteorological Rarity in the Western Atlantic Basin

Born Monday October 22 in the southwest Caribbean sea some 395 mph south southwest of Kingston Jamaica, the initial tropical fury Sandy a week later would go on to join the list of the most destructive and costly coastal storms to strike the New Jersey, New York and New England coastlines. Power would be knocked out to an estimated 8.5 million utility customers across many Northeast states (second only to the 1993 super storm when 10 million were left in the dark), with billions in structure and infrastructure damage along with as a severe wintry impact with up to 36" of snow falling in the mountains of West Virginia. And Sandy would do all this not as a hurricane, but rather as a rare hybrid between a tropical and extra tropical storm system.

Chronology:

Originating from a disturbed area of weather in the western Caribbean sea, the system that would become Sandy took on tropical characteristics Monday morning October 22 becoming a tropical depression with advisories from the National Hurricane Center initiated at 11am.

Sandy got her name with the 5pm National Hurricane Center update on the 22nd when the storm gained tropical storm status some 400 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica.

On a swift northerly course, Sandy made landfall at 3pm on the 24th as a 80 mph hurricane five miles east of Kingston, Jamaica, emerging off the coast only two hour later.

In open water north of Jamaica in a region of warm sea surface temperatures and low wind shear, Sandy underwent rapid intensification on its approach to eastern Cuba. The storm slammed into eastern Cuba as a category 3 hurricane with top sustained winds of 115 mph at landfall five miles west of Santiago De Cuba at 1:30am on October 25.

The mountainous terrain of eastern Cuba coupled with the period of time Sandy spent over land caused some weakening with the storm emerging off the north coast of Cuba with winds slightly decreased to 105 mph. Sandy continued on its northerly course taking it through the central and northern Bahamas with a continued gradual and slight weakening due largely to wind shear disrupting the storm's outflow and a bit of dry air wrapping into the circulation. Sandy passed near Cat Island on the 25th with 105 mph winds. Late on the 26th Sandy had moved to a position 75 miles north of Abaco Island with winds down to 75 mph .

After brief weakening to tropical storm status with the 5:00am National Hurricane Center advisory on the 27th, Sandy was back to a 75 mph hurricane at 8am when it was located 335 miles southeast of Charleston, SC. The storm continued on a NNE track paralleling the Atlantic seaboard while remaining far enough off shore to only brush Florida with strong wind gusts and squally rains.

On Sunday the 28th, Sandy continued to move to the NNE well off shore of the southeast coast maintaining 75 mph hurricane status through the day but with the central pressure dropping indicating a strengthening storm. The 8am Hurricane Center advisory had Sandy's central pressure at 960 (28.35") mph when the storm was 260 mph ESE of Cape Hatteras, NC. The pressure then dropped to 952 mb (28.11") by the 5pm advisory and then to 950 mb (28.05") by the 11pm advisory. Sandy was still tropical through the 28th, meaning the center of the storm remained warm cored with heat transfer processes from the ocean into the atmosphere fueling the system. Sandy, however, was soon to undergo a transformation into a rare, for the western Atlantic basin, hybrid storm as a strong upper air low pressure trough was forced to dig into the Southeast states ultimately catching and merging with Sandy causing the system to lose its warm core and evolve into a frontal driven super Nor'easter.

On Monday morning the 29th, Sandy turned north and then sharply northwest towards the south central New Jersey coastline, being blocked by an anomalously strong high pressure ridge which had developed at the steering level over the North Atlantic. The blocking ridge prevented Sandy from taking a more typical northeast track, that most tropical systems do, and go harmlessly out to sea. Instead, the block not only prevented Sandy from moving away but also forced a further south track of the incoming upper air trough and subsequent intensification of that feature as it became negatively tilted, meaning winds along the east side of the trough flowed from southeast to northwest. As a result, the steering flow off the mid Atlantic coast became sharply kinked under and over Sandy from the southeast to northwest embedding the storm in a chute (fujiwara around the upper low) ultimately causing it to be flung westward and slamming into the New Jersey coast.

Storm Dynamics

As the upper air trough interacted with Sandy both tropical and Nor'easter storm processes were ongoing simultaneously to fuel the system. So, instead of a weakening tropical system as is typically the case when storms get north of Cape Hatteras due to colder sea surface temperatures, Sandy did the complete opposite and strengthened, with winds coming up to 90 mph and a central pressure drop to a remarkably low 943 mb (27.85") as of the 11am Hurricane Center update when the storm was 205 miles southeast of Atlantic City, NJ. At this time the radius of hurricane force wind gusts extended out a significant 175 miles from the center with tropical storm force gusts out to 485 miles. (These values indicate an enormous circulation)

At 5pm on the 29th Sandy remained classified a hurricane, although significant structural changes with the storm had occurred with the transformation into a frontal system almost complete, with the exception of a tiny warm core which remained at the very center. Central pressure remained remarkably low at 940 mbs (27.76") with top sustained winds of 90 mph with the storm some 40 miles southeast of Atlantic City, NJ.

At 7pm the National Hurricane center declared that Sandy had transformed completely into a powerful post tropical storm with it making landfall a short time later between 7:30pm and 8pm near Atlantic City, NJ with top winds of 80 mph and a central pressure of 945.5 mb. This pressure was the lowest measured in the U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, NC, breaking the previous record of 946 mb in the 1938 New England Hurricane. (Source Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunder Blog). The storm maintained strength for several hours after landfall only beginning to slightly weaken later at night, not because the system was no longer over water, but rather because the mid latitude upper air system had completely captured Sandy and had coincidentally become vertically stacked over the low level circulation. When this type of stacking occurs, the temperature advections (air mass motions) that fuel these types of storms is cut off and the system subsequently begins slowly spinning down. The spin down process with Sandy was quite slow with only very gradual weakening.

Reason For the Devastating Storm Surge
Sandy's enormous size and nearly perpendicular strike on the New Jersey coast was something extraordinary and rare. The storm's track allowed for an unusually extended period of powerful northeast to easterly winds (gusts from 60-80 mph on average) to occur along and to the north of the landfall which pushed water into the coast. It is estimated that because Sandy had such a massive circulation as it was undergoing its transition from a tropical to non-tropical entity that it was producing roughly two times more kinetic energy than hurricane Katrina, at Katrina's peak, and five times more kinetic energy than Irene, at Irene's peak. This amount of energy acted on the ocean to push an enormous amount of water into the coast. This incoming surge also just happened to coincide with an already higher than normal high tide due to the full moon to create the scenario where a storm with sustained tropical storm force winds and gusts a bit over hurricane strength could create a storm surge closer to what a category 3 or 4 hurricane would produce.

Here are the statistics: The diameter of tropical storm force winds at Sandy's peak extended some 945 miles which created twelve foot seas over the ocean out to a diameter of 1500 miles. Wave heights up to 32.5' were measured at the mouth of New York Harbor as the storm was coming in. The storm's peak measured wind gust of 90 mph occurred at Islip, NY and the strongest sustained wind of 69 mph at Westerly, RI. (Source Dr. Jeff Maters' WunderBlog) The tidal surged ranged anywhere from seven to fourteen feet resulting in unprecedented coastal flooding and destruction along the coasts of New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut as well as throughout the Burroughs of New York City.

NWS New York City forecast office surge graphic 

LOCAL IMPACTS
WIND:
High wind was the main significant impact across eastern New York and western New England as the very low pressure associated with Sandy's center and strong high pressure located over the Maritimes created an extremely tight pressure gradient which generated unusually strong winds of 70-100 mph to blow only a couple of thousand feet off the ground between 3pm on the 29th and 2am on the 30th. A very shallow temperature inversion (a layer of warm air over colder air) in valley locations, however, prevented the strongest winds from mixing down into the lower elevations. As a result, wind gusts of 40-50 mph were fairly common in the valleys, vs. gusts which potentially could have been much higher with better mixing of the atmosphere which also would have occurred had there been more rain as heavy bursts of rain often can effectively mix down higher momentum air from aloft. Higher elevation communities in especially southern Vermont, Berkshire and Litchfield counties and across the Catskills, however, were not as protected by the inversion and therefore were impacted by frequent wind gusts from 50-60 mph with occasional gusts in excess of 70 mph. Scattered tree and power line damage resulted with approximately 30,000 local utility customers losing power during the height. Overall, the wind impact in most areas was more an inconvenience rather than significant problem. Strong gusty winds continued through Tuesday the 30th, in some cases stronger in gusts in the valleys than what had occurred on the 29th, as the atmosphere was somewhat unstable due to cooler air aloft and surface temperatures in the 60s allowing for better mixing of the air. Frequent southeast gusts on Tuesday ranged from 25-45 mph depending on elevation.

Albany Weather Observations from 12am Monday October 29 through 2pm Tuesday October 30, 2012

Time
Temperature
Dewpoint
Pressure
Sustained Wind
Midnight: 29th 53° 46° 29.82" North 7 mph
1 am 53° 45° 29.80" North 7 mph
2 am 53° 45° 29.78" North 7 mph
3 am 53° 45° 29.76" North 8 mph
4 am 53° 44° 29.72" North 10 mph
5 am 53° 44° 29.71" North 10 mph
6 am 53° 45° 29.68" North 10 mph
7 am 54° 45° 29.67" North 14 mph G 20 mph
8 am 53° 45° 29.66" North 14 mph G 20 mph
9 am 53° 46° 29.64" North 12 mph G 25 mph
10 am 54° 46° 29.59" North 18 mph G 28 mph
11 am 54° 47° 29.56" North 15 mph
Noon 55° 48° 29.51" North 15 mph, G 30 mph
1 pm 56° 48° 29.43" North 20 mph, G 32 mph
2 pm 57° 48° 29.37" North 23 mph, G 31 mph
3 pm 58° 49° 29.30" North 13 mph, G 22 mph
4 pm 59° 51° 29.22" NE 18 mph, G 30 mph
5 pm 59° 53° 29.18" North 16 mph, G 31 mph
6 pm 58° 54° 29.14" NE 31 mph, G 43 mph
7 pm 58° 54° 29.12" NE 22 mph, G 35 mph
8 pm 60° 55° 29.08" NE 21 mph, G 32 mph
9 pm 62° 57° 29.06" East 22 mph, G 31 mph
10 pm 62° 58° 29.07" NE 18 mph, G 24 mph
10:54pm       Peak Gust: 50 mph (Associated with a passing downpour)
11 pm 63° 57° 29.09" East 15 mph, G 28 mph
Midnight: 30th 65° 54° 29.12" SE 13 mph, G 25 mph
1 am 61° 56° 29.16" South 13 mph, G 21 mph
2am 62° 52° 29.19" SE 8 mph, G 18 mph
3am 60° 52° 29.22" SE 8 mph
4am 60° 51° 29.22" SE 7 mph, G 17 mph
5am 57° 51° 29.25" SE 12 mph, G 17 mph
6am 58° 52° 29.28" SE 8 mph
7am 59° 49° 29.31" SE 8 mph, G 21 mph
8am 58° 49° 29.34" SE 7 mph
9am 60° 48° 29.35" SE 13 mph, G 21 mph
10am 62° 49° 29.37" SE 16 mph, G 23 mph
11am 62° 46° 29.38" SE 18 mph, G 30 mph
12pm 62° 46° 29.39" SE 10 mph, G 25 mph
1pm 63° 44° 29.40" SE 23 mph, G 33 mph
2pm 63° 45° 29.41" SE 12 mph, G 31 mph

WIND DAMAGE and PEAK WIND GUST REPORTS

Note: These are the reports that National Weather Service Offices use to the High Wind Warning that was issued for this event and are not meant as a comprehensive list of all the storm damage or peak wind gusts which may have occurred

Town County Storm Report Time
Berlin Rensselaer Trees and wires blown down 12:30pm
Conesville Schoharie Wire blown down at Hubard and Flat Corner 1:04pm
1 Mile SW of Kingston Ulster Tidal Flood: Route 213 closed between Creeks Locks Rd. and Kingston city line...Tidal flooding on the Rondout Creek 1:10pm
6 Miles NNE of Carmel Dutchess Route 292 closed due to trees and wires being blown down between Bundy Hills Rd. and Sanita Rd 1:41pm
Torrington, CT (1220') Litchfield Gust: Measured 46 mph 2:25pm
2 Miles SE of Great Barrington, MA Berkshire Trees blown down on Butternut Mountain 2:28pm
New Ashford, MA Berkshire Trees down, power out 2:28pm
3 Miles ESE of Torrington, CT Litchfield Gust: Measured 52 mph 2:37pm
Long Lake (1650') Hamilton Gust: Measured 47 mph 2:50pm
2 Miles W. of Woodstock Ulster Route 212 closed due to downed trees and wires 3:03pm
2 Miles NW of Glens Falls Warren Trees and wires blown down on Route 9 3:14pm
Near Rock City Falls Saratoga Trees and wires blown down on Rock City Falls Road 3:14pm
3 Miles WNW Burnt Hills Saratoga Trees and wires blown down on Valentine Rd. 3:19pm
2 Miles NNW Sheffield, MA Berkshire Gust: Measured 46 mph 3:30pm
Saratoga Springs Saratoga Gust: Measured 46 mph 3:48pm
Stone Ridge Ulster Trees blown down 3:56pm
2 Miles WSW East Windsor, MA (1894') Berkshire Gust: Measured 45 mph 4:00pm
Hunter Greene Gust: Measured 50 mph (Hunter Mountain Summit) 4:00pm
North Otis, MA (1500') Berkshire Gust: Estimated 50 mph 4:15pm
3 Miles SE of Otis, MA (1450') Berkshire Gust: Measured 61 mph 4:23pm
Halcott Center Greene Numerous trees blown down through the town 4:30pm
3 Miles SE Torrington, CT Litchfield Gust: Measured 57 mph 4:37pm
Halcott Center Greene Trees down on Vly Mountain Road 4:37pm
Woodford, VT Bennington Gust: Measured 58 mph (2300') 4:41pm
1 Mile NE Hancock, MA Berkshire Gust: Measured 77 mph (1128') 4:43pm
West Winfield Herkimer Trees down on Stone Road 4:44pm
Washington, MA Berkshire Two large trees down on E. Washington Road 4:45pm
Peru, MA Berkshire Gust: Measured 45 mph 4:50pm
2 miles WSW Stratford Herkimer Wind damage, trees and wires blown down on Route 29A and Rice Road 4:53pm
Dolgeville Herkimer Numerous trees blown down on houses in the village 4:55pm
Peru, MA Berkshire Multiple trees and some wires blown down 4:57pm
Fairfield Herkimer Gust: Measured 45 mph 4:58pm
5 miles NE Hudson Columbia Gust: Estimated 46 mph (Columbia County Airport) 5:00pm
Spencertown Columbia Gust: Measured 53 mph 505pm
4 miles WSW Saratoga Springs Saratoga Gust: Measured 45 mph (Saratoga County Airport) 5:00pm
Woodstock Ulster Wind damage, trees down blocking Main Street 5:19pm
West Charlton Saratoga Wind damage, trees down on wires on Eastern Ave 5:23pm
5 miles W Bristol, CT Litchfield Gust: Measured 70 mph (814') 5:23pm
Dolgeville Herkimer Wind damage: Roof or partial roof blown off a house on main Street 5:36pm
5 miles SSW Nassau Columbia Gust: Measured 50 mph 5:50pm
Salisbury Center Herkimer Trees blown down on wires 5:54pm
4 miles SSW Nassau Columbia Wind damage, trees down 6:00pm
Fairfield Herkimer Gust: Measured 49 mph 6:05pm
Pittsfield, MA Berkshire Trees blown down on Partride and Oak Hill Rd. 6:11pm
Newport Herkimer Wires blown down 6:16pm
Lanesborough, MA Berkshire Trees blown down on a car at Route 7 and Browdy Mt. Rd 6:17pm
Dolgeville Herkimer Trees and wires down at multiple locations 6:17pm
North Adams, MA Berkshire Tree down on a home on Knox Rd., wires down on Liberty St. 6:19-6:25pm
Kerhonkson Ulster 1 Fatality: Woman killed when a large section of roofing blew into her car 6:30pm
Dover Plains Dutchess Gust: Measured 47 mph 7:02pm
Fairfield Herkimer Gust: Measured 51 mph 7:06pm
Peru, MA Berkshire Wind damage: Large pine tree uprooted taking down nearby trees 7:30m
White Creek Washington Wind damage, trees and wires blown down 8:00pm
Argyle Washington Wind damage, trees and wires blown down 8:00pm
Shushan Washington Wind damage, trees and wires blown down 8:00pm
Salem Washington Wind damage, trees and wires blown down 8:00pm
Herkimer Herkimer Trees down at 878 Mckennan Rd 8:02pm
Frankfort Herkimer Trees and wires blown down at 300 Albany St. 8:14pm
Cambridge Washington Tree down on a home and vehicle 8:14pm
Little Falls Herkimer Transformer and high voltage lines down at Johnny Cake Rd near Newville Rd 8:16pm
North Adams, MA Berkshire Tree blown down on LIberty St. 8:23pm
Schenectady Schenectady Traffic light blown down at the corner of Union Ave and Brandywine Ave 8:30pm
Oneonta Otsego Wind damage, numerous trees and power lines blown down 8:30pm
Stone Ridge Ulster Gust: Measured 56 mph 9:15pm
Pittsfield, MA Berkshire Gust Measured 58 mph 9:19pm
Stone Ridge Ulster Gust Measured 60 mph 9:40pm
Fairfield Herkimer Gust Measured 55 mph 10:03pm
Albany Albany Gust Measured 50 mph (NWS office on Fuller Rd.) 10:54pm
North Adams, MA Berkshire Gust Measured 54 mph 11:05pm
Stone Ridge Ulster Wind damage, trees and wires blown down 12:21am/30th
Catskill Greene Hudson river Tidal Flood, business flooded where the Catskill Creek flows in to the Hudson river 2:00am/30th
Athens Greene Hudson River Tidal Flood: Route 385 closed between Market St. and Goodrich Rd 2:30am/30th
Smith Landing Columbia Hudson River Tidal Flood: Flooding along Maple Street 3:03am/30th
Castleton-on-Hudson Columbia Hudson River Tidal Flood: Brickyard Rd. underwater 3:55am/30th
Athens Greene Hudson River Tidal Flood: Flooding along the Hudson through Athens 4:00am/30th
Gloversville Fulton Wind damage, numerous trees and wires blown down 7:00am/30th
Emmonsburg Herkimer Wind damage, trees down on wires on Emmonsburg Rd. blocking one lane 1:50pm/30th

Much stronger sustained and wind gusts occurred along coastal areas closer to the storm's track and in the region where frictional effects of land played a much smaller role in slowing the winds. The graphic below was generated by the New York City National Weather Service office (Upton) illustrating the peak wind gust reports from Sandy as it was coming ashore

NWS New York City forecast office peak wind gusts reports 

Rain:
With the storm tracking in a west to northwest direction into the New Jersey coast, a most unusual direction, eastern upstate New York and western New England were put on the drier side of the system as the axis of excessive rains went through Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and western New York. Further reducing rainfall amounts locally was the significant downsloping of air into the valleys, the Hudson in particular, as Sandy's powerful winds came over the top of the higher terrain in New England and descended into the valley. As air sinks it compresses, warms a bit and dries. Only 0.15" of rain fell as Albany from Monday the 29th through Tuesday the 30th as the post-tropical storm moved inland only a few hundred miles to the region's south. Conversely along the east and northeast facing slopes of the southern Greene mountains in Vermont, the Berkshires, Litchfield hills, and the Catskills, upsloping occurred which enhanced rainfall amounts in pockets to as much as 1"-3". No flooding occurred anywhere in the region due to rainfall.

Storm Surge Flooding: Hudson River and Lake George:
The huge storm surge that came down Long Island sound caused water to back up the Hudson river leading to flooding in Poughkeepsie on the 29th, and then at the time of high tide in and around Catskill early Tuesday morning (2:00am to 4:00am) on the 30th. Approximately four feet of water surged into low lying areas along the Hudson in Catskill in the zone where the Catskill Creek meets the Hudson river.

On Lake George, minor flooding occurred in Lake George village from late Monday afternoon into Monday night and the very strong north to northeast winds generated by Sandy blew along the length of the lake piling water up along the south shore with high waves causing damage to docks.

Photographer: Susan Simpson Klos, via facebook: Large waves along the south shore of Lake George, in Lake George Village Monday afternoon, October 29, 2012

Photographer: Susan Simpson Klos, via facebook: Large waves along the south shore of Lake George, in Lake George Village Monday afternoon, October 29, 2012
Lake George Village, Monday afternoon 10/20/2012  Lake George Village, Monday afternoon 10/20/2012 

Storm total rainfall associated with Sandy from October 25 through November 1, 2012. Image credit: NOAA/NWS/AHPS

Storm total precipitation associated with Sandy from October 25 through November 1, 2012 

WeatherNet 6 Rainfall Reports October 29-30, 2012

Town County Rainfall Report Town County Rainfall Report
Savoy, MA Berkshire 1.60" Pittsfield, MA Berkshire 0.70"
Lanesborough, MA Berkshire 1.05" Clarksburg, MA Berkshire 0.84"
           
Latham Albany 0.32" Ravena Albany 0.26"
Preston Hollow Albany 0.72" Colonie Albany 0.19"
Green Island Albany 0.17" Glenmont Albany 0.80"
Newtonville Albany 0.17" Cohoes Albany 0.22"
           
Ghent Columbia 1.50" Chatham Columbia 1.75"
Kinderhook Columbia 0.83" Austerlitz Columbia 1.25"
Taghkanic Columbia 0.62" North Chatham Columbia 0.49"
Livingston Columbia 0.49" Hudson Columbia 0.20"
Hudson Columbia 0.20" Craryville Columbia 0.18"
           
Arkville Delaware 1.90"      
           
Gloversville Fulton 0.20" Broadalbin Fulton 0.15"
           
Maplecrest Greene 3.10" Prattsville Greene 2.96"
Greenville Greene 0.59" Earlton Greene 0.37"
Cairo Greene 0.36" Catskill Greene 0.26"
Halcott Greene 2.50" Freehold Greene 0.60"
           
Indian Lake Hamilton 1.18" Wells Hamilton 0.55"
           
Glen Montgomery 0.36" to 0.49" Amsterdam Montgomery 0.30"
Palatine Bridge Montgomery
0.33"
Hessville Montgomery 0.59"
Fonda Montgomery 0.63"      
           
Cooperstown Otsego 1.75" Cherry Valley Otsego 1.10"
E. Worcester Otsego 2.46" Worcester Otsego 1.04"
           
Lansingburgh Rensselaer 0.15" Brunswick Rensselaer 0.29"
Berlin Rensselaer 0.90" Troy Rensselaer 0.29"
Stephentown Rensselaer 0.60"      
           
Saratoga Springs Saratoga 0.20" Ballston Lake Saratoga

0.11"

Wilton Saratoga 0.17" Milton Saratoga 0.14"
Corinth Saratoga 0.34" Porter Corners Saratoga 0.14"
           
Delanson Schenectady 0.50" Duanesburg Schenectady 0.50"
           
North Blenheim Schoharie 1.18" Summit Schoharie 2.60"
Fulton Schoharie 1.00" Richmondville Schoharie 2.65"
Huntersland Schoharie 1.75" Middleburgh Schoharie 2.57"
Gilboa Schoharie 1.00" Jefferson Schoharie 0.80"
           
Saugerties Ulster 0.55" Kingston Ulster 0.43"
           
Warrensburg Warren 0.45" Brant Lake Warren 0.85"
Lake Luzerne Warren 0.40" Queensbury Warren 0.56"
           
Hebron Washington 1.04" Cossayuna Washington 0.54"
Hudson Falls Washington 0.35" Hartford Washington 0.75"
Salem Washington 0.51"      
           
Woodford, VT Bennington 2.07" W. Arlington, VT Bennington 1.14"
Danby, Vt Rutland 1.87"