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Hurricane Sandy is already setting records (+video)

Hurricane Sandy already has surpassed hurricane Lili in 1996 as the second largest Atlantic storm in 24 years of storm-size recordkeeping. The size of the storm and its path are intensifying deep concerns about coastal flooding from storm surge.

By Staff writer / October 28, 2012


Hurricane Sandy is working its way up the US East Coast, yet even before it moves ashore it's a storm for the record books.

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The storm already has surpassed hurricane Lili in 1996 as the second largest Atlantic storm in 24 years of storm-size recordkeeping. Using tropical-storm-force as the benchmark, such winds briefly extended up to 520 nautical miles from Sandy's center earlier on Sunday. The latest advisory puts that figure at 450 nautical miles, while hurricane-force winds extend up to 175 nautical miles.

At landfall, currently forecast for overnight Monday or early Tuesday morning, the atmospheric pressure at the center of the storm – a measure of Sandy's intensity – is expected to fall within a range that ultimately could match the devastating hurricane of 1938, notes Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for the Weather Underground.

The size of the storm and its path, which currently has Sandy's center beginning its sharp turn for the New Jersey coast Monday morning, are intensifying already deep concerns about coastal flooding from storm surge.

Sandy "is going to produce very high, potentially life-threatening storm surge … that may require additional evacuations today," said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during a press briefing Sunday.

The combined water height from storm surge and high tide is expected to range from 4 to 8 feet above ground level along a stretch of coast running from Ocean City, Md., to the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

But, he adds, hot spots along the coast – Long Island Sound, New York Harbor, and Raritan Bay, for instance – could see surges of from six to 11 feet. Surge forecast maps from the National Hurricane Center and the Ocean Prediction Center point to a surge of at least three feet perhaps working its way up the Hudson River as far as Albany, N.Y. The coastline from New Jersey to Massachusetts' Cape Cod forms a funnel that will receive water the spinning storm's winds have swept around from its southwestern flank. Raritan Bay, New York Harbor, and western Long Island Sound form the pointy end of the funnel.

Storm surge does not take into account the height of waves that the storm whips up atop the surge. Moreover, forecasters are concerned that surge levels and pounding surf will remain high over several high-tide cycles.

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