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Hurricane Sandy surge could flood New York runways and subways

Hurricane Sandy brings strong winds and rain, but for the New York area, the biggest concern may be the storm surge, which could come ashore in some places as a 13-foot wall of water.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / October 29, 2012

The storm surge from hurricane Sandy beats against a beachside building in Shinnecock Hills, N.Y. Monday.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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New York

Storm experts say the worst damage from hurricane Sandy is likely to be from the storm surge, a wall of water that will sweep in with the high tide, engulfing homes, businesses, and anything else in its way.

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The surge pushed ashore by the storm could be as high as 13 feet in places such as Stamford, Conn., and Staten Island, N.Y., according to estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Full-moon tides could add another foot, and near-hurricane-force wind gusts could produce 20-foot waves.

Experts say the surge could put some runways at New York-area airports under water and perhaps flood New York subways with seawater, leading to costly electrical damage.

“The surge is going to be near-record and, in a few places, record levels,” says James Aman, a meteorologist at Earth Networks, the parent of the Weather Bug.

The implications of a large surge are that some shoreline communities could be flooded, possibility resulting in life-threatening situations for residents who did not evacuate.

On Monday, Norwalk, Conn., residents Fred and Lisa Clarke left their home on the Norwalk River just in time.

“We left a little before high tide, and water was just crashing over the sea wall,” says Mr. Clarke. “There was only one road out from our house, and we just barely made it.”

On Monday morning at a press conference, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy implored residents to evacuate before the worst of the storm hit. He said the storm would bring two times more water into Long Island Sound than hurricane Irene.

The two most worrisome areas, says Mr. Aman, are western Long Island Sound, especially around LaGuardia airport, and Raritan Bay, which is close to Newark airport in New Jersey. “The latest NOAA information indicates there could be a 13 foot surge in those areas,” he says. “That would put part of the runways under water.”

The prospect of a surge of water prompted New York to shut down its subway service and close the Holland Tunnel and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg said bus and subway service would be shut down on Tuesday, as well. Financial markets will be closed for a second consecutive day Tuesday.

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