Sandy, the largest tropical storm system on record, made landfall along the coast of southern New Jersey, battering New York with hurricane-force wind gusts.
The powerful wintry storm came ashore near Atlantic City at 8 p.m. New York time yesterday and by 9 p.m. the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was receiving reports of hurricane-force gusts over Long Island and New York metropolitan areas. Sandy is no longer a hurricane because it’s drawing energy from temperature differences and not the ocean, making the transition to a superstorm that may push a wall of water ashore in the Northeast and lash the East with wind, rain and snow.
Sandy was centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Philadelphia, moving west-northwest at 15 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, down from 75 mph earlier, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said in an advisory issued at 5 a.m. New York time. It’s forecast to move across Pennsylvania and pass into New York state later today.
Rains of as much as 12 inches are soaking the mid-Atlantic states, and 3 feet (0.9 meters) of snow may fall in the Appalachians. A flood gauge in New York City’s Battery Park, at the southernmost end of Manhattan, registered 13.46 feet as of 8:30 p.m. The National Weather Service said the modern record was 10.02 feet in September 1960 during Hurricane Donna.
Sandy’s winds had stretched to about 1,100 miles from end to end yesterday, the hurricane center said. A wind gust to 90 mph was reported at Islip, New York, and to 89 mph in Surf City, New Jersey, according to the hydrometeorological center.
Tides along the coast will be near their peak when the storm goes ashore, which may mean record amounts of water washing onto land, according to Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“These may be the highest storm tides ever recorded going back a century,” Masters said yesterday. “We’re looking, potentially, at a very expensive disaster for New York City.”
Sandy is so large that the storm will impact the East Coast from Maine to Virginia, according to Masters.
“The timing certainly matters, but the location isn’t that important because some of the strongest winds are quite a ways removed from the center,” he said. “It’s a superstorm, it’s aptly named in terms of its size, its low central pressure, the weird angle it’s taking, the lateness of the season.”