Frankenstorm: Final Impacts

Everything I warned about here became a reality on Monday and then some.

Let’s just list the expected impacts that I cited as early as Wednesday and confidently predicted by Friday and then compare with what actually occurred:

  • The Hurricane Center guilty of negligent homicide for not issuing hurricane warnings
    • On radar, the storm clearly presented as tropical when it made landfall, though you could see it evolving to a more extra-tropical look within an hour or two of making landfall.  The storm has killed at least 52 people in the US at last report and those numbers will rise when rescuers are able to reach Fire Island, where hundreds are missing. Hundreds who may not have evacuated because all they saw were (strongly worded) high wind warnings and coastal flood warnings.  Hurricane is a dirty word to coastal residents.  They generally take such things very seriously.  But we get high wind warnings 3-4 times a year on average and coastal flood warnings a few times per winter, and neither of those things sound as scary as this was to anyone watching with real knowledge of what was about to happen.  Those deaths – though not entirely the fault of the Hurricane Center – should weigh heavily on the souls of the forecasters at the NHC.
  • Overall: more than 10 billion in damage
    • Actual damage estimates STARTED at 20 billion and are increasing from there – total damage in the US may now be as high as 55 billion – about half the toll of Hurricane Katrina (108 billion).
  • In excess of 10 inches of rain in Virginia, the southern Delmarva Peninsula and Central Maryland and Pennsylvania possible
    • Maximum rainfall recorded in the Mid Atlantic: 11.21″ at Anapolis, MD – the town badly flooded.  I also predicted 4-8 inches of rain in DC proper and those folks got a good 6-7 inches for the most part.
  • Record storm surges in N Staten Island, NE NJ, the Western parts of Long Island, the NY Battery and the East Bronx – up to 12 feet of water – flooded subway and rail tunnels, flooding in lower Manhattan and the East Bronx
    • Water rose to 14.1 feet above MLLW at the Battery – a surge of 8.95 feet – shattering the old record by more than 3 feet.  7 subway stations, including three major hubs were indeed flooded as well as tunnels used by Amtrak for Northeast Regional service.  Manhattan flooded up to 4 feet of water by the Battery and the streets filled with water as far north as the Financial district.  The Bronx (East River) flooding has never been seen before at these levels.  Staten Island recorded record surges as well.  The surge was so bad along the South shore of Long Island that some parts of S Nassau County lost sewer service and the fecal material contaminated their water supply.  Surges along the North Shore were mercifully reduced just a bit by the timing of the storm’s arrival, but in Eastern Long Island, they still managed to overtop both forks utterly devastate places like Jamesport and Riverhead.
  • Possibly up to a foot of snow in the higher elevations of the Catskills, Poconos, and Blueridge Mountains as well as the high terrain of West Virginia
    • Bluefield, WV – elevation 750 feet – recorded over a foot of snow.  The moutainous terrain actually saw upwards of 4 feet of snow in places, and a number of low lying towns in VA, PA and NC, from Asheville, NC to Richmond, VA, to State College, PA saw wet snow as the system wound down (though not to accumulate below about 500 feet)
  • Winds gusting to hurricane force over a large area and well inland, tropical storm force wind gusts as far SW as DC and as far NE as down-east Maine
    • Newark, NJ – 75 mph top gust
    • Groton, CT – 75
    • New London, CT – 82
    • LaGuardia Apt, NY – 88
    • Islip, NY – 90
    • Montawk, NY – 92
    • Eaton’s Neck, NY – 96
    • Philadelphia, PA – 62
    • Albany, NY – 59
    • Danbury,. CT – 63
    • Boston, MA – 62
    • Worcester, MA – 52
    • Concord, NH – 55
    • Baltimore, MD – 49
    • Washington, DC – 43
  • Wind damage could include structural damage to buildings in a few hard hit places, as well as blown-out windows in NYC high rises, on top of the usual tree and tower damage you see in most high wind events
    • Many reports of blown out windows in lower Manhattan and the Bronx, and even more in Queens and Brooklyn, closer to the heart of the storm
    • Roofs torn off houses, shingles turned into projectiles, cars blown off roads and masts and sails torn from boats all over Long Island, especially in the vicinity of Western Suffolk County (Islip, Eaton’s Neck, Centereach, Huntington areas) where winds gusted to 90+ mph.
    • Downed trees, power poles, and power lines the rule, not the exception through southern New England and the tri-state area.  Upwards of 50 transformers in my home township alone exploded and became wind-driven torches.  Wind-swept fires in the Rockaways and in Queens spread out of control destroying hundreds of homes.  Nearly 6 million people lost power and nearly 4 million still do not have power as of Thursday.
I would say this qualifies as the kind of forecast you never want to be right about, but yet terribly hope to be, because perhaps, when the next big storm threatens, the people in your town will heed your warnings and prepare.  Despite a lackluster showing from the Hurricane Center (though, to the credit of the HWRF model, the center did come ashore further south than the bulk of the operational mesoscale models this time), the Weather Service tried to get the word out.  People now generally report surprise and frustration with the lack of warning for just how bad this was going to be.  The media is filled with stories of how unexpected this all was.  Next time, hopefully the Hurricane Center will issue hurricane warnings for a category 2 hurricane hitting NYC.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  But in the absence of that, it has been over 20 years since a nor’easter had this kind of devastating impact on the region – perhaps now people will remember for a little while, at least, that – whether it’s tropical or not – marine storms can kill.
My thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their homes, their loved ones or their possessions and to those who still have not had contact with loved ones in harm’s way.

2 thoughts on “Frankenstorm: Final Impacts

  1. Hm…I was looking at the regional airport roundup…I'll confirm by looking at hourlies.

    It wouldn't surprise me…I underestimated the extent of tropical storm force winds…there were tropical storm conditions in Buffalo and Pittsburgh from the far outer bands. It was so cold aloft that the air became unstable and mixed high momentum air down to the surface.


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