Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, October 27, 2012

29th Of October, NYC (Sandy)

Maybe this storm forecast is overblown.

Maybe we're just getting hyped by the meteorologists who are looking at the models of Sandy tracking north, and then northwest as it meets up with another burst of storm energy from the north, and buying into some nightmare storm scenario that isn't going to happen.

Maybe they're wrong about a central New Jersey/NYC landfall for Sandy.

Maybe they're wrong about the nightmare storm surge that could push into New York Bay and Long Island Sound, causing widespread flooding along the coast, in downtown Manhattan, on Staten Island, on the Jersey Shore and along the Hudson County coast.

Maybe they're wrong about the tropical force winds spreading out 200 miles from the center and bringing down tons of trees and power lines along the way.

Maybe they're wrong about the 6-10 inches of rain that could fall, or the duration of the storm, which some meteorologists say could last for as long as 5 days.

Maybe they're wrong about the power going out and it taking as long as a week and a half to get it back on.

Maybe they're wrong about all of that.

But what if they're not?

It's one of the ugliest looking hurricanes you'll see, but Hurricane Hunters and satellite measurements confirm that its still tropical enough to be a hurricane... and its on track to cause a pile of trouble.

Two atmospheric processes are counteracting each other at the moment. Strong upper winds are trying to tear the storm apart, but a split in the upper flow is causing, essentially, a strong suction from above which is helping the storm keep going. This situation will likely result in some weakening... which would mean Sandy would drop below hurricane strength. But then the polar jet stream takes over and re-energizes the storm increasing the winds and growing the size. A sharp dip in the jet stream will pick up the reinvigorated Sandy and swing it toward the East Coast. At least that's the plan.

There are some ifs and maybes in that scenario, but the best computer forecast models independently insist that this is what's going to happen... and the not-so-reliable ones say the same thing. So, beginning immediately, it comes down to figuring out how to deal with it.

The ocean will rise along the coast as Sandy makes it's way north, but the biggest coastal problems will come when the center makes landfall. We're unlikely to know exactly where that will be until Monday, but this is critical. The ocean will be pushed toward the coast north of that point and away to the south. The onshore flow of water is exaggerated where bays, inlets, or the shape of the coastline focus the water to make it rise even higher. The most prominent problem spot is New York City, where Long Island and New Jersey make an "L".

Raritan Bay and New York Bay and the south end of Manhattan are especially susceptible to rising water if the center of Sandy comes ashore in New Jersey or south. Much as we saw in Irene, it is potentially a monstrous problem due to the threat to NYC infrastructure and transportation. There are tough decisions ahead for the Mayor and his people.

Right now, the odds favor that southern track. The threat from this situation is serious as a heart attack for anybody near the rising water.

Then there's the wind which is expected to be MUCH higher than Irene at the skyscraper level. The city will also have to be thinking about the threat to people in tall buildings.

The winds... expected to be at or near hurricane strength at landfall... will spread inland for hundreds of miles either side of the storm center. It's hard to imagine how millions of people are not going to be without power for an extended period of time.

Widespread rainfall of 3 to 7 inches with some places getting a foot or more will cause extremely dangerous flash flooding.

And then there's the snow. Heavy wet snow is forecast for the mountains of West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania, mixed with rain at the lower elevations.

The winds will increase Sunday night in the Tidewater of Virginia and spread north through the day on Monday. The best guess right now is that the peak winds will come in overnight Monday night... near high tide and under a full, flooding moon. A triple whammy.

Let me think, what other disastrous thing might happen. It's storm overload, I know... and nobody likes to think about these kinds of things. Nothing here is certain, of course, just becoming more likely with every new piece of data. But one thing is for sure... if this all happens as forecast, and you and your family are stuck in the cold and dark without food and light and communications because you didn't run to the store and get ready... excuses are going to spectacularly hard to come by.

Is New York City ready for this kind of hit?

Can the city handle the storm if it's as bad as feared by Bryan Norcross and some other meteorologists?

Can the city handle extended periods of rain and flooding?

Can the skyscrapers withstand seriously strong winds for a couple of days before windows start to break and plummet to the street below?

Can the subways handle the flooding?

Can the infrastructure handle extended periods of tropical force winds?

I hope the storm makes a sharp eastern turn, heads out to sea, and we never have to find out the answers to these questions in our lifetimes.

But I have to tell you, listening to Bloomberg tell us yesterday that all was well, he was on the job and so far, we should all just expect a normal Monday morning, with the subways running, schools opened, and everybody heading off to a wet but safe start to the work week, I wondered if he was just downplaying the threat to stave off unnecessary panic or if he's getting cocky because last year's response to Irene went so well.

Let's be honest, he's gotten blase about storm preparation and response before.

During the Bloomberg Blizzard of 2010, he couldn't get the outer borough streets plowed for days and told people to stop whining about this and go catch a Broadway show.

He had just gotten back from Bermuda minutes before the airport got closed for good (they actually kept the airport opened later so he could land), and his deputy mayor was coordinating the storm response from his Washington D.C townhouse, so I suppose we couldn't expect much better than that.

A few people died as a result of the mayor's inability to get the streets plowed in time.

I'm hoping Bloomberg sent the cocky part of his ego that ran the Bloomberg Blizzard of 2010 response to Bermuda for the weekend and he's on top of this the way he ought to be, with rapt attention, humility in the face of nature, and surrounded by people slightly more competent than former Deputy Mayor Steven Goldsmith, the guy who coordinated New York City's response from Georgetown.

Maybe Sandy will turn out to be nothing and all really will be well.

Maybe we'll all be at work, school or wherever on Monday saying "Gee, those weather people really blew that forecast!  What hype!"

But maybe the storm will be as bad as feared and maybe New York City really will face the kind of nightmare scenario some weather people are fearing.

If that happens, I don't want the blase Bloomberg, bored by his third term, cranky at having to deal with the day-to-day particulars of being mayor and already thinking about his post-mayoral philanthropy and political scheming, to be in charge of the storm response.

The city says it's ready.

I hope that's right.


  1. I think Bloomberg is probably right that the city is ready for Monday. From what I have seen, it's Tuesday and Wednesday we need to worry about.

  2. As of 2:00 PM today, the models are showing worst case scenario for NYC - a hit just below the city, with the worst of the winds, rains and storm surge heading directly into the city from the east to west.

  3. Just heard last press conference. I have no idea whose model predictions he is following, but not the NOAA consensus. He likely chose the best sounding one (or his fearful flunky did). He clearly reminded us that schools were open during the transit strike because minimum wage day labor needs the free babysitters (I mean equal educational opportunities for their children). He will keep them open on Monday, even with MTA shut down. Mayor to city--"Starting Sunday, stay indoors, keep out of the parks, don't do unnecessary travel--but get to school and go to work on Monday if you have no job security." Unless the parents and media get on the ball on Sunday.

  4. He better hope to fuck whatever information he has is correct, because if he's wrong, he's going to have blood on his hands.

  5. He'll find a way not to take responsibility for that too, RBE.


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