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Hurricane Sandy open thread

[2012-10-30 1:30PM I'm leaving this sticky because even though I can't -- snarl -- find a current projection for Sandy's path, it's still blundering northward and no doubt causing plenty of damage. --lambert]

[2012-10-29 4:45PM EST Sandy is now predicted to make landfall in southern NJ this evening, so the 'left turn" predicted took place. Apparently, an "eye" did not form, making Sandy no longer technically a hurricane. In my non-expert interpretation, that doesn't decrease the dangers we already know, but does mean that Sandy can't intensify... Which is a good thing, I guess! --lambert]

How y'all doing? Sandy is now a very slow-moving tropical storm instead of a hurricane, but it seems to me that such a massive and unprecedented weather system is a 500-pound gorilla: It can do anything it wants. Turn back into a hurricane, forget about that oddball lleft turn into New Jersey and barrel up the coast... Who knows?

Anyhow, I'm following Dr. Jeff Masters on Weather Underground, because the sensationalism of and the networks reminds me of security theatre. If you're a weather geek, you'll like this:

Intensity and Track Forecast for Sandy
Sandy has a rather unusual structure, with the strongest winds on the southwest side of the center, but a larger area of tropical storm-force winds to the northeast of the center. Most of the storm's heavy thunderstorm activity is on the storm's west side, in a thick band several hundred miles removed from the center, giving Sandy more the appearance of a subtropical storm rather than a hurricane. Satellite loops show that the low-level center of Sandy is no longer exposed to view, and heavy thunderstorms are increasing in areal extent near the center, due to a reduction in wind shear from 35 - 40 knots last night to 25 - 30 knots this morning. Wind shear is expected to drop another 5 knots today, which may allow the storm to build an increased amount of heavy thunderstorms near its center and intensify by 5 - 10 mph over the next 24 hours. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters noted this morning that Sandy had a partial eyewall on the west through SE sides of the center, and the storm may be able to build a nearly complete eyewall by Monday morning. By Monday afternoon, though, Sandy will be moving over cool 25°C waters, which should slow down this intensification process. However, the trough of low pressure that will be pulling Sandy to the northwest towards landfall on Monday will strengthen the storm by injecting "baroclinic" energy--the energy one can derive from the atmosphere when warm and cold air masses lie in close proximity to each other. Sandy should have sustained winds at hurricane force, 75 - 80 mph, at landfall. Sandy's central pressure is expected to drop from its current 951 mb to 945 - 950 mb at landfall Monday night. A pressure this low is extremely rare; according to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, NC, is 946 mb (27.94") measured at the Bellport Coast Guard Station on Long Island, NY on September 21, 1938 during the great "Long Island Express" hurricane. The latest set of 00Z (8 pm EDT) and 06Z (2 am EDT) computer model runs are in agreement that Sandy will make landfall between 10 pm Monday night and 4 am Tuesday morning in New Jersey.

I have to confess to an ignoble and premature relief that the track isn't the same as Irene's -- straight at Maine, though Irene later deflected. Really shameful, this "Take them, not me!" attitude, though all too human and I suppose the flip side of the sort of attitude that thinks God was on their side when they won that high school football game. But perhaos I project my own anxieties for myself and what's become of the country.

This humongous, slow-moving, never-goes-away storm... Metaphor for the election? The economy? What?

And, pragmaticallly, what's to do? Windows? Batteries? Sump pumps? Water? I do remember reading somewhere that you should bring water to a rollling boil to purify it, which coffee makers do not do!

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Submitted by lambert on

"If you protect yourself from Hurricane Sandy, you're objectively supporting other tropical storms."

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Submitted by chezmadame on

I'm a Long Island school tomorrow, but I don't feel the adolescent glee that I would for a snow day.

All of rational NYC is closing Broadway shows tonight or tomorrow, subways stopping service at 7:00 tonight, mandatory evacuations in every borough except the Bronx.

As of now, the NYSE is still planning normal operations tomorrow. Greedy idiots.

Submitted by hipparchia on

the red cross has some good information on preparing for sandy, and check the emergency preparedness websites for your county or city for specific measures, including shelters to evacuate to, if necessary.

whatever you've done in the past to prepare for a snow storm, ice storm, or blizzard will also come in handy here.

flooding is a problem with hurricanes and one that gets too little attention when the mainstream media talks about hurricanes. read here, here, here about floods, but basically - STAY OUT OF FLOOD WATERS! any floodwater can be contaminated with sewage and may even have live electrical lines in it. moving water can sweep you of your feet, and can even wash your car off the road if you're trying to drive through it. flood waters wash out roads and bridges and while that road or bridge that you can see under the water may look like it's still there, the water may have already undermined the foundation and made it unsafe and unstable.

yep, if you get a "boil water notice" you need to keep the water at a rolling boil for 2 minutes. i've also read other sources that say 5 minutes is the minimum time.

re coffeemakers... if the storm knocks out your electricity, you probably won't be able to use your coffeemaker anyway. :) but you're correct, drip coffeemakers don't keep the water at a full rolling boil for 2+ minutes. pragmatically, if the coffeemaker is all you have, it's possibly better than nothing, but water disinfection is why i always make sure i have a new bottle of bleach on hand when a hurricane threatens.

batteries... good to have on hand for small electricity-dependent items - flashlights, especially - but also consider extra batteries for computers, cell phones, alarm clocks, hearing aids, pacemakers, ...

cell phones may or may not work - it will depend on whether the towers/antennas your particular phone accesses got damaged by the storm.

water... you can always clean your bathtub really well and rinse out the cleaner really well, then fill the bathtub with water. i've lived probably 95% of my life in hurricane alley, and been through several epic hurricanes, and have had to resort to actually using bathtub water exactly once. still, it's a cheap and easy way to have some water on hand if you're worried [and yes, you should boil/disinfect it before using it for drinking, teethbrushing, etc]. bottom line: you DON'T have to go to the store and stand in line for hours and pay through the nose for pricy bottled water.

CASH! if the electricity goes out or communication lines are down, the atm machines, and store cash registers and debit card readers and credit card readers too, don't work.

CAN OPENER! yes, people really do stock up on canned food and then forget that their electric can opener will not work if the electricity goes off.

pets, especially cats. especially if you think you might have to evacuate, you'll want them already in their individual carriers before the storm starts, but even if you're planning to hunker down and stay home, you have one less thing to worry about if a tree limb comes crashing down through the roof. stock up on their food, water, medications and cat/dog litter (also trash bags to dump used cat litter into, and extra, clean litter pans are nice to have on hand if you expect to be stranded for quite some time). and if you don't have id tags for them, you can always use a sharpie or fabric paint or other indelible ink/paint marker to write your name, address and/or phone number on their collars.

more pets. some evacuation shelters take pets now, because the emergency preparedness people finally got it through their thick heads that people regard their pets as family and won't leave if they have to leave their pets behind. quite often these shelters require that your pet be in a carrier/crate/cage and, if it's a dog or cat, have proof of vaccinations.

cat litter, that reminds me... stock up on toilet paper. also, the extra water in your bathtub can be used to flush the toilet if the water supply to your house is cut off, but beware, in cases of flooding, the used water in your toilet might not have anywhere to go to!

do your laundry, wash your dishes. along with the can opener, people forget that their washers, dryers, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, hot water heaters, etc will not work if the electricity goes off.

windows. confession: i no longer board up my windows for anything less than a category 3 hurricane, but if your area is expecting high winds and you can do this, you should. meanwhile, bring in all lawn/porch/patio/pool furniture, yard ornaments, bbq grills, outdoor umbrellas, hanging bird feeders, wind chimes, etc - anything the wind can possibly pick up and fling through your windows. if your neighbors are out of town, pick up all their yard/porch stuff too - the windows you save may be your own! :)

get your prescription medications refilled [and your pets' medicines too] if they're going to run out in the next few days or week or two. some insurance companies balk at paying for refills too "early" but your pharmacy may sell you a partial or complete refill if you pay out of pocket.

got a gas stove? if the electricity goes out the stove will still work, but the ignition won't work. you'll need matches or one of those bbq grill lighters to light it.

if you've got a generator, DON'T RUN IT INDOORS! also, don't run it "outdoors" in a partially-enclosed space, like a mostly enclosed porch next to your house. you don't need to survive the storm only to kill yourself with carbon monoxide poisoning.

speaking of which, after one hurricane i had some neighbors who had thrown a hurricane party and were quite drunk and stoned and high and were running their generator on a mostly-enclosed porch, with the window open. i went over there to suggest they move the generator (i even offered to help) but they rather belligerently refused. mostly, people who run their generators in ways and places they shouldn't just don't know better and are happy to have you save their lives if you point this out gently to them. otherwise, you can always call 911 (i did) or the sheriff or the police or the fire dept or the maintenance or security person for your complex or SOMEBODY, because even the stupid idiots of this world don't deserve to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.


Submitted by Lex on

As an industrial hygienist, don't fuck with CO. It's amazing how quickly CO levels will spike to well above the OSHA PEL. I've been watching it happen in localized areas inside an industrial building from just a power washer or two. And it doesn't move very well, as exemplified by it not dispersing rapidly enough for a 4-gas meter to lose it in a 3.5 M cubic foot building that's currently engineered to exchange all that air 4 times/hour.

Yes, 14M cubic feet of air every hour and one power washer will still produce elevated levels of CO in localized areas. Opening a window or cracking the garage door while you run your generator ain't gonna cut it.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i did the safety officer thing for several years, which means i took a couple of courses but didn't get the degree or certification and consulted with one of the real industrial hygienists when writing up my safety plans.

yep, carbon monoxide is pretty close to air, weight-wise, so basically you can't count on it rising up to the ceiling or sinking down to the floor, it just kinda hangs out wherever it finds itself.

Submitted by Lex on

Health & Safety isn't my strong suit. I get the air quality end of it, and the biggies like confined space, but my anti-authoritarian streak takes over when confronted with the minutia of OSHA regs.

I'm more the asbestos, Pb/Cd, PCB, various other nastiness workers can be exposed to as they go about working. And as i like to say periodically, "Stand back, motherfuckers, I'm about to do science!"

Submitted by hipparchia on

"Stand back, motherfuckers, I'm about to do science!"

i am sooooooooo stealing this one.

i started out in life as a scientist, having grown up in the era of moon walks and jacques cousteau, but made the mistake of entering the workforce with treehugging degrees in hand during the reagan/bush years. starving artists have nothing on environmental scientists. fortunately one day somebody said to me you know what ppm is, you're now our new safety officer, go take this course. so i did. kind of along the lines of "Stand back, motherfuckers, I'm about to do safety!" :)

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Submitted by Bryan on

Since it is cold up that way, I just had to explain to a friend of a friend who is in this mess that bringing the gas grill inside for cooking and heat was not the greatest idea since sliced bread.

If you have a really good, known to be working carbon monoxide detector, then you might try it, but those grills are not tested for enclosed spaces. At best it will set off all of your smoke detectors if it hasn't been cleaned thoroughly.

Every year I lived in Southern California there would be reports of people dying in the back of pickup trucks because they were using an hibachi to provide heat during a cold snap.

Make friends and put on some more clothes is a better plan than gassing yourself.

Submitted by jcasey on

and thanks for mentioning the critters who need also need attention.

I hope everyone stays safe (and dry!). Down here (central Texas) we have several people drown every year trying to drive through "shallow" flood water. Just turn around.

A couple of additional notes about water purification. 8-16 drops of liquid bleach per gallon; let it stand for an hour. You should be able to smell the chlorine (just slightly). If not, add more bleach and repeat.

Submitted by hipparchia on

another important thing that i forgot - actual instructions on using bleach. thank you!

i think i read somewhere that about half the hurricane-related deaths in the u.s. are from the flooding afterwards, not the storm itself.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

storm, but since I'll be signed off until later this evening, allow me to express my sincere wish that you all have the best possible outcome, over the next couple of days and weeks.

Having grown up in hurricane alley, lived in tornado alley, and also lived in one of the most earthquake-prone parts of the North American continent, I am very simpatico with your predicament.

hipparchia's (and others) info was excellent. I'll save it for another day, since it seems that only cold weather and gusty winds will come our way.

Stay safe, and Godspeed.


DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

are holding up, for which I am grateful. I have not prepared for this storm. I am hoping that I am far away from the eyewall will save me. stay safe everyone!

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Submitted by Jay on

Wind is picking up. Don't know if you've seen the animations but the clouds coming out of the east in the Atlantic are incredibly fast. Gusts are becoming disturbing. 500-lb branch broke off a tree and was tossed abt. 70 feet, just missing the power line. Neighbor's big tree, a 40 foot maple, fell on his electrical line. Just missed his house. Wind gusts are whipping the trees around. Having seen the branch fly away through the window, it feels a bit like walking on the side of the highway having big rigs whip by you 2-3 feet away.

Submitted by Lex on

Too late now, but another potential prep kit addition would be buying the water purifiers (pump or tablet) used by backpackers. I'm not sure why you'd need to boil the water held in a bathtub since that was potable water when it came out of the faucet, but i drink Lake Superior water all day that's had nothing but mechanical filtration and a drop of chlorine ... not sure how you folks that drink out of rivers and the like even manage to live. And i don't hesitate to drink straight Lake Superior water without filtration. Don't know about e. coli and others, but filters will remove giardia, and that would be my biggest concern.

If it's that bad that you're forced to drink potentially sewage contaminated water, sure, filter and then boil. But if you're that far into disaster, you're probably pretty fucked in any case.

If it was me, most of my prep kit would come from camping supplies and my food stuffs would be heavily planned like backpacking (easy, little energy input to prepare, etc.) to be cooked with a white gas camp stove. I'd even go so far as to pitch a tent inside the house if i lost heat. A few people tucked into a tent will be warmer than you could ever make your bedroom with a pile of blankets.

Submitted by lambert on

I just took in all the lawn furniture.

Submitted by hipparchia on

but might or might not stay that way, bathrooms are not the cleanest places, and the residual chlorine in tap water doesn't stay there very long.

sure, if you have no way to boil the water and no bleach or filtration or water purification pills and are in danger of dehydrating, drink the damn water!

but even a mild case of dysentery when there's no heat, light and running water and trees are falling and floodwaters are rising is a pain.

Submitted by lambert on

Fortunately, only my neighborhood, and not the town or the region.

So I walked over to the University to use their WiFi... First world problem!

So, I have a kerosene lamp, it's warm, the unit I live in is heated with wood. But... I don't want to do this any more.

Submitted by hipparchia on

it's excellent, in fact. and may no tree limbs fall on you.

But... I don't want to do this any more.

i hear ya. i've been through only one ice storm ever, stranded in some podunk motel in the boonies, where the lights and tv and water stayed on but no heat for 3 days and the only food i had for the first 36 hours was the 2 apples and 6 bagels i had with me. my brain just refuses to even contemplate combining something like that with the rain and wind and flooding of a hurricane.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Have a client on 14th in NYC . Power out from 39th and south. All dark. So no more news from her. she was offered a place on 57th st, but decided to stay. one block away from her a whole facade of a building fell off. Another friend was evacuated from battery park up to 52nd least he has a mini bar.

Submitted by lambert on

So now I have all my electronic gizmos again. Here is Sandy:


As you can see, I'm being grazed by the outer edge of a storm system that's centered on the New York area.

And -- for you non-East Coasters, Maine is not a tiny New England state. Bangor is about 500 miles away from New York, or about a day's journey (using modern transport).

And yet I am part of the same weather system.

I think somebody's trying to send us a message.

Submitted by lambert on

I can't navigate the NOAA site for beans.

The last track I saw, showed Sandy curving East again and moving over Bangor on Friday. Now it seems to be blundering due north. So, thank you!

The Gulf of Maine warming up?

Submitted by hipparchia on

yeah, noaa/nhc, not the most user-friendly sites ever developed, but you should have seen them in their earlier incarnations...

this is the best i could find on maine

chezmadame's picture
Submitted by chezmadame on

In my part of Long Island we still have no power, and there are gas lines that snake down major roads for a half a mile or longer.

We were very lucky. Our house and cars are OK. We have hot and cold water, a radio, and batteries. A neighbor with a generator has been charging our phones, and I have intermittent wifi. We also have a fireplace, so we're better off than many.

My family on Staten Island is OK, as are my families in Tom's River and Keyport, NJ.
My son in Sound Beach, LI actually has power, and a coworker from Breezy Point did not lose her house to the massive fire.

The National Guard is giving out free gas starting later today not far from where I live, so we expect chaos on our local roads.

It is not lost on anyone here that the people who really count in the city (Manhattanites in the right neighborhoods) were taken care of quickly. People in public housing projects are reported to be suffering greatly. My son who is NYPD has been detailed to Staten Island where the storm took a terrible, deadly toll.

I don't know if we'll be able to vote on Tuesday. My area's estimate for power restoration is next weekend.

Submitted by hipparchia on

It is not lost on anyone here that the people who really count in the city (Manhattanites in the right neighborhoods) were taken care of quickly. People in public housing projects are reported to be suffering greatly.

at some point the rich are going to realize that it really costs them so very little to keep poor people from dying in the streets. sometimes they even figure this out before things reach the heads-on-pikes stage.