Five years ago this evening, the costliest storm on record in the northeastern United States made landfall. In reflecting on Sandy, a few things stand out in my mind…
The center of circulation came into my home state of New Jersey, but the storm’s effects were far-reaching, with ocean impacts well away from the center, powerful winds all the way to the Midwest, even big amounts of snow in the Appalachians despite Sandy having been a hurricane from the tropics.
In particular, the coastal flooding from surge and waves was much worse across an expansive zone along the coast than it would have been with a storm of the same wind speeds but more compact in size. That’s been demonstrated with other hurricanes such as Ike (2008) and Katrina (2005), which were large, whereas Charley (2004) was tiny and had less of a storm surge impact than is typical with a hurricane of Category 4 wind strength at landfall.
And Sandy had tropical storm force winds extending across a breadth of approximately 1000 miles while at sea, the largest such diameter on record.
NOT A HURRICANE?
Sandy was officially forecast to be, and then classified as, non-tropical at the time of landfall (despite the deep “warm core” as illustrated in the meteorological chart above).
As a result hurricane warnings were not issued. It was a very controversial decision, and one of the things which pushed me over the edge to post an article with wording as strong as it was including alluding to the lack of hurricane warnings, which in turn got me quite a reaction!
The good news is that one of the rule changes since then, this made specifically as a result of Sandy and implemented with the 2013 hurricane season, is that watches and warnings can be issued and remain in effect after a tropical cyclone becomes “post-tropical.”
THE EURO NAILED SANDY
That’s become a meteorological meme, as the ECMWF (European forecast model) did essentially nail the Sandy forecast eight days in advance, well ahead of the American GFS model.
The saying is sometimes laced with a bit of sarcasm, as the ECMWF is not always the best with every weather system, and isn’t usually so remarkably accurate that far in advance, but was and still is the most consistently reliable model, to this day — literally (it did the best job of anticipating the behavior of Philippe this weekend as it approached Florida).