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Tom McCarthy, Sunday 28th October 2012 15:30
We're going to wrap up our live blog coverage of Hurricane Sandy for the day. We'll pick up our live coverage in the morning.
For local emergency services follow the links in the sub-headline above. Here's a summary of where things stand:
• Hurricane Sandy is moving past North Carolina and is expected to bring gale-force winds to the mid-Atlantic coast starting tomorrow morning. Those winds are expected to grow to hurricane force by tomorrow evening.
• Sandy is an exceptionally powerful storm that could produce surges of 4-8 feet along the Atlantic coast and up to 11 feet in the New York area. Rainfall predictions range from 4 inches to 12 inches. Substantial snowfall is expected in the southern mountains.
• Flooding is a major threat. Ten million could lose power.
• New York City has issued a mandatory evacuation for hundreds of thousands of residents of low-lying areas and will close public transportation this evening.
• Public transportation, schools and some offices will be closed throughout the region Monday. Authorities advise residents in the affected area to stay near home and wait the storm out.
• Residents are advised to keep their devices charged and to stock up on food and water. People with homes near evacuation areas are encouraged to prepare to-go bags with essentials should they need to move quickly.
Once again that map of NYC evacuation zones is here.
Another framing of that NASA picture of the storm. Big.
Ten reasons "historic" Hurricane Sandy is not being overhyped, by our forecaster Harry Enten:
You keep hearing meteorologists and public officials use phrases "amazing", "historic", and "never seen" to describe the storm. There's a chance that people view this storm as overhyped. I, however, feel that most of the warnings are well deserved.
Why? Here's a list of 10 statistics that will likely make this storm one to remember.
5. 951 millibars – Sandy's extremely low pressure ensures that the storm will be long lasting, massive in scope, and windy all over the place. The lowest low pressure to ever hit New Jersey was 961 millibars. The pressure in New York City right now is 1007 millibars. Hurricane Isaac, which hit New Orleans earlier this year, had a minimum low pressure of only 968 millibars.
The governors are on Twitter. Chris Christie takes up more than his share of space:
My colleague Ewen MacAskill notes a UN closure tomorrow:
Due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, United Nations offices in New York will be closed on Monday, 29 October 2012. All meetings at Headquarters have been cancelled. The closure may be extended to Tuesday, 30 October 2012.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is back with an update:
"If you live in Zone A and have not yet evacuated, it's crucial that you do so as soon as possible... I can't stress enough that this is for your own safety.
He encourages people to go to shelters using public transportation as there's no parking. Which he then notes won't be possible for long since public transportation is shutting down -- trains at 7pm, buses at 9pm. Special buses are carrying people from NYC Housing Authority residences in the evac zone, Bloomberg says.
Elevators and power in NYCHA buildings in the evac zone will be shut off, he says. That's a lot of people facing a big ordeal.
Cruise ships have been diverted from NYC. Outdoor filming permits have been rescinded. All public libraries will be closed.
In response to a reporter's question, the mayor says Rikers Island prison is on elevated ground and there's no need to evacuate prisoners. No one will escape Rikers, he says.
He says there's no plans to close any bridges and tunnels at the moment.
Bloomberg says high tide in the New York area falls at midnight tonight, then every 12 hours. He says that there are no plans to expand the evacuation zone because the prediction for maximum storm surge has not changed.
The NASA Earth Observatory takes a picture of Sandy. That tiny line at lower left represents 100 kilometers. Huge storm.
Amtrak has now cancelled all Northeast Corridor service for Monday. Montgomery County in Maryland has declared a state of emergency. Fairfax County in Virginia has cancelled school tomorrow.
Hurricane Sandy's path in the 2pm NHC update.
Matt Wells talks with shoppers jockeying for pantry-fillers at Whole Foods in Manhattan. Not everyone foresees the onset of the apocalypse:
Grace Lin, who lives just outside the evacuation zone ordered by the mayor said she was taking in friends from nearby. "There will be four adults and four children, and we are two adults and two children, so it's going to be pretty cosy," she said.
Residents of the area had made similar preparations for Irene. But Lin said this storm appeared to be worse and that she had particular concerns about power outages.
"People are taking it more seriously than last time. The biggest issue for our friends is the elevators not working, not the flooding."
Others in lower Manhattan, however, were determined to stay put. Kevin Heeney, 28, was stocking up with bottled water, but had no plans to move out: "We're going to stick it out," he said.
Emerging from Whole Foods laden with bags of groceries, Danny and Laura Fletcher, a British couple who had just moved to the city, were scepical of the reaction of New Yorkers. "We've just bought a big roast lunch," said Danny Fletcher. "I don't think it's going to be that bad. But it's panic stations in there," he said.
Still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti now faces dozens of deaths and severe destruction from Sandy. Mudslides destroyed homes, sending upwards of 5,000 people into already overcrowded emergency encampments, according to the government. Roads were destroyed. There is widespread flooding.
Cuba also finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the AFP reports:
In Cuba, among the Caribbean nations harder hit by the storm system, President Raul Castro inspected damage in the central provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus, official state media reported Sunday.
"We have had a major hurricane, a little Flora in the center of the country," Castro was quoted as saying in state media ahead of a visit to even harder hit Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second largest city.
Hurricane Flora was one of the deadliest to hit Cuba in the 20th century, killing about 1,200 people in 1963.
Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has been tweeting pictures of aid distribution:
A Guardian photo gallery of preparations in advance of Hurricane Sandy is here.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced mandatory evacuations for Atlantic City and the Barrier Islands. Earlier the governor shut down gaming activity in the state. New Jersey Transit will begin a service suspension tonight.
"For better or for worse now, after three years as governor, I've dealt with a lot of these. So we're ready," he says. "If we work together we can minimize the loss of life."
The governor was dressed in an official coat with his name on it.
The anticipated arrival of the storm in Washington, D.C.
New Jersey Transit is suspending service starting this afternoon.
With a week to go before the election, the president faces a regional emergency. Earlier the Obama camp cancelled events in Virginia and Colorado.
Maryland has cancelled early voting for tomorrow, Governor Martin O'Malley (a Democrat) announces. Early voting continues today in Maryland until 6pm.
The governor says the National Guard has been mobilized, including a fleet of 500 Humvees. Downtown Ocean City, Maryland, has been evacuated as have other areas.
In the Wall Street Journal Eric Holthaus has a county-by-county breakdown of what to expect from Sandy in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut:
Bottom line: this is an extremely serious storm, and hurricane-like conditions are expected throughout the region. Coastal storm surge flooding — especially in New York City where winds will act to funnel seawater — is by far the biggest threat from Sandy. Expect extreme beach erosion and possibly record water levels along the East River and in New York Harbor. This will also be a long-duration event, with tropical storm force conditions expected to last for at least 36 hours across much of the tri-state.
President Obama has declared an emergency in the state of Maryland and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts. Governor Martin O'Malley is holding a press conference on emergency measures there. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is doing the same:
Guardian correspondent Dominic Rushe reports on the semi-scramble to buy food in NYC:
There are huge lines at the Key Food in fashionable Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as residents stock up on food, beer and by cereal. Holding a single basket filled with peanut butter, bread, jelly, granola, pasta and hummus, Jordan Breighner admits this is the most food he can remember buying in one go.
“Thankfully I am not on the first floor,” he says. Breighner was here for hurricane Irene, which didn’t really hit New York City, and said he was concerned people might not take this storm seriously. “I’m not panicking but I’m prepared.”
Others seemed to be setting up for a long-haul. Two 20-something women were buying two 16-roll packs of toilet tissue. “I haven’t done any shopping for a while,” she said, looking embarrassed. “I wonder if she bought a lot of coffee too,” quips another shopper.
An unscientific survey of people’s baskets suggests if the worse happens, locals will be living on beer, cereal and hummus for some days to come.
• Officials warn that Hurricane Sandy has the potential to wreak life-threatening destruction. The storm is expected to create gale-force winds along the mid-Atlantic coast beginning Monday morning and make landfall with possibly hurricane-force winds later that day, causing extensive flooding. See the storm tracker.
• New York City has declared a mandatory evacuation for residents of zone A, an estimated 375,000 people. Public transportation in the city will be suspended at 7pm today (with buses running until 9pm). Public schools will be closed Monday, although city offices will be open.
• Flooding represents a major threat. The storm surge along the coast could reach as high as 8 feet, and as high as 11 feet in the New York area. Forecasters expect 4-8 inches of rain with isolated maximum rainfall of 12 inches in some areas. Flooding is a threat both inland and on the coast.
• Power outages: While Sandy does not boast especially strong winds – sustained maximum winds of 75mph currently – the storm is expected to retain its substantial strength as it makes landfall. A Johns Hopkins model shows 10 million potentially losing power.
• For your local weather forecast including any storm warnings or watches for your area, visit www.weather.gov and enter your zip code.
Jason Samenow of the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang collects seven maps showing the size and threatening nature of Sandy.
The maps analyze potential wind, flooding and precipitation damage as well as other damage. One model from Johns Hopkins predicts that as many as 10 million could lose power along the eastern seaboard. West Virginia could see multiple feet of snow. New York City could see a 10-foot storm surge.
Maps and analysis here.
Craig Fugate, director of FEMA, tweets a map displaying areas threatened by storm-surge flooding.
We left Pennsylvania off our original list of emergency links in the sub-headline above. Apologies for that. For information on emergency preparations in Pennsylvania visit the PEMA page here. Here is Governor Tom Corbett discussing the storm:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces a mandatory evacuation of residents in Zone A. A map of NYC evacuation zones is here.
Public schools will be closed Monday, he says. "Our hope is that we will be open Tuesday," but that remains to be seen, he says.
City offices will remain open Monday morning, he says.
Forecasters say Sandy presents a greater-than-usual storm surge threat. Dr. Jeff Masters at wunderground.com, as some have pointed out in the comments, says "the destructive potential of the storm surge [is] exceptionally high," and he sees a 50% chance that the NYC subway could partially flood.
On the bright side, the storm is expected to make a relatively quick approach, and so it will not push a surge through multiple tide cycles. Here's Masters:
Last night's 9:30 pm EDT H*Wind analysis from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division put the destructive potential of Sandy's winds at a modest 2.6 on a scale of 0 to 6. However, the destructive potential of the storm surge was exceptionally high: 5.7 on a scale of 0 to 6. This is a higher destructive potential than any hurricane observed between 1969 - 2005, including Category 5 storms like Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Camille, and Andrew. The previous highest destructive potential for storm surge was 5.6 on a scale of 0 to 6, set during Hurricane Isabel of 2003. Sandy is now forecast to bring a near-record storm surge of 6 - 11 feet to Northern New Jersey and Long Island Sound, including the New York City Harbor. While Sandy's storm surge will be nowhere near as destructive as Katrina's, the storm surge does have the potential to cause many billions of dollars in damage if it hits near high tide at 9 pm EDT on Monday. The full moon is on Monday, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month. This will add another 2 - 3" to water levels. Fortunately, Sandy is now predicted to make a fairly rapid approach to the coast, meaning that the peak storm surge will not affect the coast for multiple high tide cycles. Sandy's storm surge will be capable of overtopping the flood walls in Manhattan, which are only five feet above mean sea level. On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene brought a storm surge of 4.13' to Battery Park on the south side of Manhattan. The waters poured over the flood walls into Lower Manhattan, but came 8 - 12" shy of being able to flood the New York City subway system. According to the latest storm surge forecast for NYC from NHC, Sandy's storm surge is expected to be several feet higher than Irene's. If the peak surge arrives near Monday evening's high tide at 9 pm EDT, a portion of New York City's subway system could flood, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. I give a 50% chance that Sandy's storm surge will end up flooding a portion of the New York City subway system.
A picture of the storm.
The National Hurricane Center has issued its 11am advisory. The storm is still on track to make landfall late Monday – but it is so large that wind effects are already being felt as far away as Ohio.
The NHC advises that "gale-force winds are expected to arrive along portions of the mid-Atlantic coast later today, and reach Long Island and southern New England by Monday morning. Winds of hurricane force could reach the mid-Atlantic states, includling Long Island, by late Monday."
Predictions for storm surge levels remain 6-11 feet for the New York City area and 4-8 feet elsewhere along the Atlantic coast.
Rainfall of 4-8 inches is expected across the region, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible.
New York City parks will be closed starting at 5pm today due to danger from high winds.
In a press briefing Governor Andrew Cuomo encouraged calm and told people to plan to stay home as possible.
My colleague Matt Williams reports on the governor's news conference:
Erring on the side of caution, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the emergency suspension was due to come into effect a full day before the super storm is expected to make landfall in America. The transit shutdown will last until Wednesday under the current plan. Officials said services would resume operations about 12 hours after Sandy has passed through the city.
"If it turns and moves off, great. Really great. But if not then we will be prepared for it, " Cuomo said at a press conference Sunday.
The governor added that a decision on New York's network of bridges and tunnels to and from Manhattan would be made on a case-by-case basis
Similar measures were brought in to shut down New York City's transit system ahead of Hurricane Irene last November.
Subway and bus service will be suspended in New York City beginning at 7pm Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. Service was expected to be restored about 12 hours after the storm ends, Metro Transit Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said. That could mean that service will be suspended until Wednesday.
Authorities said the service suspension was a precaution because it is dangerous to operate trains in high winds. City residents were encouraged to make plans to stay close to home during the storm.
For your local weather forecast including any storm warnings or watches for your area, visit www.weather.gov and enter your zip code.
WNYC has created a Sandy Tracker. The National Hurricane Center has a wealth of tracking maps here, including wind forecasts and flooding forecasts.
To get the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center, go to the advisories page and look for "Public Advisory" or "Aviso Publico." The latest 8am Sunday advisory is #24A. The next advisory is scheduled to be published at 11am ET.
We're tracking Hurricane Sandy this morning and will be bringing you updates throughout the day. The storm is currently off the North Carolina coast moving slowly northeast. It is expected to turn landward on Monday. Here's a summary of where things stand:
• Sandy, currently a category 1 hurricane, is expected to make landfall late Monday or very early Tuesday on the mid-Atlantic coast, anywhere from Virginia to Connecticut/Rhode Island. The storm has a 20-30% chance of arriving on land with hurricane-force winds. It has a near-90% chance of landing with tropical storm-force winds, meaning sustained winds of up to 73mph.
• Life-threatening storm surge – meaning elevated water – is expected, according to the National Hurricane Center. Water could surge 6-11 feet in the New York area and 4-8 feet elsewhere. Rain and the tides could exacerbate flooding. The full moon is Monday.
• Extensive power outages are expected. Rainfall could cause significant inland flooding.
• The storm killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities (–Reuters).
• Governors in states along the east coast declared emergencies, with officials urging residents to stock up on food, water and batteries. President Obama has cancelled campaign appearances in Virginia and Colorado due to the storm.
We'll bring you emergency preparation information for communities throughout the affected area as the day goes on.