Hurricane Sandy approaches NJ coast, 150 000 without power

Added by on October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy’s position at 18:37 GMT/UTC – map by Weather Underground

Hurricane Sandy, about 50 miles (75km) off the New Jersey, USA coastline, strengthened and doubled its approach speed on late Monday (GMT).

The storm, its wind effects spanning hundreds of kilometres away from its center, increased in the speed of its approach from 14 km/h (9 mph) to approximately 28 km/h (18 mph) as it approached the New Jersey state coastline, with officials expecting a life-threatening storm surge.

The storm has promoted officials to close schools in the New York area, leaving 1.1m students out of school, closed all major transportation – including its subway/underground train services, and invoked evacuations of people in New York to avoid expected floods – New York is just 10m (33ft) above sea level.

About 150 000 customers are currently estimated to be without electricity with the potential for millions more to temporarily be without power.

Nine state governments along the US East coastline declared states of emergency – approximately 60m people are within the storms path.

“This is going to be a big and powerful storm and all across the eastern Seaboard I think everybody is taking the appropriate preparations,” said President Barak Obama from the White House early on Monday.

US stock markets were closed on Monday, and an announcement at about 17:55 GMT/UTC stated that the markets are expected to remain closed on Tuesday. The last time US stock markets closed as a result of severe weather was in 1985 when Hurricane Gloria slammed into Long Island with wind gusts reaching 185 km/h (115 mph). The US stock markets were more recently closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington CD areas.

“Hurricane Sandy’s path is rare because its path changed from northeast to northwest – the majority of storms travel in a northeasterly direction. The change in direction is a result of a weather system to the northwest of the storm that’s essentially pulling hurricane Sandy off course, making it a potential Perfect Storm”, said a forecaster.

Hurricane Grace in 1991 was dubbed ‘The Perfect Storm’ when a cold front absorbed the remnants of the hurricane after it had been downgraded to a low pressure system. The storm re-emerged as a category one hurricane on November 2 and resulted in the sinking of several vessels, including the famous Andrea Gail which was featured in the year 2000 film ‘Perfect Storm’. The storm caused widespread power outages, leaving over 20,000 people without power. The storm caused about US$325m (or USD$200m in 1991) in damage.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm, or post-tropical storm, as it approaches Canada during Monday night (local time). Forecasters in Canada are expecting wind gusts up to 85 km/h (52 mph) along with some rain overnight from Monday to Tuesday (local time). Officials in Canada say they are expecting some power outages as a result of downed tree limbs and smaller trees, yet are not preparing residents for evacuation.

Preparations for a hurricane, as recommended by the US National Hurricane Center, include informing yourself about storm conditions and assessing risk, planning exit routes and becoming familiar with local emergency plans, and creating and maintaining a basic disaster supply kit, that includes water, food, first aid kits, flashlights, battery power radio, whistle, tools, maps, cell phone chargers, prescription drugs, coats, glasses, and other items. The US National Hurricane Center recommends keeping on hand about two weeks of supplies depending on the level of risk in the area.

Power outages are common during natural events like storms – cell phones’ batteries can run out and cell phone networks may become unavailable during a power outage. Regular, wired phones, that are not VoIP phones, usually continue to work during outages because very little electricity is needed to power them, plus local phone companies’ telephone exchanges are powered by batteries and backup generators which keep the phones working.

The fifth-costliest US hurricane, hurricane Irene in 2011, lifted the US economy by 2.5% in October 2011. Economists initially thought the US economy was improving yet found later that the increase in economic activity was a result of preparations for and recovery from the hurricane.

Economists forecast hurricane Sandy could cause US$20bn in damage.

The New York Times, in a statement on its website, said it is providing unlimited access to its storm coverage on its website and mobile apps. A number of third parties have released apps to track the storm as it passes.