I want to preface this with a few basic facts.
1) NHC did a great job with their track and forecast up to the decision regarding "Hurricane" status.
a) I do think that the Canadian Meteorological in real time did a better job as to "landfall"
b) I think that is because the NHC is so bound by rules in how they forecast... see Norcross Blog.
c) The many city and state governments in the path of Sandy had adequate warning and
d) Part B to that is they at no point had a possible track out to sea... this was a done deal days ahead.
2) Hurricanes on a scale the size of Sandy create damage, drama and disaster across a large area.
a) No matter how good the forecast is ... the immense area of humanity will be negatively affected.
b) There are no immediate solutions for getting life back to "normal"
c) There is always a disparency and discrepancy between the areas severely affected...
The "haves" and "have nots" regarding power, gas and a roof over their head.
d) There is always anger and frustration at the delays that are bound to happen; more so for a big storm
That said.... people just don't understand how hurricane damage can happen so far north and that though the hurricane is not the same... no palm trees swaying by the beautiful bay as they show on TWC when they set up at West Palm Beach ... the damage to the GRID is the same. Power outages, gas is impossible to get, water and basics run low and tempers run high.
And, with regard to this storm as it was a late season storm... a cold front followed and brought "snow delays" in the recovery effort. Late season storms always merge with cold fronts, after Wilma in Miami we were thrilled we had cool air when we had no power unlike after Andrew when it was 105 in the shade without air conditioning.
There are just so many questions that need answering at some point and real answers as to why we were not better prepared to PREPARE the people in the PATH of Sandy for what they would HAVE to deal with whether it was best case scenario or worst case with regard to power outages and storm surge.
Again... a map I posted days before the storm from the Navy Site.
Before Sandy was a real entity Bryan Norcross was on TWC talking about it and when I say Bryan "talks" he really RANTS and it showed how high the ante it was for him to talk about Florida when "Sandy" was still in the Caribbean. A few days later he immediately began talking on how it was a bigger problem for the Mid-Atlantic and the NE.
OCTOBER 19th, 2012
Wednesday, October 24th
The forecasters did a good job, a great job though they may have dropped the ball with the debacle of making Sandy "Sandy" vs "Hurricane Sandy" at landfall ....but that will be dissected for days to come.
Bryan Norcross, my authority on Hurricanes, when a hurricane is bearing down on my area has voiced his thoughts very strongly on his blog. I'm going to cut and past that discussion with the link to refer to for more discussion if you would like to read.
Point is... we somehow dropped the ball preparing the population of NY, NJ and parts of CT and New England with the possibility for how bad the damage could be.
Check in on my blog about Katrina in Miami..notice how I mention tree damage far, far stronger than expected and how it took the grid out totally in a way none of us in Miami had expected.
Check out my blog after Wilma and the mess... I was granted a little silly, beyond silly at times but honest, gut wrenchingly honest as I read what I wrote and nod.."yes I remember that"
Took The Day Off..
Library closed...again...though they will be open tomorrow.
Got some food for the house.
Went away for the day with my brother who had jobs down in South Dade to do and so we could talk.
Very nice day. Left cell phone at his house by accident so really had a day off.. out of touch.
Saw so much damage in Coral Gablels, The Grove, West Miami..Kendall.. Kendale Lakes it is mindboggling. So many trees... NOT tornado damage. I do believe winds were higher than reported officially...definitely too much damage and way past 75mph.. maybe 85.. I mean there was an eye.. I was in it. Wasn't a CDO..was a clear, calm eye..high white clouds and sat outside by front step before all hell broke loose on backside.
Saw trees down in the Gables..house to house on houses.. that only saw before in Cleo.
Drove around my old neighborhoods.
Yes.. its small damage compared to what is going on elsewhere but they did suffer a hurricane. They don't have power..still. There are houses where rich people don't live.. maybe single mothers or old retirees that have 2 and 3 massive trees down they need to get off their front door..back door and roof. One house..small old original Gables house covered in 2 huge ficus trees..didn't even see the house. House was not fancy and will cost a pretty penny to get it off, cut up and fix the roof and or whatever else it ruined.
Bryan Norcross writes it like it is... please think on what he is saying.... and I hope we start to change the way we deal with Hurricanes.... the illusion of safety is just that... an illusion and there is a disconnect between how we deal with "landfall" and extratropical, tropical and quasi tropical storm and how long the aftermath of the storm will last as we pick up the pieces and try to put Jack and Jill and Joe and John and James back together in an extremely densely populated area such as the area where Hurricane Sandy affected when she came ashore as "whatever" she was officially called...she was and will always be to me "Hurricane Sandy" and we knew she was coming...yet somehow in ways the ball was dropped. We got the track right, we got the warning wrong ...that's my bottom line on what we did wrong.
It's been two weeks since Sandy assaulted the northeast coast, and still over 190,000 customers are without power... although some of those happened during Winter Storm Athena. In any case, more than 60% of the outages are on Long Island.
When you look at the distribution of Sandy's winds, you can see at least part of the reason. A band of strong winds rotating around the nor'easter part of Sandy raked Long Island from end to end. That east-to-west band pushed record high water into Long Island Sound and ripped through southern New England as well. Islip recorded a gust of 90 mph, and there were a number of hurricane-force gusts recorded from southern New England to northern New Jersey.
But, these were gusts, not sustained winds, and the sustained-wind number is what counts when we talk about whether a storm is a tropical storm or a hurricane. In fact, most of this area was affected by tropical-storm-force sustained winds with occasional gusts to hurricane force.
When the NHC labels a system a 90-mph hurricane, they mean that somewhere - anywhere will do - in the circulation there are sustained, one-minute-averaged winds of 74 mph or higher. There might be a little patch of winds at that strength out over the ocean, or there could be a big swath or a donut of 90-mph wind rotating around the storm. All of those possibilities would still rate a 90-mph hurricane.
In the case of Sandy, there was a patch of winds up near 90 mph, but there was ALSO a big swath of winds sustained between about 65 and 75 mph which did the damage on Long Island.
The scary part of this is that the highest sustained winds over land were mostly likely ONLY about 65 to 75 mph. What would happen if a Category 3 hurricane came though there with sustained winds over 115 mph and gusts to 140? If Sandy taxed the power-recovery system, the fuel-delivery system, and every other system, a Category 3 would be nightmare that's hard to think about. But, hopefully some people are thinking about that, since it's clear that the pre-Sandy plan was not good enough.
None of this means that the Long Island Power Authority is blameless in the horrendous post-Sandy situation on the Island. Maybe they had an appropriate hurricane plan, maybe not. But, at least it's understandable why the wind-damage, a.k.a. the dark and freezing nightmare, was concentrated there.
Which brings us to the pre-Sandy Bloomdoggle on the Saturday before the storm. I'm hoping that the Mayor comes clean about what led him to conclude that Sandy's mega-push of water was "not expected to be a tropical-storm- or hurricane-type surge". There was also that business about the water rising slower than in hurricanes... blah blah blah. It sounded a lot like somebody was whispering bad meteorology in the Mayor's ear. Could he really have come up with all of that on his own? Hard to imagine.
In any case, there is a HUGE lesson here for politicians and emergency managers who need to accurately characterize the type and level of threat to the public. Get some qualified help to craft the message. Attribute the forecast and the predicted effects to the source of the information. Don't try to out-guess the experts. And for god's sake, don't try to be an amateur meteorologist.
Remember, if you sound like a dope giving the wrong forecast, it will taint the other good things you do, which are most likely in your wheelhouse.
I'm hoping that we find out how this went so wrong in a generally well run Bloomberg administration. It would be very instructive. Although it's not hard to imagine that the lawyers have imposed a cone of silence.
A piece of the puzzle might be the local New York-area forecast from the National Weather Service Saturday morning:
2 TO 3 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES MONDAY MORNING INTO TUESDAY MORNING...WITH POSSIBLE HIGHER DEPARTURES DEPENDENT UPON THE TRACK OF SANDY.
Holy crap! That was a TERRIBLE forecast. The water rose about 9 feet at the Battery Monday night, and higher in other places. By Saturday afternoon, 8 hours later, they made a slight adjustment:
POTENTIAL FOR 4 TO 8 FT DEPARTURES MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING.
How is that kind of radical change possible when the forecast for the storm didn't change at all? It's possible because the people that know the most about storm surge are at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, and the local National Weather Service offices sometimes go rogue before coordinating their message with the NHC.
My experience with the people at the National Hurricane Center AND the local NWS offices is beyond good. They are true professionals working, in the case of the local offices, in an under-funded environment. But sometimes that whole NOAA/NWS/NHC train jumps the track because they don't know when to throw the switch and head for Plan B - the big-emergency, gotta-get-it-right, smack-the-public-in-the-head plan.
This dysfunctional storm-surge messaging was brought to you by the same arcane and inflexible rules and structure that prevented a Hurricane Watch and Warning from being issued for an extremely dangerous hurricane that was forecast to slam the coast. The technicalities of the meteorology at landfall were invoked for that one. I'm betting that something about the time window for coordination not being open or some other blah-blah-blah will be rolled out as an excuse for the drastically bad early-morning storm surge forecast.
The pros at the National Weather Service can do better. I'm hoping that this is the last time the rules, procedures, and administrative nonsense get in the way of dealing with reality. When reality says the rules don't apply because something REALLY bad is coming, break the freakin' rules.
I might have just crafted Plan B. 1) Ignore the stupid rules. 2) Ask the pros what to do.
My post on hurricane insurance (sic) got some nice comments. Lots more on that to come.