History among misery of superstorm

Author: Blake Mathews, Weather producer, meteorologist, bmathews@wjxt.com
Published On: Oct 30 2012 09:23:17 AM EDT   Updated On: Oct 30 2012 09:30:57 AM EDT
New York taxi in Hurricane Sandy
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

We've just witnessed history.  There is a very high chance that those of you reading this will not live long enough to see a hurricane of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy again.

This was the first hurricane to make a direct hit on New Jersey since 1903.

Sandy, like Katrina, will now be a household name. This storm could not have hit a more densely populated area, nor could it have been any larger. The direct result will be massive economic losses. Bloomberg has already placed damage estimates in the $20 billion range, an estimate that is only likely to rise as high as the storm surge that inundated Battery Park in lower Manhatten.

Sandy is also the strongest storm ever to hit this part of the country with a pressure reading in the 940s hPa range. A pressure like that often equates to Category 4 hurricanes.

Within 12 hours of landfall, at least 16 deaths were attributed to Sandy in the United States. It's an unfortunate reality when dealing with hurricanes, especially in an area that hasn't seen a significant hurricane in over a century.

About the time Sandy moved ashore near Atlantic City, it moved from being a hurricane and was classified a post-tropical system or extra-tropical, with winds of 65 mph.

What's the difference between a hurricane and post-tropical? Symantics.  There is already controversy brewing between meteorologists and the National Hurricane Center as to why no hurricane watches and warnings were issued north of North Carolina.

A hurricane is a warm-core cyclone that has a 1-minute sustained wind speed of 74 mph or greater. These storms are driven by latent heat release from the ocean and release huge amounts of energy in the form of wind. A post-tropical cyclone is basically a hurricane that has lost its warm-core characteristics. They are typically seen in the northern Atlantic and are baroclinically driven; meaning the cold air surging in from the northwest helps drive the storm.

The lack of due diligence from the National Hurricane Center to issue a simple hurricane watch or warning but yet send out ''dire warnings'' that were festooned with ideas of assured death if anybody in evacuation zones didn't leave, has left many in the weather profession asking questions. The size and scope of a storm with winds of 90 mph should have reined supreme instead of being concerned with correct nomenclature.

High wind warnings and flood advisories were issued well in advance of the storm were issued by local National Weather Service offices but the NHC was moot which may have led to some people downplaying the danger. It seems that the ghost of Irene may have played a roll in the ''lack'' of warning.

Either way, the northeast will begin the long road to recovery Tuesday. It'll be many weeks before the major cities of the northeast get back to normal.