Dr. Louis Uccellini on Superstorm Sandy

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Superstorm Sandy–the largest Atlantic hurricane and 2nd costliest to hit the U.S.: An unusual melding of the worst features of a westward-moving tropical cyclone (hurricane), an eastbound Midwest winter storm, Greenland blocking and the tidal effects of a full moon

Dr. Louis Uccellini, Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, NWS-Headquarters-Silver Spring, Maryland

Few storms on record have been the product of a more unique and onerous blend of meteorological variables than last autumn’s Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the Mid-Atlantic—hitting New York and New Jersey with particular fury. The storm was responsible for 72 U.S. deaths–the most of any hurricane to hit the Northeast in the 40 years since Agnes, responsible for 122 deaths in 1972.

Sandy’s damage, which has been put at more than $50-billion ($18-billion in New York state alone), is 2nd only to Hurricane Katrina’s $108-billion tally. That horrific 2005 storm decimated a wide swath of the Gulf Coast, including the city of New Orleans.

Sandy–is what’s referred to in the meteorological profession as a “hybrid” storm; a storm which combines atmospheric characteristics found in BOTH tropical and non-tropical storms. Rarely in Mid-Atlantic region has a storm combined such an array of characteristics, explains Dr. Louis Uccellini, newly appointed Director of the National Weather Service, who will talk about this storm in detail during his presentation at our 2013 Fermilab Tornado and Severe Storms seminars on Saturday, April 6.

Sandy, says Uccellini, combined the worst attributes of a tropical and a non-tropical storm system, striking at a time of higher than normal “astronomical” tides brought on by a full moon.  The presence of Greenland blocking pattern to the north, forced the storm on a westward path onto the U.S. East Coast rather than allowing it to move eastward and out to sea.

Sandy’s impact was felt across sections of 24 states, with high winds recorded as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin.  Here in Chicago, Sandy’s powerful circulation generated huge swells on Lake Michigan.

Great care is required in not only accurately predicting such a storm–which was done in a stunning fashion with Sandy–but also in educating and informing those in the path of a storm like Sandy about the risks such a system represents, says Dr. Uccellini, who will speak to us on April 6 at this year’s Fermilab seminars about this unique storm.

He talked about Sandy in this recent PBS interview which you might wish to check out here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2301402820/

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