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'Serious As A Heart Attack': Hurricane Sandy Bearing Down On Eastern U.S.

Workers cover an entrance with plywood at a subway station in New York City in preparation for flooding from Hurricane Sandy.
Mary Altaffer
Workers cover an entrance with plywood at a subway station in New York City in preparation for flooding from Hurricane Sandy.

The dreaded monster storm aiming for the eastern United States is barely keeping its hurricane status, but weather forecasters continue to sound the alarm: Hurricane Sandy will likely be one of the worst storms to strike in many, many years.

Weather forecaster Bryan Norcross at Wunderground isn't warning - he's shouting:

"The threat from this situation is serious as a heart attack for anybody near the rising water."

"The ocean will rise along the coast as Sandy makes it's way north, but the biggest coastal problems will come when the center makes landfall. We're unlikely to know exactly where that will be until Monday, but this is critical. The ocean will be pushed toward the coast north of that point and away to the south. The onshore flow of water is exaggerated where bays, inlets, or the shape of the coastline focus the water to make it rise even higher. The most prominent problem spot is New York City, where Long Island and New Jersey make an "L"."

Weather blogger Brian McNoldy at the Washington Post is looking at Sandy's slowing speed:

"At first glance, it would appear that Sandy is not the threat it used to be. It is a minimal hurricane, and looks less organized on satellite. DO NOT BE FOOLED! Sandy is already taking on some extratropical characteristics, and the lack of a traditional tropical appearance (symmetric eye, eyewall, etc) does not mean it's any less of a risk."

And the National Hurricane Center says it still cannot say just where Sandy will make landfall:

"There are some differences as to how sharp a westward turn the cyclone makes before reaching the east coast of the United is still too soon to focus on the exact track of the center...both because of forecast uncertainty and because the impacts are going to cover such a large area away from the center."

That's exactly what happened in Haiti. The AP reports Sandy caused 58 deaths in the Caribbean, most of them in Haiti, which didn't even take a direct hit. But it's rained so heavily and constantly there since Tuesday, that barren hillsides and rickety housing couldn't stand up to the weather. Even though Sandy is gone, a river is still rising in Port-au-Prince that could pose a deadly threat.

And Sandy's power will encompass more than hurricane havoc. It will fold in a bad winter storm system sweeping in from the west and then a blast of cold air descending from Canada, all of which will make Sandy's size and destruction worse than many people may expect. And, as the New York Times says, there's a full moon coming Monday night, just about when Sandy makes landfall. That'll increase tides, likely worsening terrible flooding.

Update at 9:45 p.m. ET. Advisories From The National Hurricane Center:

The National Hurricane Center has posted a statement explaining why it expects to stop issuing advisories about Sandy as the hurricane moves north.

Sandy, it says, is expected to shift from being a "tropical cyclone" to a "wintertime cyclone" before reaching landfall. The problem is that NHC only issues advisories on tropical cyclones.

So what's the difference? It has to do with how the cyclones get their energy, NHC says:

"Tropical cyclones extract heat from the ocean and grow by releasing that heat in the atmosphere near the storm center. Wintertime cyclones ... on the other hand, get most of their energy from temperature contrasts in the atmosphere, and this energy usually gets distributed over larger areas. ...

"Wintertime lows have strong temperature contrasts or fronts attached to them, have a broader wind field, and more complex distributions of rain or snow."

The statement from the National Hurricane Center also includes a list of places where advisories will still be available after Sandy takes on new characteristics. Among the sources are local Weather Forecast Offices with the National Weather Service, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center and the Ocean Prediction Center.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.