Hurricane Sandy is gaining strength and speed as it is just hours away from landfall, and Long Island residents are already facing flooded roads and massive power outages.
As of the National Weather Service’s 2 p.m. update, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and is moving northwest at 28 mph. The center of the Sandy is expected to make landfall along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast by early evening.
More than 85,000 LIPA customers are currently without power, according to the utility’s website.
Road closures are building up throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties due to both flooding and downed trees. Officials are urging residents to stay indoors, stating that driving in these conditions is extremely dangerous.
Storm surge flooding has already impacted Amityville, Lindenhurst, Bayville and Atlantic Beach, said David Stark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The Associated Press reported that streets in Greenpoint were already completely underwater. Both Nassau and Suffolk declared a state of emergency and issued mandatory evacuations for residents in low lying areas.
“Tonight is going to be significantly worse than we’re seeing now,” he warned, adding that the Island can see sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph and even up to 80 mph as Sandy approaches the coastline. The National Weather Service said that gusts of up to 90 mph are possible along the immediate south facing coastlines.
Wind gusts of 58 mph have already been recorded at LaGuardia Airport, he said.
Meteorologists said that Long Islanders could see a record breaking storm surge of 6 to 11 feet on the North Shore to 5 to 10 feet on the South Shore. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s environmental protection chief, Louis Uccellini, called the projected storm surge scheduled to hit during high tide “the worst-case scenario” and the National Weather Service described it as a “life-threatening storm surge.”
Long Island is currently under a coastal flood warning, a flood watch and a high wind warning until Tuesday. Winds are forecast to be 30 to 50 mph with gust up to 85 mph, with the strongest winds coming Monday evening. The system is set to also bring 2 to 4 inches of rain through Tuesday, and rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour are possible in the heaviest bands.
President Barack Obama promised Sunday that the government would “respond big and respond fast” after the storm hits. He declared emergencies in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed National Guard troops to both the city and Long Island.
-Additional reporting by Rashed Mian