Hurricane Sandy’s winds are strengthening as it begins its northwestern turn into area Monday morning.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving north at 15 mph. Hurricane force winds extend 175 miles from the center, with tropical storm force winds reaching as far as 485 miles.
The National Weather Service reiterated that the system will bring “life-threatening storm surge” to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Storm surges on Long Island are expected to be a record 6 to 11 feet on the North Shore and 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 “the worst-case scenario.”
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 afternoon and 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.
Both Nassau and Suffolk counties have declared a state of emergency and issued mandatory evacuations for residents in low lying areas. The Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter issued a weather and travel advisory early Monday morning, stating that although the town is not in the direct path of the hurricane, it will feel the storm’s effect over the next 48 hours.
“Residents should be monitoring local media and emergency management services for any warnings or evacuation orders,” National Weather Service spokesperson Sean Potter said. “This is a very large and a very dangerous storm”
Sandy is currently about 385 miles south of New York City. However, the size of the storm is so massive that there is still a tropical storm warning for areas as south as Bermuda. The hurricane is forecast to merge with two other weather systems before making landfall in New Jersey sometime Monday evening. Meteorologists warned that while Sandy is expected to transition into a frontal or wintertime low pressure system before it makes landfall, the storm will not weaken, and more strengthening is still possible.
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 the city and Long Island.
The storm has brought the area to a standstill. Schools and businesses closed Monday, along with mass transportation. The New York Stock Exchange and United Nations New York headquarters closed Monday, and Atlantic City shut down its casinos for only the fourth time in its history.