Was Sandy a Hurricane?

sandy_wind_field
The simple answer is yes, Sandy WAS a hurricane when the storm impacted Connecticut.

A couple of key questions to answer:

  1. Did the National Hurricane Center (NHC) consider Sandy a hurricane at that time?
  2. Did portions of Connecticut report hurricane conditions?

(note that to be a hurricane, a storm must have winds at or above 74 mph)

Answers:

  1. According to the NHC, Sandy was a hurricane up until 7 p.m. on October 29th. At the 5 p.m. Advisory, Hurricane Sandy was located about 30 miles east of the southern New Jersey coast. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, but hurricane force winds extended up to 175 miles away from the center.
  2. The two shoreline official observation stations in Connecticut that were working during the storm both reported hurricane-force wind gusts.
  • Sikorsky Airport in Stratford recorded a wind gust to 76 mph at 5:49 p.m.
  • Groton-New London Airport observed a wind gust to 75 mph at 3:35 p.m.
  • Both reports were on October 29th while the storm was still officially a hurricane.

Didn’t Sandy transition into a nor’easter?
Yes the storm did, but that did not officially happen until 7 p.m. Hurricane Sandy had already been affecting Connecticut for several hours before that transition, in the form of wind, rain, storm surge and coastal flooding. Hurricanes generally lose their tropical characteristics as they interact with land. In the unique case of Sandy, the storm was also interacting with a frontal system across the Northeast. The two systems merged, essentially creating one “perfect” storm.

Bottom line:
A hurricane impacts areas away from the center or “eye” of the storm. Recall Hurricane Bob in 1991. The storm’s eye passed over Block Island and points east of Connecticut, but the storm still impacted the state of Connecticut. That’s a good example of a hurricane not directly hitting the state, but still bringing hurricane conditions.

The special case of Sandy is that the storm was a hybrid storm, so the storm became extremely large. On the afternoon of October 29th, the storm was directly affecting areas from Virginia, all the way up to Massachusetts with hurricane or near-hurricane conditions.

Additional details:

  • The strongest winds at Sikorsky Airport were while the storm was officially a hurricane. From 5:42 p.m. to 6:52 p.m. winds were consistently gusting over 60 mph.
  • At Groton-New London Airport, winds had already gusted to 70 mph by 3:15 p.m. and winds stopped gusting to 60 mph after 5:13 p.m.
  • Although hurricanes have many characteristics, wind speed is one of the most fundamental aspects of such a storm.

 

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Quincy

Quincy is a meteorologist and storm chaser who travels around the country documenting and researching severe weather. He has on-air experience with stations such as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT and WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. He was most recently a digital meteorologist for weather.com. After achieving his B.S. degree in Meteorology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in 2009, he returned as a University Assistant to help produce weather broadcasts. He also gave guest lectures and worked on website design. He has over nine years of professional weather forecasting experience and his forecasts have been featured in newspapers and on radio stations in multiple states.

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