Meteorologists Warn: Sandy Is Historic Storm

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 29 2012 10:34 AM

"History Is Being Written as an Extreme Weather Event Continues To Unfold"

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Flooding begins to inundate a parking garage ahead of Hurricane Sandy on Monday in Atlantic City, N.J.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

How do you get a bunch of East Coasters to take a storm like Sandy seriously? By bluntly trying to scare the pants off of them, that's how.

As of Monday, those in the path of the storm are pretty much stuck wherever they are—hopefully, somewhere safe. But Sunday was a different story. With hours to go before it'd become too late to prepare for the soon-to-be superstorm, the National Weather Service made a very public five-point case for evacuation. Our favorite was No. 3 (emphasis ours, CAPS LOCK theirs):

3. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT, THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES, THINK ABOUT THE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO REACH YOU WHEN YOU MAKE THE PANICKED PHONE CALL TO BE RESCUED, THINK ABOUT THE RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.
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Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro posted a similar message in which he called the storm a "meteorologically mind-boggling combination of ingredients." But the main thrust of his message was seemingly aimed at typical East Coast cynicism of panicky weather forecasts:

"History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States. ... This is an extraordinary situation, and I am not prone to hyperbole." 

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, facing potentially catastrophic predictions from a storm surge along the state's coast in Long Island Sound, also got in on the action, calling Sandy "most catastrophic event that we have faced and been able to plan for in any of our lifetimes."

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters used an apt Irene comparison to try to scare New Yorkers in the mandatory evacuation zones of the city with a post titled "Massive Hurricane Sandy building a huge and destructive storm surge," which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of his report. A snippet:

According to the latest storm surge forecast for NYC from NHC, Sandy's storm surge is expected to be several feet higher than Irene's. If the peak surge arrives near Monday evening's high tide at 9 pm EDT, a portion of New York City's subway system could flood, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. I give a 50% chance that Sandy's storm surge will end up flooding a portion of the New York City subway system.

Of course, meteorologists and government officials aren't the only ones offering ominous thoughts on Sandy. Huffington Post's religion Twitter feed joined in the Sandy coverage by asking its followers to appeal to a higher power: "Ever written your own prayer? Now's the time. Get your thoughts together on Hurricane Sandy."

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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