Havoc on scale ‘not seen in anyone’s lifetime’

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Superstorm Sandy brought gusts of 90mph and broke a record set more than half a century ago with a sea water storm surge of more than 13 feet, creating “unprecidented” weather conditions.

The storm made landfall at the southern tip of New Jersey at 8pm local time (midnight UK time), before causing massive disruption across a wide area,

As it slammed into the US, near Atlantic City, forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status – but the distinction was purely technical. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and it was still dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.

A storm surge of 13.7ft (4.2m) hit Manhattan in New York City, comfortably beating the previous record of 10.5ft (3.2m) set in 1960 by Hurricane Donna.

The highest wind gust was recorded as 90mph on Long Island, New York. Newark International Airport in New Jersey experienced winds of 78mph.

“The extent of the wind is something else,” said senior meteorologist Stephen Davenport, of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association.

“It’s at least 1988 since tropical storm force winds have covered such a wide area of the USA.”

As the storm system continued its path of devastation yesterday, the National Weather Service issued high wind warnings from Michigan to Florida and from Chicago to Maine.

Up to 7.9in (20cm) of rain fell in some places, with New Jersey and Delaware the worst hit. As much as 30in (76cm) of snow hit the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, and heavy snow also affected North Carolina on its border with Tennessee, and in the mountain area of western Maryland.

Meanwhile, low pressure records were set in Atlantic City in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Wilmington in Delaware.

Mr Davenport said: “It is unknown in anyone’s lifetime, and probably greater than any storm that has been recorded in that part of the mid-Atlantic and the north west.”

Forecasters expect the storm to weaken as it moves north-eastwards through Canada, although there were warnings yesterday of continued flooding in Atlantic coastal areas as continued storm surge combined with high tides. And the National Hurricane Centre was warning of dangerous 
surf conditions as far south as Florida.

“Storms are at their strongest as they come ashore,” Mr Davenport added. “There will be torrential rain in eastern parts of Ohio and in Pennsylvania, but it will start weakening.”