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Timeline of Sandy, Controversy Surrounding the Storm

October 26, 2013; 6:47 AM

Sandy was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States north of North Carolina. There was a belief by some meteorologists at the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center that the storm would transition into a extratropical feature, while moving northward in the Atlantic Ocean. This caused great debate within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the days prior to the expected landfall as to which branch of government would handle the storm and most effectively send the appropriate message to local officials and offices of emergency management.

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The track of Sandy was well forecast by the government and commercial weather companies, including AccuWeather.com. However, the failure to issue official National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Warnings north of North Carolina resulted in confusion prior to Sandy's arrival among the average public as to what sort of storm was heading their way.

In the wake of the devastation, confusion continued within NOAA pertaining to the Sandy Service Assessment Team (a group of experts assigned to evaluate the damage and performance of NOAA forecasts), as well as how and when changes in Hurricane Warning policy would take place.

Below is a timeline of the major events that have occurred prior to, during and after Sandy's arrival.


Oct. 22: A tropical depression forms over the southwestern Caribbean Sea before strengthening into Tropical Storm Sandy around 5:00 p.m. The NHC expects it to become a hurricane by Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Oct. 24: At 2:00 a.m., the NHC reports that Sandy continues to strengthen as it heads northward to Jamaica. At 5 a.m., a tropical storm watch is issued for southeast Florida and the upper Keys. Sandy makes landfall in southeastern Jamaica at 3:20 p.m. Later in the evening, the eye of Sandy is approaching the coast of southeastern Cuba and could become a Category 2 hurricane before landfall.

Oct. 27: The NHC issues a statement that there will be no advisories issued for Sandy north of North Carolina.

"Sometime prior to making landfall, Hurricane Sandy is expected to lose its characteristics as a tropical cyclone and take on the structure of a wintertime low-pressure area," the statement read. "Because the National Hurricane Center only issues advisories on tropical cyclones, there will be changes in the flow of information coming out of the NWS when this transition occurs."

Mayor Mike Bloomberg tells New Yorkers in a pre-storm press conference to prepare for the arrival of Sandy by staying indoors and avoiding low-lying areas. He adds that parks will be closed by 5 p.m. on Sunday and that MTA shut downs are possible by 7 p.m. Sunday.

Oct. 28: In the early morning, Sandy continues to move parallel to the southeast U.S. coast and is still expected to bring strong winds and a significant storm surge to the mid-Atlantic states and southern New England. By 8:00 a.m., Sandy is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor. Winds are expected to be near hurricane force at landfall. By the evening, the NHC warns of coastal hurricane winds and heavy Appalachian snow.

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CEO of AccuWeather.com, Barry Myers, urges the NHC to reverse its decision not to issue hurricane or tropical storm warnings north of North Carolina.

"What we have is a hurricane becoming embedded in a winter storm. It's clearly unprecedented," Myers said. "But to refuse to issue hurricane warnings clearly can cause confusion."

Oct. 29: Landfall is still expected early this evening accompanied by life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds. At 7:00 p.m., the NHC declares Sandy has become post-tropical, with the center expected to make landfall within the next hour. At 8:00 p.m., post-tropical cyclone Sandy makes landfall along the coast of southern New Jersey. Hurricane-force wind gusts are reported over Long Island and the New York metropolitan areas. The NHC continues to issue statements on Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy through 11 p.m. before discontinuing warnings and stating that the next public advisory will be issued by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

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