Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Hint: The really ugly part will be the storm surge.
Don’t let Sandy’s projected path fool you. She may be headed straight for landfall at Atlantic City some time later tonight, but her shape-shifting wrath will assault the entire mid-Atlantic in at least three different ways: Delaware and New Jersey are expected to get the worst of the winds, Baltimore and Washington the heaviest rainfall, and New York City the vicious storm surge.
So what will this look like? At this point, you should probably ignore that "cone of probably" hurricane track (New York City’s not even in the cone any more!) and freak out over these maps instead, before you lose your WiFi connection.
Here is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest wind speed probability map, targeting the Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland shore:
Here’s the rainfall projection, which douses the East Coast south of Sandy’s landfall:
And then things get really interesting with the storm surge. NOAA has an interactive mapping tool projecting a dozen different scenarios onto the East Coast. Here we have the probability of coastal communities seeing a storm surge of at least two feet:
This is your legend, with the purple zones almost assured to get inundated by that much.
Here we’ve cranked the picture up to 4 feet:
And then 6 feet, now zooming in:
And 8 feet:
Freaking out yet? You may notice a pattern emerging: New York is really going to get it, even as the rest of the East Coast settles into safer territory on the storm surge front. Here’s the picture at 12 feet, which includes a 5 to 30 percent chance that buildings in parts of the New York region could wind up flooding all the way up to the second floor:
We had to run the model all the way up to 16 feet to make all that green stuff go away. This also explains why New York City’s evacuation map, affecting 370,000 people in the city, looks like this, via WNYC: