Superstorm Sandy slams into New Jersey coast

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A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise dangles precariously over the streets after collapsing in high winds from Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard’s largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds, soaking rain and a surging wall of water up to 11 feet tall.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline with 80 mph winds and hurled a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City on Monday, roaring ashore after washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk and putting the presidential campaign on hold.

Just before its center reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and forecasters were careful to say it remained every bit as dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.

The National Hurricane Center announced at 8 p.m. that Sandy had come ashore about five miles from Atlantic City. The sea surged a record of nearly 13 feet at the Battery, at the foot of Manhattan.

As it closed in, Sandy knocked out power to more than 1.5 million people and smacked the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor — Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of more than 85 mph.

Sandy, which killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic, began to hook left at midday toward the New Jersey coast.

The storm lost its status as hurricane because it no longer had a warm core center nor the convection, but it was still just as dangerous, according to National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

While the hurricane’s winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed “astoundingly low” barometric pressure, giving it terrific energy to push water inland, said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.

“We are looking at the highest storm surges ever recorded in the Northeast,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service.

If the storm reaches the higher estimate of $20 billion in damage, that would put it ahead of Hurricane Irene, which raked the Northeast in August 2011 and caused $16 billion in damage. Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people, cost $108 billion.

Printed on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 as: Sandy surges over Atlantic coast