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UW Meteorologist Cliff Mass dissects the ‘Super Storm’


After a week of warning, Hurricane Sandy is living up to its billing as a “super storm” and it’s even got veteran weather experts in awe.

University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Mass tells Seattle’s Morning News the storm is shaping up as one of the most powerful ever to hit the U.S., on a par with the devastating Columbus Day storm of 1962 that ravaged Western Washington.

Mass says a number of factors are combining to form the “super storm.” He says the waters off the East Coast are unusually warm, adding fuel to the hurricane. And rather than weakening as it moves northward, an upper level disturbance is slamming into it from the west, revving it up like a top.

“Sometimes when these things come together, a tropical storm and a mid-latitude disturbance, it can amplify in a way that becomes extremely intense and very dangerous and that’s what’s happening right now,” Mass says.

Mass also says strong winds and high tides are teaming to push ocean water to record flood levels, with places like New York’s Long Island Sound acting as a funnel for the storm surge.

“It’s the worst possible situation for New Jersey and New York,” Mass says. And with such intensity, he’s predicting big problems.

“So it’s going to cause a lot of damage. There will be millions of people out of power, lots of trees, flooding, I mean this is a very big event.”

While the winds from the hurricane should diminish within a day, Mass says the storm is expected to stall before moving slowly north, pummeling much of the Eastern Seaboard with torrential rains that will compound the flooding. He says some places could get up 20 inches of rain.

Mass says the storm is a “triumph” for meteorologists, who began accurately predicting the “super storm” and where it would land over a week ago.

“It’s an extraordinarily complex situation and to get it essentially right four days ahead of time, that shows you how things have changed compared to what they were like say in the 1980’s where we basically got all these wrong.”

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