Millions Brace for Hurricane Sandy

     BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (CN) – Sixty million people prepared for Hurricane Sandy as the National Weather Service predicted that a quadruple set of circumstances would wreak havoc on the Northeast.
     In Vermont, still recovering from Hurricane Irene, supermarkets sold out their supplies of water and batteries. Businesses that didn’t have them already ordered gas-powered generators, and road crews were put on alert.
     “You clean out the culverts,” the chief of Brattleboro’s road crew said Sunday afternoon. “Then you hope for the best.”
     The wind howled and rain picked up by mid-afternoon Monday. Gov. Peter Shumlin this morning warned that the major damage from Sandy was expected to be winds of up to 75 mph coming off the Green Mountains.
     Vermont was devastated by Hurricane Irene 14 months ago. The storm inflicted more than $1 billion in damages on the state: more than Vermont’s annual budget.
     Sandy may be worse, for a multitude of reasons.
     Sandy is an enormous, slow-moving storm, more than 650 miles in diameter -331,000 square miles: bigger than Texas; 36 times the size of Vermont.
     Low atmospheric pressure from a fast-descending Canadian Arctic storm will suck Sandy inland, and a high-pressure system over Greenland will block it and keep it recycling over New England. A full moon and its high tides will intensify its effects on the coast.
     Sandy already has killed at least 61 people in the Caribbean.
     Even before the storm hit, states of emergency were declared in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine and Washington, D.C.
     New York City canceled school on Monday, and Amtrak and major airlines canceled services along the East Coast. Courts were closed from New York to Philadelphia.
     Though Sandy is not as violent a storm as, for example, Katrina, the topography of New England, and the time of year, will intensify its effects, particularly in New England.
     Here’s why.
     There is virtually no flat land in Vermont. The only level land in the Green Mountain State is in river bottoms, along the Connecticut River border with New Hampshire, and by Lake Champlain, at the New York border.
     Virtually all of Vermont’s roads follow the rivers: the only semi-flat land in the state.
     With more than 90 percent of the land mountains, if a giant storm drops a foot of rain on Vermont, it all cascades into the rivers. So 1 foot of rain dumps 10 feet of water into the rivers.
     (Actually, it’s worse than that. Since rivers are essentially two-dimensional, and in Vermont surrounded on all sides by mountains, 1 foot of rain could dump pi-R-squared that much water into a river.)
     Irene hit Vermont in August – before autumn. But today, with the last leaves hanging on the trees, and millions of tons of leaves already fallen, Sandy’s high winds will blow the last leaves from the trees, clogging the culverts and exacerbating the flooding. Fallen trees will cut power lines and block roads.
     Courthouse News’ New England editors will update this story until the power goes out.

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