A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Brad Morris
Date: 2012 Nov 16, 18:12 -0800
The relatively benign conditions in harbor are to be contrasted with the violent seas on the open ocean.
I live on Long Island, just to the south of Connecticut and Rhode Island. As a (stand up and ride the waves) surfer, I'm always looking a NOAA buoy 44025, as this shows wave conditions.
Just before Sandy came ashore, 44025 was showing 26 Foot waves at 16 seconds. Those are very fast powerful waves, not to be trifled with.
Absolutely no way would I take a replica sailing ship out onto those seas, especially combined with high sustained winds and gusts. I think the captain foolhardy to ignore those seas.
"Mystic got hammered. Mandatory evacuation of much of the city. No information about whether CW Morgan and the whole museum was affected."
No, Mystic did not get hammered. There were various shutdowns of highways. I did not hear of any "mandatory" evacuations in Mystic though there were a couple of low-lying areas with mandatory evacuations within a few miles nearby. There are some streets in Mystic that flood on almost any Spring Tide, so it would have been a good idea! Highway closings and mandatory evacuations tell one very little about a storm. They do tell you a lot about the mindset of various government officials.
Eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, and most of Massachusetts were on the margin of this storm. And the predictions from the National Weather Service 24 hours before were almost exact. 1) There was almost no rain. Predicted three-day rainfall total for this area was less than one inch, and except for some local downpours, that was just about right. 2) The storm surge was about six feet, right in line with predictions. In Mystic, this was enough to flood some of those very low-lying streets, but there was no real damage. 3) Winds were steady around 40-45 knots mid-afternoon on Monday with gusts to about 60 knots. Those are the highest winds this area has experienced since Hurricane Bob in 1992, but winds steady at 35 gusting to 50 knots are not uncommon in nor'easters which occur roughly once a year.
At Mystic Seaport, a few of the lowest areas such as the north end of the "Village Green" (which was a marsh until the 1960s) were flooded about six inches deep. For comparison, two hurricanes in the 1950s/60s had storm surges which were some six feet higher, and for decades there was a little marker on a central column in the Stillman Building (the museum's largest "formal exhibit" building) showing that maximum depth. None of the museum's vessels were damaged, and a number of other local vessels moored there for the storm. In particular, and ironically, the "Mystic Whaler" was there for the storm. The "Mystic Whaler" is a steel-hulled tourist schooner that did daily excursions from central Mystic back in the 1970s and was painted to look like the Charles W. Morgan, which is a National Historic Landmark, and quite intentionally was designed to fool tourists into thinking they were on a museum vessel. But now after so many decades, even the old steel "Whaler" is getting old enough to preserve and sought protection at Mystic Seaport's docks.
Here on Conanicut Island, power was out on one side of the island for about 24 hours, but there was a cautiously festive atmosphere in the biggest local bar and grille which had a generator and stayed open all day. I understand power stayed on in most of Newport just across the bay. There were a few trees down here, and one car ended up in a cove. The barrier beach that is heavily manicured as the town beach was wiped clean of its white sand top layer and will require some expensive repairs this Spring. Otherwise there was minor damage. The storm came just a week or two after most boats had been pulled. There were a hundred boats in the harbor two weeks earlier --luckily almost none when the storm hit. During the afternoon, it was pretty difficult to walk outside and fairly dangerous with big branches snapping and a few power lines on the ground. But it died down quickly, and I walked to the village for a hot dinner around 7pm. The surge high tide peaked early around 8:30 pm. By 11pm, it was a genuinely beautiful evening. The clouds broke up. There was a moderate breeze, maybe 15 knots steady with a few gusts. And it was wonderfully warm out, probably 65 degrees. There were stars out and a big bright beautiful Full Moon. I slept that night with all the windows wide open. It was the last night before the cold weather...
On Tuesday, since I still didn't have power (but had full high-speed Internet access through my phone which I could easily re-charge in my car), I drove over to Mystic and Noank to see what I could see. There were wrack lines in odd places... along streets, in a few front yards... and there were some sinkholes and beat up docks in a few places. But they were the only real sign of the storm surge at that time. The power was on in much of Mystic by 3pm. There were a few big trees down, and it's interesting that several I saw were very close to sea level so I suspect they were undermined by the storm surge. The NavList-donated sign commemorating Amelia Earhart in Noank survived just fine (I will post a photo later). It's only about fifty feet from a spot with a dock that was pretty badly beat up, but the sign faces west so it did not take the full force of the wind and surf. A couple of stone benches just a bit closer to the shore were over-turned by the pounding waves.
It's worth noting that there was real paranoia in Mystic on the day of the storm. Public officials were making outlandish statements. Television stations did not distinguish between the New York end of Connecticut and the eastern end. And unfortunately many locals were listening to the predictions which were relevant for New Jersey and Staten Island and did not realize that the local prediction was much less severe. The storm took a sharp left, just as predicted, well south of Connecticut. You should have seen the outrageous things people were saying on the day of the storm (some posted on Facebook). A lot of people who should have known better got swept up in the apocalyptic predictions.
As for the Bounty, they easily could have stayed in New London, and there would have been no serious issues. Crossing over to the east side of the river might have been even safer since the hills on the Groton side sheltered that shore from the strong east winds. They also could have gone upriver, though I don't think that would have offered any real benefit. Someone, maybe Lu, mentioned the bridges, but don't forget that the US Coast Guard bark Eagle, which is a considerably larger sailing vessel, is (or was) normally docked at the US Coast Guard Academy which is north of the bridges.
I do not contend that Bounty SHOULD have stayed in New London. I hope to have more to say on this later. A fair bit of what I have read this afternoon in NavList messages does indeed look like "20-20 hindsight" and rather judgmental, too. Just a quick point here for now: Sandy was a WEAK hurricane, barely Category 1. The big problem is that it was probably no longer a hurricane long before it was declared post-tropical by the National Hurricane Center. Indeed it had been downgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy on Saturday morning which was two days after Bounty left New London, right? After this, Sandy had post-tropical characteristics, but the NHC made a specific tactical choice to continue to call it a hurricane. This was a reasonable choice since the populations at risk, especially in New Jersey, would almost certainly have paid less attention to a storm classified as "post-tropical". The mandate of the NHC is not to deliver scientifically objective statements about storms, but rather to protect the public. Unfortunately, Captain Walbridge's knowledge of hurricanes may have worked against him because of this. As "everyone knows" (always a dangerous standard of information quality), the biggest danger in a hurricane is on the forward right quarter, which is the northeast side of a storm heading generally north. The west side should have been the safe side. But as Sandy was headed north, the convection at the center of the storm nearly disappeared several times while severe weather and hurricane force winds were found hundreds of miles to the west and southwest of the center of circulation, which makes excellent sense for a post-tropical system about to become this odd "hybrid" perfect storm that had the media so enthralled. The Bounty sailed into this severe weather far to the west of the storm. That's probably the last place you would expect to find the worst weather... if you knew a lot about hurricanes... But this information was, in fact, pubicly available. If Walbridge had full access to the NHC storm reports, he should have known this.
You can read all of the NHC storm advisories and also the illuminating "discussions" in the NHC Sandy archive here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2012/SANDY.shtml.
For example, here's the intro to the 0500 "discussion" on Sunday, October 28:
"THE MOST RECENT AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT MISSION DID NOT
FIND WINDS OF HURRICANE FORCE NEAR THE CENTER OF SANDY.
HOWEVER...EARLIER DROPSONDE DATA INDICATED THAT WINDS TO HURRICANE
STRENGTH WERE OCCURRING WELL TO THE SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST OF THE
CENTER...BEYOND THE RADIAL LEGS COVERED BY THIS AIRCRAFT. ALTHOUGH
IT COULD BE GENEROUS...THE INTENSITY IS HELD AT 65 KT FOR THIS
So NOW what would you do??
NavList message boards and member settings: www.fer3.com/NavList
Members may optionally receive posts by email.
To cancel email delivery, send a message to NoMail[at]fer3.com