5 Records Set By Sandy, And What They Mean

PHOTO: This combination of photos shows above, lower Manhattan dark after the hybrid storm Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, and below a fully lit skyline on Jan. 6, 2012

AP Photo

It's official, Sandy will go down in the record books as one of the worst storms to ever hit the East Coast. Here are a few records set by the super storm and what they actually mean:

1. The Biggest Challenge in the History of New York's Subway System

The New York subway system has been around for 108 years, but never has it "faced a disaster as devastating as what [it] experienced last night," according to the head of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joe Lhota.

An estimated 5.2 million New Yorkers use the subway system everyday. But Sandy flooded every main subway line, ripped out power to stations, and inundated rail yards and bus depots. The entire system has closed down, including the Metro-North railroad and the Long Island railroad.

Although most subway cars were brought to higher ground before the storm and remain fully operational, MTA employees will need to pump and dry out subway tunnels around the city before electricity can be restored to the tracks.

In the days before the storm, MTA spokespeople warned the real threat to the subway system is the salt water. Unlike rain water, sea water can eat away at switches on the track, so the agency spent days before the storm stacking sandbags at vulnerable points in the system. Today, it's clear that at least six under river tunnels that are part of the subway system were flooded with seawater, according to The Wall Street Journal.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz has said the cleanup process could take as few as 14 hours and as much as four days.

2. Record Power Outages in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and NY

More than three million homes are without power in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, due to downed power lines from the storm, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "This is definitely historic and record-breaking for us," said Liz Williamson, a spokeswoman for Peco, the utility company in Pennsylvania.

New Jersey was hit almost twice as hard with power outages this year than last year during Hurricane Irene, when it took nearly a week for some to get power back.

Most of Lower Manhattan beneath 34th street was without power on Monday evening. Altogether 750,000 remain without power as of Tuesday morning and ConEd estimates that it may take three or four days for power to return, "and maybe even longer than that," according to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

John Miksad, Con Ed's senior vice president of electric operations, says that it would also take "three to four days to restore power to the three networks preemptively shut off once Con Ed could get access to them," according to NY1. These pre-planned outages affected approximately 34,000 customers.

During Hurricane Irene, nearly half a million individuals lost power in the New York City area, including 70,000 within the city. Many houses didn't see it return until four or five days after the storm. But it looks like Sandy's scope has been much worse in the region.

"This will be one for the record books," Miksad said. "This will be the largest storm-related outage in our history."

3. Record-Setting Meteorological Metrics

She wasn't quite a hurricane by the time she reached landfall in New York, but "superstorm" Sandy still amazed meteorologists around the world for her sheer strength, size, and pressure.

"There are no precedents for Sandy," Bill Read, former director of the National Hurricane Center told the Houston Chronicle.

That's because, according to science writer Eric Berger, "it's unprecedented for a storm to strike the mid-Atlantic states moving due west at landfall." Sandy is also remarkable, because she set the record for the lowest pressure of an Atlantic storm north of North Carolina and became the second largest Atlantic tropical cyclone since 1988. Superstorm Sandy is also much larger than other hurricanes -- also twice the size of Hurricane Ike!

4. Record-Setting Snowfall

As superstorm Sandy moves north, western North Carolina is seeing very atypical snowfall, the National Weather Service reported. Tuesday mornings' snowfall in the mountains was as much as five inches in the region, and residents are still expecting more. The weather service said that up to six inches of snow could fall in the region, which hasn't happened in Western North Carolina at this time of year since 1923, according to local NBC affiliate WYFF 4.

The snow has already caused power outages to about 4,000 homes in the region, and weathermen warn locals of icy, slippery roadways in the area.

5. Record Flooding And Associated Costs

Forecasters said it would be bad, but not this bad. Various meteorologists predicted that Sandy would bring a storm surge into New York Harbor on Monday evening between 6 and 10 feet. But, just after 7 p.m. on Monday evening, The Weather Channel reported that the surge in Battery Park had reached 14 feet, and had broken a record high set in 1821. The East River also reportedly crept into the East Village of Manhattan on Avenue C, and the Hudson River overflowed into the streets of lower Manhattan. Property damage caused by standing water and strong winds in New York and New Jersey will likely cost insurance providers billions of dollars.

Last year's Hurricane Irene, a significantly gentler storm, cost insurance companies more than $4 billion in damage claims, according to TIME Magazine. Some analysts have put Sandy's damages somewhere between $5 and $10 billion dollars, making it one of the top 10 most expensive storms in U.S. history.

"We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations," Bloomberg said in a press conference on Monday evening. "This is a once-in-a-long-time storm."

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