UND atmospheric scientist weighs in on huge storm ‘Sandy’

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UND atmospheric scientist weighs in on huge storm ‘Sandy’

Hurricane Sandy is sizing up to be one of more terrifying storms to hit the New England area.

UND Chester Frtiz Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Leon Osborne has followed coverage of Sandy and has a take on what might happen in next few days.

“This is a big storm. It may be one the most damaging storms to hit the New England area; not the largest, but one of the most damaging,” he said. “The storm’s influence may continue all the way into Michigan and the Great Lakes.”

Osborne said that what makes this storm so potentially destructive is the heavy precipitation that will likely cause severe flooding.

“This is a slow moving storm, and it will slow down even more as it hits the mainland,” said Osborne. “The problem won’t be the wind; it will be the rain.”

Osborne is head of UND’s Regional Weather Information Center, part of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. He has been teaching and researching weather at UND for nearly 35 years, and is credited with starting a new company that invented the “511” National Advanced Traveler Information system, which now provides weather and road information, on demand, in about 40 states.

Osborne said whatever Sandy does, it likely will not come close to the devastation that hit New England in 1938, when a hurricane caused nearly $38 billion in damage in today’s dollars.

As for whether or not city, state and federal emergency response groups are prepared, Osborne says that there are lessons from the past that have provided useful insight.

Osborne said that FEMA has learned a lot from Hurricane Irene, a 2011 storm that became the fifth costliest hurricane in United States history. The media has done a good job of keeping people informed, and city officials been clearing out mandatory evacuation areas.

“As with any storm of this nature, there will be people who have the feeling of invincibility,” Osborne said. “ You have the same people in this region who shrug off freezing conditions and people farther south that don’t worry about tornadoes. That is where the danger lies.”

Hurricane Sandy is expected to connect with southern New Jersey coast Monday night.

Brian Johnson Communications Clerk, University Relations

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