Coinciding with a tide-swelling full moon, Sandy is to smash tidal records all along the Jersey coast.
East Coast tropical-storm threats are not unusual in September and October, but no one could recall a hurricane paralleling the coast and then making a hard left at New Jersey. Typically, in October, tropical storms scoot rapidly southwest to northeast. Sandy had pursued a ponderous, almost due-north path before making that radical left.
"We're in new territory here," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist who is the National Hurricane Center spokesman.
"This is a once in a lifetime event," said Tom Kines, a meteorologist at Accu-Weather Inc.
Monday morning Sandy was crossing the Gulf Stream and getting a last injection to tropical energy before becoming a landfalling menace.
Why the turn?
Sandy is slamming into a wall of high pressure, or heavier air, over the North Atlantic. The high is directing it toward a deep area of low pressure over the Eastern United States, and that system has become a magnet for trouble.
Interacting with that low, Sandy is mutating into a major rain-maker while maintaining its destructive tropical-storm-force winds.
Winds could gust up to 60 m.p.h. in Philadelphia, said Kines -- higher at the Shore.
Already 3 to 5 inches of rain have fallen in parts of Delaware and South Jersey, and about an inch in Philadelphia. More than a quarter inch was measured at Philadelphia International Airport between 8 and 9.
Wind gusts up to 50 m.p.h. have been recorded in Atlantic City, and gusts of up to 85 are possible later, the National Weather Service says.
The storm is forecast to peak in the region between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. Winds should die down some over night, but they'll still be howling in the morning.
The hurricane center is forecasting the center of Sandy to pass near Atlantic City -- similar to the path foreseen by the European forecast model a week ago -- sometime tonight. Accu-Weather says it should happen between 7 and 8.
If it does hold together as a hurricane -- that is with peak winds of at least 74 m.p.h. -- officially it would be the Garden State's first landfalling hurricane since 1903.
Irene, at first was believed to have been a Category 1 when it grazed the Jersey coast last year. However, nature evidently demanded a review, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigators determined that it hadn't quite made the grade.
Even if Sandy doesn't make grade, it won't make much difference, said Kines.
The destruction is likely to be historic.
Contact Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210.