Hurricane Sandy is speeding up as it approaches the New Jersey coastline and expected to make landfall in the early evening instead of late Monday night as previously predicted.
The storm's speed increased from 18 mph to 28 mph within the last four hours, but maximum sustained winds remain at 90 mph.
Hurricane force winds and heavy rain continues to pummel the coastline as the Category 1 storm makes its approach. With widespread flooding already prevalent along the New Jersey coastline, officials there and in New York City are bracing for historic storm damage.
As of 2 p.m., the National Weather Service says Hurricane Sandy was 110 miles from Atlantic City and 175 miles from New York City.
A transition into a winter-time low pressure system will cause the storm to intensify just prior to reaching land and then weaken as it moves inland.
Tropical storm or gale force winds are continuing over portions of the Mid-Atlantic states from North Carolina north to Long Island and have spread to New York City and southern New England.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the coast from Duck, N.C., north to Surf City, N.J. A tropical storm warning for Bermuda was discontinued Monday morning.
The wind and flooding impacts from Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey are expected to surpass those from last year's Hurricane Irene.
Storm surge estimates range from 2 to 11 feet with the highest surges of 6-11 feet expected in Long Island Sound, New York Harbor and Raritan Bay.
Storm surge predictions in other locations range from 4-6 feet for North Carolina north to Surf City, N.J., 4-8 feet from Ocean City, Md., north to the Connecticut and Rhode Island border; 2-4 feet from southeast Virginia north to the Delmarva Peninsula, including the Lower Chesapeake Bay; 1-3 feet from the Massachusetts and New Hampshire border to Canada.
The hurricane has prompted several weather alerts for the region from the National Weather's Service's Philadelphia Bureau in Mt. Holly, N.J.
Rain has begun falling in earnest, with 5-10 inches of rain possible by the end of Tuesday in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties and 2-4 inches over the Poconos and far northwest New Jersey.
A flood warning issued through 7:30 p.m. Monday for Southeast Pennsylvania is likely to be extended as the rain continues into Tuesday. The Lehigh Valley is under a flood watch and a high wind warning.
Flooding from excessive runoff is expected along streams and creeks and on roads and areas with poor drainage. The Delaware and Lehigh rivers are not expected to flood, but flooding is possible on other rivers, especially in New Jersey, depending on where the heaviest rain occurs. Flooding along the main stems of the rivers likely will be delayed until Tuesday or later.
Major to moderate flooding has been forecast for creeks in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties.
The east branch of the Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, the Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, the Chester Creek near Chester and Neshaminy Creek at Langhorne are expected to reach above flood stage Monday night or tomorrow morning.
Evacuations are likely in Chadds Ford along the Brandywine, which is expected to rise about 5 feet above flood stage to 13 feet by Tuesday afternoon. Residential evacuations begin at 13 feet.
Some homes in the area of Langhorne also could be impacted as the Neshaminy Creek is expected to rise from 1.1 feet Monday to about 10 feet by early Tuesday. Flood stage is 9 feet.
The Perkiomen Creek near Graterford and Collegeville is forecast to reach just above the 11-foot flood stage to 11.2 feet by Tuesday morning. At 12 feet, the Penitentiary Bridge is closed and houses in Graterford take on water.
Meanwhile, a high wind warning and a flood watch remain in effect for the Lehigh Valley, Poconos, Philadelphia and New Jersey regions of National Weather Service Philadelphia Bureau's forecast area. A watch means there is a potential for the event and a warning means the event is imminent or already occurring.
High Wind Warning until 9 a.m. Tuesday
Northeast winds increasing by 2 p.m. to 40-55 mph with gusts of 65-75 mph expected along the New Jersey coast until Sandy passes Monday night. A similarly damaging pattern of southerly winds will follow Monday night as Sandy heads west past Philadelphia.
The strongest wind are expected Monday afternoon and early Monday night. Wind gusts of 50-60 mph will continue early Tuesday, but by then most of the damage will have occurred.
A prolonged period of high winds increases the chances for structural damage. Expect downed trees and widespread outages, especially from Interstate 95 east to the coastline. The combination of the wind and increasingly saturated ground from the rain will be compounded because many trees still have most of their leaves.
Flood Watch through Tuesday afternoon
Sandy will produce excessive rainfall across portions of the region Monday and Monday night with runoff swelling rivers Tuesday and beyond.
Total rainfall will range from 4 to 10 inches along the coast and Southeast Pennsylvania to 2-4 inches in northern New Jersey and the Poconos.
Bands of heavy downpours and rainsqualls could produce rainfall rates of nearly an inch per hour for several hours, forcing fast rises in small streams and widespread street flooding. Basement and urban flooding also is possible.
Be alert to leaves clogging storm drains, which will enhance flooding.
Source: The National Weather Service