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Add to that the hundreds of miles of waves and the overall intensity of this storm, Uccellini said in an interview, and “we are in the middle of a very serious situation.”

Forecasters are far more worried about inland flooding from storm surge than they are about winds.

There are several measures for hurricanes. And one NOAA research tool that measures the intensity of hurricane overall kinetic energy forecasts a 5.2 for Sandy’s waves and storm surge damage potential. That’s on a scale of 0 to 6, putting it up with historic storms, such as Katrina. It rates a much smaller number for wind.

Because of the mix with the winter storm, the wind won’t be as intense as it is near the center of a hurricane. But it will reach for hundreds of miles, spreading the energy further, albeit weaker, meteorologists said.

Uccellini and Masters said they expect the central pressure of the storm to drop to a near record low for the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast for any time of year. That is a big indication of energy and helps power the wind. This puts it on par with the 1938 storm that hit Long Island and New England, killing 800 people, or the equivalent of a category 4 hurricane.