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Saturday storm packed bigger punch than some hurricanes

Wantagh, NY Sunday March 14, 2010: The home

Wantagh, NY Sunday March 14, 2010: The home of Gary Marsicozetere was damaged by a falling tree from his neighbor's yard Sunday March 14, in Wantagh Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams Jr. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It will likely go down in history without a proper name, known only as the March 2010 nor'easter to meteorology buffs.

But this weekend's storm packed a bigger punch than any recent hurricane and caused the most extensive coastal flooding on Long Island since the most famous nor'easter, the Perfect Storm of 1991, meteorologists said Sunday.

The National Weather Service reported that East Setauket and Melville got 4.5 inches of rain, and the highest wind gust on Long Island was 70 mph at Bridgehampton.

"It was something we haven't seen in quite awhile," said Jeffrey Tongue, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service station in Upton.

Weather experts said the nasty winds and torrential rain were really caused by two weather systems colliding - a hulking low-pressure front moving in from the south hitting a high-pressure area in eastern Canada.

"It's kind of sandwiched together," said Richard Castro of the National Weather Service.

The two pressure systems created an imbalance, causing gusting winds that are difficult to predict, Castro said. So while meteorologists had issued high wind warnings of 58 mph gusts or higher for the New York City area on Friday, many were surprised when 75 mph spurts were recorded at Kennedy Airport on Saturday.

Tongue said emergency management directors of every county in the region got as much warning as possible that high winds were coming.

The storm packed a greater wallop because it was so slow-moving, concentrating its heavy rains on one area rather than spreading it out, meteorologists said.

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