NEW YORK CITY — As Hurricane Sandy continued to barrel toward New York, forecasters predicted the worst of the storm would begin battering the Big Apple Monday afternoon, and warned of "life-threatening" conditions.
National Weather Service meteorologists said winds ranging from 70 to 90 miles per hour were expected by late afternoon Monday, especially along coastal areas.
The storm is expected to make landfall early Monday evening along the New Jersey coast, bringing with it flooding and hurricane-force winds, defined as winds in excess of at least 74 miles per hour.
Weather experts warned that the storm would be worst between 6 and 10 p.m. Monday night, when it makes its landfall in New Jersey. New York City can expect surges of water as high as 11 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologists said the tide is already higher than usual in the New York harbor, because of the full moon Monday night.
Gale-forces winds — or sustained gusts that reach anywhere from about 40 to 55 miles per hour — began slamming the region at 7 a.m. Monday, the weather service said.
Sustained winds Monday are forecast to reach up to 45 miles per hour in the afternoon and as high as 55 miles per hour heading into the evening, with the possibility of growing to 70 to 90 miles per hour north of the storm’s center by late afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Gusts between 60 and 75 miles per hour are expected in the mid- to late-afternoon hours Monday, prior to the hurricane making landfall, the weather service predicted.
For New Yorkers, the worst of the storm will start arriving Monday after lunchtime, with conditions worsening into the evening. A second band of winds surrounding the storm will begin lashing into parts of Long Island and southern Connecticut Monday night, and then turn west toward New York City, the National Weather Service said.
A coastal flood warning remains in effect until 3 p.m. Tuesday, with tides of up to 11 feet above normal levels threatening to spill over in low-lying areas from Coney Island to Battery Park City, according to AccuWeather. A high-wind warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday, the weather service added.
The winds will weaken overnight into Tuesday morning, still bringing possible gusts of up to 50 miles per hour at daybreak, as well as rains of between 2 and 4 inches in the city.
The wind and rain will continue into Wednesday as the storm heads inland, though the most dangerous conditions will being to taper off in the city, forecasters said.
The areas most at risk during the storm, called Zone A in the city's hurricane evacuation plan, includes Battery Park City, parts of the Financial District and Chinatown, some of the East Village and Lower East Side, and Hell's Kitchen and Murray Hill.
In Brooklyn, parts of Greenpoint and Red Hook are largely in Zone A, as well as the Navy Yard, Coney Island and Manhattan Beach.
In Queens, parts of the Rockaways, Broad Channel, Long Island City, and Hamilton Beach fall within Zone A, and in the Bronx, parts of Throgs Neck and the South Bronx will be evacuated.
Much of Staten Island's coastal areas are Zone A, including Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach, Great Kills, Stapleton, Port Ivory and Port Richmond — and large portions of Hylan Boulevard, Victory Boulevard, and NY 440 fall within the designation as well.