Superstorm Sandy made an unusual left turn 10 years ago and slammed head first into the population dense East Coast, changing history forever.
People often forget the beginning. Sandy was born in the Caribbean on Oct. 22, 2012, only six hours after becoming Tropical Depression 18. In two days Sandy was a hurricane, weaving through the Caribbean, dealing a blow to Jamaica before scraping Haiti and making landfall in Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane.
Sandy’s toll on the Caribbean read like a twisted box score: Jamaica: $100 million in damage, 1 dead; Cuba: more than 171,000 home damaged, more than 16,000 of them destroyed, 11 dead; Haiti: more than 27,000 homes damaged or destroyed, 54 dead; Bahamas: $300 million in damage, 2 dead; Dominican Republic: more than 20,000 people displaced, 3 dead.
Next, Sandy skirted up the southern East Coast, past Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. And even though it had weakened by this point, the storm still managed to cause flooding and inundated low-lying areas like North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
But the worst for the U.S. would come when Sandy swerved west, dealing a left haymaker square on the jaw of the mid-Atlantic, particularly New Jersey and New York.
Sandy was massive before it made landfall in the U.S. Tropical storm force winds extended outward in diameter nearly from southwest to northeast, the biggest circulation of any tropical system on record.
The sheer size of the storm played an important role in the devastation Sandy dealt to the East Coast. Size matters among the many factors that influence storm surge, because bigger storms impact a greater area of the ocean over a longer period of time than smaller storms, thereby enabling a large storm to push more ocean water ashore.
As a result, coastal areas in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut experienced massive storm surges. Kings Point, New York, took on 12.65 feet of storm surge alone. Total water levels at Battery Park, on the southern tip of Manhattan, rose to nearly 14 feet.
That storm surge quickly crept into Queen’s oceanfront Breezy Point neighborhood and infamously set off a six-alarm fire at around 10 p.m. local time. With streets flooded, firefighters couldn’t traverse the area and the fire soon spread to the entire neighborhood, reducing more than 130 homes to an ashen scar.
The same was true for New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall. In casino-rich Atlantic City, New Jersey, nearly 9 feet of water swept ashore, damaging a section of the boardwalk and washing away roads and portions of homes in the area.
Seaside Heights, New Jersey, along with its iconic boardwalk and amusement rides, also fell victim to Sandy’s storm surge, slipping into the sea. An indelible image emerged from the scene: The skeleton of The Star Jet rollercoaster jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean, its tracks taking on waves.
Water cut through the barrier island of Mantoloking, New Jersey, dramatically eroding the sand and cutting off homes from inland New Jersey. The same devastating scene played out along more than 100 miles of New Jersey coastline, particularly in Ocean and Monmouth counties. By the time Sandy had left New Jersey, some 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the state, The New York Times reports.
These are just a couple of the thousands of storylines that unfolded in late October 10 years ago. Because of the size and scope of Superstorm Sandy it’s nearly impossible to tell them all.
But all told, Sandy claimed 159 livesNearly half of all the people killed in the U.S. drowned in Sandy’s intense storm surge flooding. And the storm was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, racking up over $80 billion in total damage along the East Coast, from Maine to North Carolina.
Sandy can never be forgotten after altering the lives of so many people in such a dramatic fashion. And especially not now, 10 years on.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.