Looking Back: 10 Things to Know About Hurricane Sandy
Remembering the 2012 hurricane famous for driving a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines.
By Avery Stone
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Sandy was a classic late-season hurricane in the southwestern Caribbean Sea that occurred from October 22-29, 2012. The cyclone first made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in Jamaica, and as a Category 3 hurricane in eastern Cuba before quickly weakening to a category 1 Hurricane while moving through the central and northwestern Bahamas. Sandy then underwent a complex evolution and grew considerably in size while over the Bahamas, and continued to grow despite weakening into a tropical storm north of those islands.
The system restrengthened into a hurricane while it moved northeastward, parallel to the coast of the southeastern United States, then turned northwestward toward the mid-Atlantic states. Though Sandy weakened somewhat when it made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone near Brigantine, New Jersey, it drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines because of its tremendous size.
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Landfall in Jamaica
When Sandy made its first landfall in Jamaica as a Category 1 hurricane on October 24, it became the first hurricane to make landfall there since Gilbert in 1988 (although Ivan brought sustained hurricane-force winds to the island in 2004).
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Sandy was an extraordinarily large hurricane, its size growing considerably from the time it reached the Bahamas until its final landfall as an extratropical cyclone along the mid-Atlantic coast. Data from a variety of observational platforms indicated that the extent (diameter) of tropical-storm-force (or gale-force) winds grew to about 870 n mi prior to landfall, with most of the increase in size occurring on the 25th and 26th of October (over the Bahamas).
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Sandy caused water levels to rise along the entire east coast of the United States from Florida northward to Maine. The highest storm surges and greatest inundation on land occurred in the states of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, especially in and around the New York City metropolitan area. In many of these locations, especially along the coast of central and northern New Jersey, Staten Island, and southward-facing shores of Long Island, the surge was accompanied by powerful damaging waves.
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Highest Storm Surge
The highest storm surge (measured by an NOS tide gauge) in New York was 12.65 feet above normal tide levels, at Kings Point on the western end of Long Island Sound.
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Sandy spawned torrential rains across parts of Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and Hispaniola. A maximum storm total rainfall of 28.09 inches was reported at Mill Bank, Jamaica.
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Only one tornado was reported in association with Sandy, an F-0 (winds between 73-112 mph) that struck Somerset, Bermuda on 28 October.
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The total number of direct deaths caused by Sandy is estimated at 147. In the United States, 72 direct deaths were noted, making Sandy the deadliest U.S. cyclone outside of the southern states since Agnes in 1972.
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At least 87 deaths were indirectly associated with Sandy or its remnants in the United States. About 50 of these deaths were the result of extended power outages during cold weather, which led to deaths from hypothermia, falls in the dark by senior citizens, or carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly placed generators or cooking devices. The remaining deaths were mostly from storm cleanup efforts, including removing falling trees and car accidents.
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At least 650,000 houses were either damaged or destroyed as a result of Sandy, with the vast majority of the damage caused by storm surge and waves. About 8.5 million customers lost power as a result of Sandy or its remnants, with power out for weeks or even months in some areas.