One year goes by since the historic Hurricane Sandy hits the East Coast

A year ago yesterday, one of the most significant natural disasters to impact the United States hit the east coast along the shores of New Jersey. The storm’s name was Sandy. Sandy’s size and power was incredible. Sandy is a name that many folks up and down the Atlantic coast will not soon forget.

Sandy developed on October 22nd in the Caribbean Sea and strengthened to hurricane status just two days later. On October 24th, the storm made landfall in Jamaica then quickly strengthened to a major, Category 3 hurricane before making a second landfall in Cuba. The storm devastated these areas and killed several. Below you can see the track that Sandy took over its’ lifetime.

Early on before the storm even formed, the European Forecast Model was showing that Sandy would become a massive storm system. It would not head out to sea, but instead it would make a sharp left turn and head straight for the U.S. coastline. It took a while for the long-term American forecast model to see this track shift as well. Sure enough, Sandy made the curve towards the U.S. early on the 29th of October. The storm by this point was making the transition from a tropical to a non-tropical cyclone. A tropical cyclone feeds off warm ocean waters while a non-tropical cyclone feeds off the jet stream and the difference between warm and cold air masses. In the lead up to landfall, Sandy was a hybrid of these two cyclones. That’s why Sandy became SO BIG and SO STRONG.

Here’s some incredible statistics. Twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that would’ve covered 1/5 of the contiguous United States. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been larger.

Sandy’s area of ocean with 12 foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles…that’s nearly one-half of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area. Ten hours before landfall, the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher was equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs! This storm was just insane!

Sandy made landfall along the New Jersey coast as a non-tropical cyclone with hurricane force peak winds at 80 mph at around 8 pm. The remnants would weaken over Pennsylvania over the next couple days through Halloween. New Jersey was hit hard by storm surge and the coastline was ravaged. Below is a picture of the damage done to the pier in Seaside Heights, NJ.

When the storm made landfall on the 29th, it brought strong winds, heavy rain, an impressive storm surge, and even heavy snow to some areas. Around 120 million people in the eastern U.S. were under high wind warnings. Over 8.5 million customers lost power. That’s the second largest weather-related power outage in national history. Below is an image of the lights out in Manhattan.

The rainfall was impressive with this storm and caused a lot of flooding in the Mid-Atlantic. However, in the Appalachian Mountains, the primary precipitation was snow with Sandy. The snowfall was very heavy and piled up over 2 feet in some places.

Over 130 fatalities were caused by Hurricane Sandy. The damage estimate is $65 billion dollars, making it the second most expensive weather-related disaster in U.S. history. It’s second only to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a meteorologist, this storm was fascinating to watch unfold. However, as a person, my heart went out to all the people that were affected by Sandy and wish them the best in their recovery effort a year later. Based on the graphic below, we’ve seen some really bad storms in recent years. I’m glad the hurricane season of 2013 has been very, very quiet.

In the comments, feel free to share stories that you have of watching the TV coverage of Sandy or stories from family members or friends that rode out the big storm. You can learn more about the clean-up and rebuilding effort on

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