Anniversary of Irene’s Impact on New Jersey This Weekend
The past two days here in New Jersey were filled with plenty of sun along with heat and humidity. Five years ago this weekend, there was a lot of humidity as well with the approach of what eventually became Tropical Storm Irene here in the Garden State. While the storm had lost much of its punch, it still brought plenty of rain, which many locations in New Jersey didn’t need.
Prior to Hurricane Irene, the Garden State experienced perhaps the wettest August on record. Many locations had over a foot of water thanks to torrential downpours occurring numerous times over the course of the month. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, located in the Northwest corner of Middlesex County, there had been 10 inches of rain.
Then came Irene, which brought to GWC approximately 5.34 inches. Winds gusted to near 70 miles per hour while the barometric pressure bottomed out at 970 millibars, or 28.64 inches of Hg (Mercury), the lowest level ever at GWC at that time. It would be surpassed some 14 months later when Hurricane Sandy came along and shattered it.
Despite the tremendous flooding across the Garden State including the worst flooding in the 45 years that I’ve lived in my neighborhood in South Plainfield, NJ (View the video of the flooding from Irene outside of GWC). Places in Monmouth County such as Howell received much more rain (up to 10 inches). Irene also churned up the surf along the Jersey Shore including Raritan Bay at South Amboy’s Waterfront Park (View video of the rising tides at Raritan Bay from Irene).
Driving home from South Amboy was also very treacherous since portions of I-287 and Route 440 had overwash and flooding. The storm produced winds near 70 miles per hour at GWC. Central Jersey as well as other parts of the state were hit with power outages. A tornado was spawned in Lewes, Delaware which is a ferry service away from Cape May on the southern tip of the Garden State. The combination of losing power combined with the rising flood waters in my neighborhood forced my family to evacuate to a hotel in a nearby town. We stayed at the hotel for several days.
All of the chaos from the storm as well as the evacuation to the hotel put a lot of stress on our cat, Socko. Unknown to us, Socko had already been suffering health wise from a cancerous growth that had developed in his chest a few years before. However, the stress of going to an unfamiliar location caused him to suffer panic attacks. He eventually adjusted, but then was brought back to the house, where the air was stifling and had an odor that seemed toxic.
Socko died a week later on the Sunday morning before Labor Day. Our family hasn’t gotten a cat or dog since. To my amazement, the historic flooding in my neighborhood didn’t last long. Within a day, the flood waters had receded, which allowed my family to return home by Thursday of that week. Power and gas came on that day. One great thing that came out of all of this was the fact that the new GWC Wx Station, installed in June, kept running throughout, and I was able to retrieve the historic data.
The storm did damage further north as well. Irene brought storm surge between 3 and 6 feet in New York City and Long Island. It also produced torrential rainfall in New England, especially Vermont, which experienced some of the worst flooding since 1927. Many covered bridges, which dot the landscape throughout Vermont, were destroyed by the raging waters that developed as a result of the heavy rains from Irene there.
Despite all the tremendous damage from Irene, I must say that New Jersey, New York, and New England were very fortunate. Irene could have been much worse. After the storm had ravaged the Bahamas with Category Three strength winds of 120 miles per hour, it had strengthened to 125 miles per hour, but dry air was able to get into the system, and gradually sapped Irene of her strength and fury. The storm became a jogger struggling to get to the finish line. It had simply run out of gas.
By the time, Hurricane Irene had made landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the storm had winds of minimal hurricane strength, but more importantly, the core structure of the system had turned into Swiss cheese from the dry air intrusion. Originally, Irene had reached Cape May, and Brigantine Island as a Category One Hurricane with 75 mph winds, but it was later revised to be a tropical storm with 70 mph winds.
Irene was more typical of tropical systems that affect the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast although it took a more coastal track through the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and eventually up into New Jersey. Sandy was much different in that it was a tropical system that formed in the final days of October, where the upper level winds and jet stream are starting to become more winter like. In addition, blocking high pressure formed to the north of Sandy, which forced it to make its move toward the Jersey Shore.
It was a memorable week or two in New Jersey, but the experience with Irene, which was more of a rainmaker, would pale in comparison to the onslaught brought by Sandy some 14 months later. Irene and Sandy did serve as a reminder that New Jersey is a coastal state and despite the protection from the Carolinas to the south, it is still vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes.
Hurricane Hunters Find Category Four Storm Much Stronger on Saturday Afternoon
Saturday brought with it some good news for those living in the Bahamas. After Hurricane Joaquin pummeled the archipelago for the better part of three days, the storm began to pull away. However as Joaquin began to push to the north and east toward Bermuda, the storm dramatically intensified during the afternoon hours. Hurricane Hunter aircraft discovered Joaquin much stronger with winds of 155 miles per hour, or just a shade under Category Five intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The storm reached this new intensity peak during the mid-afternoon hours, and has since weakened to 145 mile per hour winds as of the 8:00 PM EDT Advisory on Saturday evening from the National Hurricane Center. Barometric pressure, which had been as low as 931 millibars, or 27.49 inches of Hg a couple days ago, now has a barometric pressure of 933 millibars, or 27.55 inches. Joaquin has been picking up in forward speed to the Northeast at 18 miles per hour. Currently, the Category Four Hurricane is located some 550 miles to the Southwest of Bermuda.
As Joaquin moves away from the Bahamas, pictures and video are coming out of the island chain that are showing the power, fury, and devastation from the storm. Pictures out of Exuma and Long Island show significant damage. Video of the storm’s power as it raked San Salvador showed palm trees leaning heavily to one side under the weight of the high winds that blew through the island for the better part of 48 hours. Wayne Neely, a meteorologist for the Bahamas, indicated earlier today on Facebook that as many as 30 people may have died on Long Island, and so far 8 deaths have been confirmed there. An overhead photo from the island shows heavily damaged homes surrounded by water.
Next stop for Joaquin is the resort island of Bermuda, where a Tropical Storm Warning and a Hurricane Watch are in effect. The storm is expected to turn to the North-Northeast on Sunday, and that will take it just to the west of the island, which could still see hurricane force conditions. The NHC cautions though that a slight deviation in Joaquin’s storm track to the east could bring more significant winds to Bermuda. Meanwhile, the storm is still playing an indirect role in the weather here in New Jersey, and down the Eastern Seaboard as far south as South Carolina. The tight pressure gradient between Joaquin and high pressure coming down from Canada, and another system is creating a tremendous easterly fetch that is stirring up the waters along coastal communities up and down the East Coast.
The Weather Channel is reporting from North Charleston, South Carolina, where tremendous flooding is occurring. TWC has reporters wading through high waters in the streets of North Charleston. Further north, in Cape May County, New Jersey, waters are rising in places like Wildwood, where significant flooding could occur when high tide comes in at midnight there. A little bit further north in the Garden State on Long Beach Island in Ocean County, extensive tidal flooding is occurring. Storm surge maps are showing surge rises of up to 3 feet above normal from Delaware Bay up to Seaside Heights. GWC was over at Waterfront Park in South Amboy, where there was also a good easterly fetch driving waves ashore, and bringing gusty winds that had the US flag there flapping wildly.
On Friday afternoon and evening, the rain was at its worst across the Garden State. Driven by a fairly steady wind, moderate to heavy rain fell from about 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon to well past 9:30 PM on Friday evening. High School football games went on as scheduled across New Jersey although a number of them including several in Middlesex County were moved up earlier to avoid players and fans having to deal with extreme weather conditions. However, fans at the early games still had to go through some difficulty. According to the NHC’s latest forecast track, Joaquin will make its closest approach to New Jersey on Monday afternoon as a hurricane. So, residents up and down the Jersey Shore should expect the easterly fetch to continue and the elevated water levels, rip currents, and heavy surf to persist for the next 40 hours or so.
Tropics Have Been Relatively Quiet Since Record Breaking Season in Atlantic
Last week marked the 10th Anniversary of the most deadly and devastating storm in the modern era in the United States. Despite mercifully weakening just before landfall near Buras, Louisiana with Category Three strength 125 mile per hour winds after being as strong as a record making Category Five Hurricane with 175 mile per hour winds and a minimum central pressure of 902 millibars or 26.64 inches of Hg. Katrina then made a second landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with 120 mph winds. The combination of the weakening with a track that took the storm’s strongest side east of New Orleans appeared to put the Big Easy in the clear. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
A near natural disaster had become a major man-made disaster as the levee system around New Orleans failed, and waters began pouring into the surrounding parishes such as St. Bernard’s, and the section of the city known as the Lower Ninth Ward. Meanwhile, further to the east, Katrina was still powerful and large enough to generate a storm surge even greater than the monster storm of August 1969 known as Hurricane Camille. The storm struck many, if not all of the same towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast such as Gulfport, Biloxi, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, and Pascagoula, and brought a storm surge that ended up being the highest ever in North America.
Hurricane Katrina ended up killing some 1,800 people, which seemed unfathomable in this day and age. On top of that, the storm left at least $80 billion dollars in damage, which is three times more than the previous high mark from a natural disaster set by Hurricane Andrew when it impacted Homestead and South Florida back in August 1992. The storm also brought out the worst in a country that is supposed to be the leader of the “free world.” Katrina exposed problems with federal government agencies such as FEMA, and even more glaring, the lack of coordination between local, state, and federal agencies so that the necessary resources could efficiently be distributed to those directly impacted by the storm.
Two examples of that failure were deploying resources such as National Guard Troops, buses, and other kinds of essentials to those affected in shelters of last resort such as the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center. Numerous horror stories from these two sites were brought into viewers homes by all the cable news and regular broadcast news networks. The storm’s aftermath provided an image of the United States that wasn’t one of superpower, but instead one of a third world country. It demonstrated how out of touch politicians in Washington and Louisiana had grown so far out of touch with its constituents in New Orleans. In addition, Katrina’s aftermath also showed the wide chasm between rich and poor in the United States.
The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season didn’t stop with Katrina though. As a matter of fact, the year produced an astounding five Category Five Hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Those kind of numbers are usually only seen with typhoons in the Western Pacific. However, the combination of several factors such as abundant moisture around the Atlantic Basin, above normal sea surface temperatures, La Nina conditions in the Pacific that brought about favorable upper level wind conditions, and the positioning of the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic, which helped drive these powerful storms into the Gulf of Mexico, and over the Loop Current there, where conditions were optimal for explosive tropical development. Katrina, Rita, and Wilma were prime examples of the effect of the Loop Current.
During the historic 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, there were a total of 31 depressions, 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes. Of those 7 major storms, 71 percent of them reached the highest level possible for a tropical cyclone, which is extremely rare. It is very rare to have one Category Five storm in the Atlantic during the course of the season. So, when you have five: Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, that is record book material. Recently, I put together an article on the busy season in the WESTPAC where there have been 6 Super Typhoons of Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. This has been largely due to the emergence of the strongest El Nino at least since 1998. Remember, ENSO produces above normal sea surface temperatures and favorable upper level wind conditions in the Pacific. Rita appeared on its way to give another blow to the Big Easy.
Like Katrina a little less than a month earlier, Hurricane Rita tracked over South Florida and the Florida Keys and then grew into a monster as it traversed the Loop Current. The storm grew to be an even more powerful Category Five Hurricane than Katrina was in terms of wind (180 mph) and pressure (895 mb or 26.43 inches of Hg). Like Katrina though, Rita eventually weakened before making landfall, and spared the major population centers of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana as it made landfall over to Louisiana Bayou. About a month after that, Hurricane Wilma spun up in the Northwestern Caribbean, and approached the Yucatan Penninsula. The storm grew to be even a notch better than Katrina and Rita with winds of 185 mph and the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin at 882 millibars or 26.05 inches of Hg surpassing the marks set by Hurricane Gilbert and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. After reaching its peak intensity, Wilma began feeling the effects of shear from a dipping jet stream over the United States, but it did re-energize before clobbing South Florida from west to east and causing significant damage along the Sunshine State’s Gold Coast.
Apparently, the 2005 Atlantic Season squeezed more than enough out of the earth’s atmosphere. Since that time, there hasn’t been a landfalling major hurricane in the United States. True, there has been active seasons such as 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with deadly and devastating storms such as Gustav, Ike, Irene, and Sandy, but none of them approached the pure power that the 2005 storms had. In addition, there have been quite a few below normal hurricane seasons since then including 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014. The change in behavior pattern in the Atlantic since the 2005 season may be an indication that the active cycle that dominated the basin since 1995 may be coming to an end.
Here is video of the rebuilt waterfront in South Amboy, which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. Rebuilding efforts really went into overdrive during the fall and winter months, and South Amboy’s beachfront looks as good as new with some improvements to the sea wall and berms added to protect homes there.
Middlesex County’s Gateway to the Jersey Shore Rebuilds and Reinforces Beachfront Property Nearly Three Years After Hurricane Sandy
During the course of this Spring, Hurricaneville has made a number of journeys over to South Amboy, New Jersey and its Waterfront Park, which faces Raritan Bay. Â Nearly three years after Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore to the south near Atlantic City, the small town known as the Gateway to the Jersey Shore has rebuilt and refortified its precious beachfront property. Â
It took some time, but the plan went into action during the summer and fall of 2014, and by the spring, South Amboy’s crown jewel, Waterfront Park, and adjoining beachfront looks even better than it did before October 29, 2012. I travel over to South Amboy a lot, and for several different reasons. Â I drove over to Waterfront Park and the South Amboy beachfront on the night that Hurricane Irene grinded her way up the Jersey coast. Â I was also there during the early afternoon on the day that Sandy made landfall in the Garden State. Â
Two weeks after Sandy blew through, I headed over there again. Â It was night and day as far as what I saw the day the storm hit, and this chilly late fall day in Mid-November 2012. Â The beachfront was tattered and torn to say the least, and I didn’t capture the full story. Â During the spring and summer of 2013, I got an even better picture of what Hurricane Sandy did to this small coastal community in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
During each visit to the South Amboy beachfront in the late fall of 2012, and the following spring and summer of 2013, I marveled at what I seen. Â I saw large boats run aground by the record storm surge that was generated by Sandy. Â Beach grasses and other vegetation was wiped out. Â Walkways were rendered unsafe by the power of the water undermining it. Â The fence along the walkway by the bench was twisted and battered.
To comprehend the shear power of that surge that came in from Raritan Bay, all you would have to do is look at the small bridge that connects Waterfront Park to the beachfront homes nearby. Â Bricks in the bridge’s walls were ripped off. Â You could see the metal cabling used to hold the bricks in place. Â In other words, you could see the actual internal skeleton of the bridge. Â Down the part of the walkway that is adjacent to the beachfront homes, places where there were park benches were swept away.
Fast forward to today, over two and a half years after Hurricane Sandy, and the beachfront looks as if the storm never even happened. Â The only scars you may see is the refortification of the beachfront properties with berms. Â The bridge connecting the park to the beachfront homes has been completely repaired, and looks as good as new. Â An improved sea wall protects much of the beachfront properties and the adjacent Waterfront Park. Â New vegetation has been planted while others have returned. Â
The walkway itself has been completely rebuilt down to the lights that light up the way. Â The stairway that allows you to get on the beach, which was badly damaged by the storm, has also been replaced as well as the fencing along Waterfront Park. Â It’s hard to imagine how all of this was either heavily damaged, or completely destroyed. Â The rebuilt beachfront has taken some lessons from Irene and Sandy with the enhanced sea wall and berms to better protect homes near the water. Â Views of the water are obscured, but it is all for the best. Â I don’t know exactly how all of this came together, but the final result is a job well done.
South Amboy has been a resilient community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Â Less than two months after the storm. Â Residents of the town got together to have a benefit for other residents of the town hit hard by the storm. Â It became known as the Friends of South Amboy Benefit Games, which were basketball games between both the boys and girls teams from South Amboy High School, and crosstown rival, Cardinal McCarrick. Â It was the first time that these two schools played each other since 2008, and it was a thrilling boys hoops game that went to overtime to cap the evening.
Two years later, they are still playing the benefit games, but now for different causes. Â Nevertheless, these contests have brought out the best of the town, and it all began in the hours and days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Â This rebuilding project shows South Amboy and Middlesex County’s can-do spirit.
Here is a slideshow from the pictures taken of the damage along the Jersey Shore at several locations from South Amboy to Sea Bright. The damage was quite extensive, especially at Sea Bright, which was just opened to the public again on Wednesday. There is a curfew in the coastal town from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM. The beach near Waterfront Park in South Amboy is contaminated. It will be a long time before the Jersey Shore is whole again.
Here is a short video of some of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy at several locations along the Jersey Shore from South Amboy to Sea Bright. The damage was quite extensive, especially at Sea Bright, which is under curfew from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM. The coastal town just south of Sandy Hook along Route 36 was opened up to the public on Wednesday. It will take many years before the Jersey Shore is whole again.
Possible Nor’easter Could Be In Store Next Week To Hamper Recovery
The timing of Superstorm Sandy couldn’t be worse. Coming in the last week of October, this hurricane/hybrid storm couldn’t have devastated the Jersey Shore, Southeastern New York, and coastal Connecticut at a worse time. The reason for that is the transition from summer to winter brings the development of nor’easters, especially as we get into late October and November. On top of that, there have already been forecasts out indicating that this coming winter could be a real bad one. Having more coastal storms will hamper recovery efforts.
Case in point, the Weather Channel indicated on Friday morning that another storm could be on the horizon for early next week. TWC points to computer models hinting at a Nor’easter that won’t be as strong as Sandy was, but still a nuisance with windy conditions accompanied by a cold rain. The American GFS model is indicating the storm will have a track just off the Mid-Atlantic coast while the European Model (ECMWF) is showing a more inland track that includes New Jersey. While the power is slowly coming back on for many Jersey residents (down to 1.5 million from 2.7 million at the storm’s peak), there are still many along the Jersey Shore without power, and already enduring cold nights over the past few days.
Temperatures aren’t expected to warm up anytime soon. Highs are going to be in the low 50s with morning lows in the mid to upper 30s through the weekend with temps dropping into the upper 40s by the middle of next week. Prior to Sandy, the weather had been quite mild this fall. Once the powerful storm came through though, it pulled down a lot of cold air from Canada, and conditions have become more normal for this time of year.
While There Are Glimmers Of Normalcy, There Is Still A Good Deal Of Struggle
Thursday was the third day of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy around the Tri-State area. It was a day of some progress. Commercial trains began to run through my hometown of South Plainfield as well as the local 7-11 re-opening, and South Clinton Avenue opening to traffic after being closed for the past two days. More traffic was on the road around Northwestern Middlesex County. More businesses were re-opening again. Beneath these signs of normalcy, there were still signs of struggle and frustration.
Starting with nearby towns in Northwestern Middlesex County, there remained open wounds from the devastation wrought by Sandy three days earlier. A long walk through the towns of South Plainfield, Piscataway, Dunellen, and Middlesex revealed that to me. There was still a good deal of tree and telephone pole damage along with dangling power lines, especially in the town of Dunellen. One of the smallest municipalities in Middlesex County, the Railroad Town was hit harder than many bigger towns in the county. The stretch of road from the New Market section of Piscataway into Dunellen had a number of trees uprooted and telephone poles either severely leaned over to one side, or down, which caused wires to hang dangerously close to the ground. It was probably the most treacherous part of my walk today.
Middlesex and Piscataway had some tree and telephone pole damage with the home of the Blue Jays experiencing the most significant damage with a good portion of Warrenville Road closed to traffic since there are several trees and telephone poles down in concert there. The cascade of these poles and trees have large power lines hanging close to the ground. The sight in Middlesex and Piscataway that drew my attention was the long lines of car traffic, and people with gas cans waiting to get gas. Some people were literally pushing their car up Route 28 to a gas station near the restaurant Tim Kerwin’s that happened to have power and gas. In P-Way, there were lines at the Getty on Stelton Road near Columbus Park. Another long line stretched from Hamilton Boulevard in South Plainfield around to Stelton Road past the Stop and Shop on that road.
South Plainfield appeared to be the town in the best shape. However, I didn’t go through a great deal of Piscataway outside of the New Market Ave section, and neighborhoods along New Brunswick Ave bordering with South Plainfield. Tigertown still has some problems though. Trees were uprooted at a PSEG Customer Facility on Century Road in town so things like that will make it difficult for the utility to get the power back on for the rest of us. During my journey, I took many photos, which I’ve added to the Hurricane Sandy album in the GWC Photo Gallery. Conditions are improving in quite a few places including Hoboken, which has FEMA boots on the ground, and is now nearly clear of the flooding that has plagued it for the previous two days. New York City is starting to resume some train and bus service thanks to the efforts of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is talking tough to the utilities such as Con Edison and LIPA so that they can get power back running for residents. The lights came back up on Broadway as theaters reopened. In addition, people seemed to show more patience and courtesy when driving through the traffic filled streets of NYC.
Power is also starting to come back up for many in New Jersey. The number of people without power across the Garden State is down to 1.7 million from a high of 2.7 million at the peak of the storm. Governor Christie has attacked this monumental problem head on by demanding results from the three major power utilities in the state: JCP & L, PSE & G, and Atlantic City Electric. While Christie understands that this is a very challenging situation for them, he still has the expectation that the job gets done. He also shut off the natural gas system that runs from Mantoloking to Seaside Heights in an effort to stop the fires that have broken out in the wake of the terrible damage from the surge along that stretch of Garden State shoreline. He also is getting electrical workers from all over the country as well as Canada to get the power back up and running. Arrangements have been made to shelter and feed those workers at Fort Monmouth.
There are signs of frustration though. Much of Staten Island and Queens is still in the dark and flooded. In addition, residents in Staten Island are living in fear because of looting. Residents in both boroughs expressed their anger and demanded that something significant be done to help them begin to make progress like all the other parts of New York City. Some residents pointed to the fact that many on Staten Island and Queens are working class, or the little people, and more priorities are being spent on those in Manhattan that are better off. To make matters worse, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the New York Marath0n, scheduled for this coming Sunday, is going on as scheduled although it will be run as a different route. Some critics charge that resources needed for dealing with the storm’s aftermath are being misplaced while others feel that this is insensitive to those still struggling to get power and rid themselves of the flood waters.
Further north in Westchester County, Mount Vernon is still struggling with significant damage from Sandy including downed trees, telephone poles, and power lines while the mayor in the town was out of the area for a reunion in North Carolina, and nobody else took charge to get the town prepared for the storm and its aftermath. On top of that, the death toll is climbing around the New York City area as well as New Jersey. In NYC, there are now 40 deaths including 20 from Staten Island alone. Approximately 159 people have died including 88 in the United States, two in Canada, and another 69 in the Caribbean. The key to this whole situation is the restoration of power. Once power is restored, people can return to their homes, flood waters can get pumped out, chainsaws can cut downed trees, polluted waters can be treated, and gas stations can get back online and to fueling customers again.
This report used information compiled from news reports from NJTV, WNBC4, CNN, and the New York Daily News.
Price Tag For Damage From Sandy Will Be Even More Staggering
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Northern Gulf coast with a ferocity that devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the price tag of that storm was $108 billion dollars. It stands as the costliest natural disaster in United States History surpassing that of Hurricane Andrew, which cost South Florida some $27 billion dollars in damage. Hurricane Ike became the second costliest storm on record with $29.5 billion dollars in damage to the Houston and Galveston area of Texas in 2008. However, the damage produced Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will dwarf them all. For those, who don’t think that the cost of this storm will surpass Katrina, think again.
It’s very early in the game. The aftermath of Sandy is just two days old, and the recovery process is in its infancy, but the scenes of damage along the Jersey Shore, New York City, Long Island, and Coastal Connecticut alone has been overwhelming. The storm produced record storm surges at Battery Park in New York City (13.88 feet) and Sandy Hook (13.3 feet). Here in South Plainfield, New Jersey which is far inland in the Northwestern corner of Middlesex County, there is significant wind damage. The scope of Superstorm Sandy’s impacts are so vast with blizzard conditions in West Virginia, and as far south as the mountains of Eastern Tennessee (Mount Leconte had 34 inches at last count), waves of 20.3 feet on the south shores of Lake Michigan near Chicago, and severe thunderstorms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Earlier this year, Hurricane Irene was ranked as the seventh costliest storm ever after the devastation it produced across the Northeast in late August of 2011. The price tag for that storm was $10 billion, and the storm only produced a storm surge of 4 to 5 feet in New York City, and along the Jersey Shore. Irene was no Sandy either. While Irene was a storm that was fading as it came through New Jersey and New York last year, Sandy was a much more energized storm. I was in South Amboy’s Waterfront Park for both storms, and Sandy’s surge was already at the same level that Irene was when it was coming up the Jersey coast last year, and Sandy was still a number of hours from landfall. Furthermore, Sandy was a much stronger and larger storm with size that was almost twice that as Irene, and a barometric pressure that was 946 millibars at landfall, a good 14 millibars lower than Irene was when it came up through Jersey. Sandy’s path also resulted in a more direct impact to the Jersey Shore and New York City.
By making its landfall in South Jersey, Sandy was able to deliver the brunt of its power to the very expensive properties that lie along the Jersey Shore in places such as Long Beach Island, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Sea Bright, and Rumson as well as the financial capital of the world in New York City, and the casinos and entertainment hot bed of Atlantic City. Very expensive homes also lie along the coast in both Long Island and Coastal Connecticut, which were hit hard by the surge coming in from the Atlantic and Long Island Sound. These places were also hit in the post-Katrina era where insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the wake of that monumental storm. In 2001, the site also discussed the studies by insurance companies that indicated that a major hurricane hitting the Jersey Shore would cause some $50 billion dollars in damage, and this was almost five years before Katrina. Back in 2006, Hurricaneville had written an article that discussed another article by the Newark Star-Ledger that pointed out the building of multi-million dollar homes along the Jersey Shore in spite of the changing weather patterns and insurance climate.
This storm’s effects were also felt well inland. Entering the third day of the aftermath of this storm, and there were still numerous traffic lights down around South Plainfield, and many adjacent municipalities in Middlesex County. Many secondary and tertiary roads in New Jersey are still closed, especially in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Ocean County. Many trees have been uprooted, telephone poles snapped, and cell phone towers have been damaged. Power is still out for many in the Garden State, and cell phone communication has been spotty at best. Add to all of this the other events that have occurred as a result of the storm such as the 130 homes that were destroyed by fire spread by the winds from Sandy in the coastal community of Breezy Point, New York, and you have a very staggering price to pay for this storm.
The devastation along the coast in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut as well as significant damage to inland areas to those states and others from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will ultimately dwarf that of Hurricane Katrina when it hit the Northern Gulf Coast in 2005. In a climate where weather patterns have made places such as the New York City Metropolitan area, the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and Connecticut more vulnerable, and insurance premiums in these areas as well as New England have risen significantly in a post-Katrina world, the cost could easily be billions of dollars alone. Add to that the cost of damage further inland to communities far away from the coast and as far south and west as West Virginia, Illinois, and Tennessee, and we could have our first 100 billion dollar storm.