Millions of people along the East Coast, and as far inland as Michigan, are feeling the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Now that the 60 mile per hour winds and heavy rains have ended, officials and citizens are surveying damage that is worse than anyone had imagined. “It is beyond anything I thought I’d ever see,” said New Jersey governor Chris Christie. “It is a devastating sight right now.” New Jersey is among the states hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Monstrous surges of water and powerful, whipping winds uprooted trees, took down power lines, and flooded homes. Many of New York City’s subway tunnels are underwater, and train tracks and roads are torn up in several states. Sandy may cost $60 billion in property damage and lost business across the nation, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in the history of the United States.
A Devastating Storm
Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane with winds near 90 miles per hour. Tropical storm-force winds extended almost 500 miles from its center. The storm first hit the Caribbean and was blamed for 65 deaths there before making its way north along the East Coast. A high-pressure ridge of air around Greenland blocked the hurricane from going out to sea as storms usually do. Instead, the storm shifted west toward land.
The eye, or center, of the hurricane hit land late Monday near the southern coast of New Jersey. It collided with a wintry storm from the west and cold air coming down from the Arctic. Brutal winds and close to a foot of rain were felt across hundreds of miles. Coastal areas, including parts of New York City and Long Island, experienced huge surges of seawater, made worse by high tides and a full moon. "This is the worst-case scenario," said Louis Uccellini, Environmental Prediction Chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sandy’s Destructive Trail
Sandy has left about 8.3 million people in 17 states without power, extending as far west as Michigan. The death toll has reached 127, 59 of the reported deaths in the United States. Utility crews from as faraway as Texas are heading out to help restore electricity to homes and businesses in stricken states.
In New Jersey, where the storm came ashore, the hurricane cut off the state’s barrier islands and wrecked beach boardwalks up and down the coast. Huge swells swept over towns, flooding homes and submerging streets. In some places, water rose five feet in just 45 minutes. As water levels grew, some residents became trapped inside their homes. Authorities struggled with airboats and rafts to rescue about 800 people. As the storm reached the Midwest, Chicago
officials warned residents to stay clear of Lake Michigan’s shore. Ferocious winds of up to 65 miles per hour could create waves exceeding 24 feet there. For parts of West Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland, Sandy brought blizzard conditions. More than two feet of snow is expected to accumulate in some places, cutting off electricity and closing dozens of roads. Drifts four feet deep are building in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
Whether from snow, floodwaters, fire, or rain, Americans can agree the fury of Sandy has been the weather event of a lifetime. “Nature,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “is an awful lot more powerful than we are.” The superstorm has left a wave of heartache and destruction in its wake. As people slowly try to put the pieces back together and resume their normal lives, it is becoming clear this mess will take a long time to clean up.