In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City and the surrounding area. The hurricane was huge, but it was not the windiest storm to ever hit the area. Sandy’s biggest threat was the huge pileup of water — called a storm surge — those winds produced. On top of this, the massive storm surge hit at almost the same moment as an unusually high tide.
New York City has 835 kilometers (520 miles) of coastline, much of it low-lying, so officials expected flooding. But the deluge was worse than anyone thought it would be. In lower Manhattan, seawater poured over floodwalls, flooding roads, subways, and electrical stations. Many were left without transportation or power. The seaside communities were hit worst. As waves crashed into the coast, the storm surge flooded homes and businesses, destroying entire neighborhoods. In the end, the storm took 43 lives, and left many people injured and without homes. It also caused at least $19 billion in damage.
Mantoloking is a barrier island on the New Jersey shore, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Manhattan. These images, taken before and after the hurricane, show how storm waves cut across the island, eroding the beach and destroying houses and roads.
Compare these two views of Mantoloking before
and after the storm.
Many helped with relief efforts. The National Guard, Red Cross, local agencies, and citizens streamed across New York and New Jersey to remove debris and distribute emergency supplies to those in need.
Satellites: Tracking Storms from Space
Not long ago, hurricanes would arrive without warning. But since the 1960s, satellites have helped meteorologists identify and track developing storms. Infrared sensors on satellites reveal information about temperature and humidity — conditions linked with hurricane formation. Today, satellite data can be transmitted in seconds.
Hurricane Hunters: Collecting Data in the Heart of the Storm
Specially trained pilots called “Hurricane Hunters” fly right where the action is: into hurricanes. Instruments on the planes collect information on wind, rain, air pressure, and temperature. The data is sent from onboard computers to the National Hurricane Center, where it is used to forecast the path and intensity of the storm. This information helps determine which areas should be evacuated.
Computer Models: Predicting a Hurricane’s Path
Meteorologists enter data from satellites, aircraft, and weather stations into a computer model. They use these models to predict the formation, path, and strength of hurricanes. They also use the models to predict a hurricane’s storm surge and potential flooding.