Sandy by the numbers: trying to comprehend a stunning disaster

By Dr. Jeff Masters
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Published: 7:19 PM GMT on November 01, 2012

The immensity of the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the Eastern U.S. is difficult to comprehend, and the scenes of devastation coming from the impact zone are stunning and heart-wrenching. To help understand the extraordinary scale of this historic storm, I've put together a list of notable statistics from Sandy:

Death toll: 160 (88 in the U.S., 54 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba)

Damage estimates: $10 - $55 billion

Power outages: 8.5 million U.S. customers, 2nd most for a natural disaster behind the 1993 blizzard (10 million)

Maximum U.S. sustained winds: 69 mph at Westerly, RI

Peak U.S. wind gusts: 90 mph at Islip, NY and Tompkinsville, NJ

Maximum U.S. storm surge: 9.45', Bergen Point, NJ 9:24 pm EDT October 29, 2012

Maximum U.S. Storm Tide: 14.60', Bergen Point, NJ, 9:24 pm EDT October 29, 2012

Maximum significant wave height: 33.1' at the buoy east of Cape Hatteras, NC (2nd highest: 32.5' at the Entrance to New York Harbor)

Maximum U.S. rainfall: 12.55", Easton, MD

Maximum snowfall: 36", Richwood, WV

Minimum pressure: 945.5 mb, Atlantic City, NJ at 7:24 pm EST, October 29, 2012. This is the lowest pressure measured in the U.S., at any location north of Cape Hatteras, NC (previous record: 946 mb in the 1938 hurricane on Long Island, NY)

Destructive potential of storm surge: 5.8 on a scale of 0 to 6, highest of any hurricane observed since 1969. Previous record: 5.6 on a scale of 0 to 6, set during Hurricane Isabel of 2003.

Diameter of tropical storm-force winds at landfall: 945 miles

Diameter of ocean with 12' seas at landfall: 1500 miles


Figure 1. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of Superstorm Sandy around 3:35 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (7:35 Universal Time) on October 30. This image is from the “day-night band” on VIIRS, which detects light wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The full Moon lit up the tops of the clouds. Image credit: NASA.



Figure 2. Preliminary death and damage statistics for Sandy as compiled by Wikipedia on November 1, 2012.



Figure 3. Precipitation from Superstorm Sandy for the 7-day period ending at 8 am EDT Thursday, November 1, 2012. Image credit: NOAA/NWS/AHPS.



Figure 4. Top five weather-related power outages in the U.S.



Figure 5. Strong winds from Sandy blow snow in West Virginia on October 30, 2012. Image credit: Beau Dodson


Sandy's snows
Several cities set records for snowiest October day on record during Sandy: Elkin, WV (7", previous record, 4.6" in 1917) and Bluefield (4.7", previous record 3.2" in 1993.) Heavy snows caused roof collapses in West Virginia, and snows of two feet or more fell in four states--West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia. However, Sandy fell short of setting the all-time record for snowfall from a hurricane. The Vermont Journal estimated that the Snow Hurricane of 1804 dumped up to 4 feet of snow in Vermont.

36" Richwood, WV
34" Mount Leconte, TN
34" Sevier, TN
33" Clayton, WV
32" Snowshoe, WV
29" Quinwood, WV
28" Frostburg, WV
28" Davis, WV
28" Huttonsville, WV
28" Flat Top, WV
26" Redhouse, MD
26" Garret, MD
26" Craigsville, WV
24" Oakland, MD
24" Alpine Lake, WV
24" Nettie, WV
24" Norton, VA
24" Quinwood, WV
24" Alexander, WV

Links
Impressive loop of 1-minute visible satellite imagery spanning 6 days of Sandy's life.

A one-day time lapse video from a New York City webcam showing Sandy's impact on the city. It's eerie to see the city suddenly plunged into darkness.

First round of damage assessment aerial imagery collected by NOAA's National Geodetic Survey on Oct. 31 along the New Jersey coast.


Figure 6. Flooding in Haiti from Hurricane Sandy. Image credit: The Lambi Fund of Haiti.

Charities mobilize for Sandy
The outpouring of charitable donations in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy has been one of the bright spots in the gloomy aftermath of the storm. The main owners of The Weather Channel have agreed to match donations of up to $1 million to the American Red Cross, if you text SANDY to 90999 ($10). I also recommend my favorite disaster relief charity, Portlight.org. They are focusing their response efforts exclusively on the post-Sandy neeeds of people with disabilities.Check out the Portlight blog to see what they're up to; donations are always needed.

Sandy's greatest devastation occurred in Haiti, where rains of up to 20 inches in 24 hours unleashed rampaging flood waters that killed at least 54, left 200,000 homeless, wiped out thousand of acres of crops, and killed massive numbers of livestock. For impoverished families in Haiti still struggling to recover from the earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Isaac in August, Sandy was devastating.  These crops are the very essence of rural Haitian’s livelihoods, and there are fears widespread starvation will result. A disaster relief charity in Haiti that I've contributed to for many years, The Lambi Fund of Haiti, is seeking donations to help farmers purchase local seeds so that they can replant their crops in the wake of this latest terrible Haitian catastrophe.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Sandy - Davis, W.V. (beaudodson)
Hurricane Sandy, Davis, W.V. - photos taken by Beau Dodson
Hurricane Sandy - Davis, W.V., by beaudodson
We Survived (teach50)
Everyone has seen photos of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy that destroyed New Jersey, NYC, & Long Island as well as other areas on the East Coast. I am finally back on line after 4 days without power. It has been a long ordeal. My block was extremely fortunate. We didn't have any trees fall and no flooding but the entire area is devastated. This is a photo of a tree that fell between the street, smashed, the car, and blew out the tires. No one was hurt.
We Survived, by teach50
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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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Sandy by the numbers: trying to comprehend a stunning disaster

The immensity of the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the Eastern U.S. is difficult to comprehend, and the scenes of devastation coming from the impact zone are stunning and heart-wrenching. To help understand the extraordinary scale of this historic storm, I've put together a list of notable statistics from Sandy:

Death toll: 160 (88 in the U.S., 54 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba)

Damage estimates: $10 - $55 billion

Power outages: 8.5 m...

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