Report: Sandy Second Costliest Storm in U.S. History

Middlesex County saw tidal surge measured between 4 and 9 feet above normal tidal levels.

Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest storm in this country’s history and directly responsible for 147 deaths – 72 of them in the U.S. alone – according to a recent report released by the National Hurricane Center.

The report, released by the organization Tuesday, provides details about the start of the storm, its evolution as it made its way through the Caribbean up through the east coast, and its impact on the region.

Though the number is still tentative, owing to incomplete data, the report puts the total damage incurred by the storm at $50 billion, noting that the actual tally could be much higher. Even just factoring in its initial estimate, the storm is more expensive than any storm other than 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

To read the report in its entirety, click on the PDF in the upper right corner of this article. 

Sandy was also responsible for the largest number of hurricane-related deaths outside of the country’s southern states since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Of the 72 deaths occurring in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states, 41 were the result of storm surge, the report indicates. Falling trees and limbs killed another 20 people during Sandy.

Storm damage was extensive alone the east coast. At least 650,000 homes in all were either damaged or destroyed by Sandy, according to the report, with a majority of the damage caused by storm surge and waves. In all, roughly 8.5 million homes lost electricity during Sandy, with some areas not seeing their power restored for several weeks following the storm.

In New Jersey, 346,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed. Nearly 19,000 businesses sustained damages of $250,00 or more, with total business losses estimated at $8.3 billion. Power and gas line repairs are anticipated to cost approximately $1 billion, the report states, with water and sewer service repairs estimated to cost about $3 billion.

In addition to damage totals, the report also provides a look at Sandy’s impact along the shore. Though Sandy lost hurricane strength before reaching landfall in Brigantine, Atlantic County as a post-tropical cyclone, its size and sustained wind speeds of 70 knots, or just over 80 miles per hour, caused significant storm surges along the Jersey Shore.

The highest storm surge measured by the National Ocean Service (NOS) was at Sandy Hook in Monmouth County. There, the tide was measured at 8.57 feet above normal levels, though the station reporting the surge failed and stopped reporting during the storm. According to conjecture in the report, it’s possible that storm surge was much higher than that total.

In terms of tidal surge alone, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties saw the worst of it along their shorelines. During Sandy, surges in both counties were measured between 4 and 9 feet above normal tidal levels.

In Ocean County, surges rose to between 3 and 5 feet above normal tides. Atlantic and Cape May Counties saw surges in some spots of between 2 and 4 feet. As expected, the report states that New Jersey’s barrier islands were especially susceptible to tidal flooding during Sandy.

“Barrier islands were almost completely inundated in some areas, and breach in some cases, due to storm surge and large waves from the Atlantic Ocean meeting up with rising waters from back bays,” the report reads.

In areas like Seaside Park and Long Beach Island high-water marks were recorded at between 4 and 5 feet above ground level.

The NHC report also analyzed its forecast of Sandy, saying that genesis forecasts for the storm, despite its unwieldy size, were excellent. The NHC accurately predicated storm surges of between 4 and 8 feet along the Jersey Shore a full two days before Sandy made landfall. 


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