Cleaning Up After Hurricane Sandy

An NYPD vehicle drives through the flooding in New York. Image Credit: David Shankbone

Things are looking a little creepy in the streets of New York on Halloween eve in the aftermath of the ex-Hurricane Sandy.

On Halloween morning, Sandy degraded to a trough of low pressure.

Although there are still some wind and small craft warnings, the superstorm is essentially finished.

Hurricane Sandy’s Beginnings

The storm strengthened into a hurricane on October 23rd.

Although it was short-lived, its fusion with another storm meant that Sandy became a superstorm, dubbed the “Bride of Frankenstorm” by NASA.

The extent of the storm was huge, and at its peak it covered 1.8 million square miles of ocean and land from the mid-Atlantic up into Canada.

Hurricane Sandy sweeps into Cuba on October 24. Image Credit: US Navy

Serious Damage in the Caribbean

While Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage, flooding, and power outages in the United States, the quiet but devastating story of the hurricane is its impact on the Caribbean. Before it hit the US East Coast, Sandy battered the area, causing flooding and large amounts of property damage. In Haiti, 20 inches of rain fell in four days. Hurricane Sandy destroyed crops in the area, causing concern over potential food shortages in a country that has been battered by multiple disasters in the past few years. The death toll in the Caribbean stands at 71, including victims in Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

Sandy Slams the US East Coast

Sandy then moved north, merging with a cold front to create a superstorm. Hurricane Sandy turned out the lights for 8 million people in the Manhattan area and hit New York with wind speeds of over 90 mph in some areas. Notably, it also caused the first two-day closure of the New York Stock Exchange since a blizzard closed the exchange in 1888. The total damage from the storm is estimated at 20 billion dollars, and the storm is being blamed for 51 deaths along the East Coast.

Record Storm Surges Recorded

Three factors combined to make Sandy’s storm surges the highest in recorded history – storm surges of 14 feet smashed into boardwalks and filled up roads and subways. A hurricane combined with a cold front, and then the two windy storms combined with very high tides to push water up into coastal cities and towns.

Rough Winter Weather

Hurricanes form over the warm tropical ocean, but Sandy from the tropics met a much cooler storm from the north. Moisture and cold combined to create very snowy conditions. Although it’s unusual to get a large snow pack in October, over 2 feet of snow fell in some areas. Redhouse, Md. measured 28 inches of snowfall.

Chance or Change?

Was Hurricane Sandy a freak Frankenstorm, or does it point to more significant global changes due to climate change? The assessment will take a long time. It appears that Sandy’s intensity is due in part to high surface temperatures in the Western Atlantic: ocean temperatures were about 5 degrees higher than normal. While climate change is changing, and will continue to change, the surface temperature of the oceans, the scientific consensus seems to be that much more research is needed to model the complex factors that determine the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes to determine whether hybrid storms like this will become more common in the future.


NASA. Hurricane Sandy. (2012). Accessed October 31, 2012.

New York Times. Did Global Warming Contribute to Hurricane Sandy’s Devastation? (2012). Accessed October 31, 2012.

The Telegraph. Battered Haiti Facing Food Shortages After Sandy Destroyed Crops. (2012). Accessed October 31, 2012.

Washington Post. From the devastating surge to crippling snow, Hurricane Sandy by the Numbers. (2012). Accessed October 31, 2012.

© Copyright 2012 Tricia Edgar, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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  1. dpoteete says

    OK,…… stop using fossil fuels NOW, live off the land, grow your own food, don’t drive your car, don’t use anything plastic. Stop using medications of any kind, (they all use carbon fuel in manufacture), Stop buying groceries, stop using electricity, don’t go into any public building or use any public service that uses electricity, or gas, and while your at it, get 200 trillion other people accross the globe to do the same,…. you idiot.

  2. Steve Russell says

    People must reduce consumption and decouple their economies from carbon – there is no other choice if we want to preserve diversity of life on our planet. If America does this the rest of the World will follow. The World needs America to demonstrate huge strength now and resist the corporate greed under which we are all drowning. There is very little time left. Technology alone will not save us. Each and every one of us must look to change the way in which we live. Most of the lifestyle ‘choices’ have never been free choices, they have been foisted upon us by corporations and vested interests. Work with science and there is hope because science is the nearest we have to truth, and in truth alone lies hope.

  3. Mikado Cat says

    This has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels, and even if it did there is almost zero chance the rest of the world, especially the developing world will be willing to give up the cheapest source of energy.

    If you want to achieve serious change in fuel use, better start with some serious non politically driven science first. Better to spend a few billion in study before attempting trillions in restructuring the world.

  4. oneSTARman says

    ANYONE who tells you that we are not CERTAIN that burning fossil fuels is responsible for Catastrophic Climate Change is either CLUELESS or a LIAR. Hurricane SANDY had a greater economic impact on Lower Manhattan and in fact the whole Country than 9/11. If ANY OTHER Enemy had hurt us this Badly we would have declared WAR. We ARE at WAR for our Survival and we are Losing Badly. The ENEMY are the Coal Barons and Oil Sheikhs who are PAYING the same kind of People who made TV Ads in the ’50s saying THEIR Brand of Cigarette was the HEALTHY Kind – That we Don’t Know if this is Global Warming induced Climate Change.

  5. says

    This hurricane rises the concern that having a Backup and Recovery plan is critical these days. Besides significant property damage, Hurricane Sandy will cost billions of dollars in lost business, and partial or complete data loss from companies’ on-site datacenters.

    It’s an unfortunate lesson to have to learn the hard way, especially this hard way. But, natural disasters like hurricanes, floods or superstorms are dramatic examples of the value of cloud solutions when it comes to resiliency in the face of a catastrophe, and the ability to recover and resume operations as quickly as possible.

    Here is an article that talks about some of the ways that how cloud Technology can help rebound after the unforeseen / Sandy hurricane:

    It’s a unique way to look at cloud technology, and I think you’ll find this approach more in line with running a resilient business.

  6. Marcos says

    I believe rather that these climatic changes are occurring more rapidly than expected. With the rising level of the oceans, we need to change the format of the coastal cities immediately as well as the American housing. Definitively abandon the current model of wooden houses as masonry used in South America. is also necessary to overcome these corporate interests who profit greatly on these rainfall climate.

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