Hurricane Sandy: Surfline's Rundown

Share Article

Surfline's expert forecasters and senior writers on the East Coast recap the natural disaster and explain the causes of the notorious Hurricane Sandy.

Those who all too often get thrashed by the destructive side got to reap historic rewards this time, while those who are typically out of harm's way to enjoy the fruits of good surf during these events were dealt their worst tropical blow ever.

Hurricane Sandy delivered one of the most significant swell events in recent history for Florida. More importantly, Sandy reminded us how dangerous these storms can be and how vulnerable people are along the East Coast.

It is not unusual to see a hurricane as we transition into autumn. In fact, some of the mightiest Atlantic hurricanes, such as Hurricane Wilma in 2005, have occurred during this season. What made Hurricane Sandy so historic was the confluence of factors that created a storm greater than its individual parts.

As Hurricane Sandy tracked through the Bahamas, a mid-latitude weather system moved toward the Eastern U.S. This allowed Sandy to maintain intensity and actually strengthen, while greatly expanding the wind field over the Western Atlantic. This pattern teamed up with a strong area of high pressure over Northeastern Canada and the Labrador Sea, which set up significant wave action over much of the Western Atlantic basin. In addition to the meteorological aspects of the storm, the timing was key because the system impacted the Mid Atlantic coastline over the course of several tidal cycles, which helped to exacerbate coastal flooding.

The unique pattern resulted in destruction along the Mid Atlantic coastline that really only photos or being physically present in the affected areas can describe. The system was just as exceptional from a scientific viewpoint. The Oregon Inlet buoy, located eight miles off the northern portion of Pea Island on the Outer Banks, recorded a peak significant wave height of 26 feet. The NY Harbor buoy was even bigger, peaking with a significant wave height of 32.5 feet. These large waves were the result of the strong winds associated with Sandy, but even more so, they were associated with the enormous size of the storm and its track that eventually led to landfall in New Jersey.

There has been significant coverage on the surf generated by Hurricane Sandy. What will be interesting to see is how the system impacts the short and long-term sandbars and breaks along the East Coast. Sand movement has altered sandbars along the Outer Banks – creating better set ups along some stretches and ruining go-to breaks right down the beach. The breaks along New Jersey and New York will surely be impacted – maybe most notably Casino Pier – but the long-term impacts are still uncertain. Matt Pruett, Surfline Senior Staff Writer, explains, "Sandy made true believers of all East Coast surfers about the Yin/Yang nature of Hurricane Season. Those who all too often get thrashed by the destructive side got to reap historic rewards this time, while those who are typically out of harm's way to enjoy the fruits of good surf during these events were dealt their worst tropical blow ever. Sandy will not be forgotten — ever — by the East Coast surf community. It banded us together like no natural disaster before it."

Surfline extends our deepest sympathies to all impacted by the perilous Hurricane Sandy. We wish all of our friends, family members, partners, and customers that were affected by the storm nothing, but a safe and speedy recovery. To assist in the Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative, please visit Waves for Water.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Stena Chang
Visit website