Science of the Superstorm
By Natalia Kozikowska
With some neighborhoods eerily resembling a scene out of “The Day After Tomorrow,” New York was devastated by Sandy. The powerful storm, responsible for massive coastal flooding and record high storm surges, was exasperated by a number of environmental factors which created the perfect recipe for disaster.
When the moon waxed to its full moon phase on Monday, high tides along the Eastern Seaboard rose 20 percent higher than normal. The lethal combination of a full moon and wintry winds intensified flooding near coastal regions like Rockaway and Battery Park City. When waves came crashing ashore, they caused water to pile up higher than ordinary sea level.
In some areas, the result of water moved further inland by strong winds led to storm surges – even a record high 13 feet in southern Manhattan. Water made its way over the seawall in Battery Park City, flooding subway tunnels.
Sandy’s unusual path, from southeast to northeast, also intensified the storm. Rather than making way into the sea, it turned left and made landfall at nearly a right angle on the Eastern Seaboard. This meant that almost every piece of coastline received onshore winds extending hundreds of miles outward, battering shorelines for days.
By comparison, Sandy was not a particularly intense hurricane, even demoted to a superstorm as it edged closer to New York. Despite its demotion, the superstorm claimed the lives of 55 people and counting, left more than 6 million without power and created damage estimated at $20 billion, and will surely go down in history as one of the greatest storms to ever hit the northeast.