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A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction

This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey.

 

Hurricane Sandy will be remembered as a raging freak of nature that became one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. Here is a timeline from Sandy’s birth deep in the Caribbean Sea to its dissipation over Pennsylvania nine days later.

October 22
A tropical depression forms in the southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua. The depression strengthens and becomes Tropical Storm Sandy, with maximum winds of about 40 mph.

October 24
Sandy has become a Category 1 hurricane as it moves northward across the Caribbean and crosses Jamaica with winds of 80 mph. Although Sandy’s eye does not cross the Dominican Republic and Haiti to its east, the storm dumps more than 20 inches of rain on Hispaniola. More than 50 people die in flooding and mudslides in Haiti.

October 26
Sandy strengthens as it moves from Jamaica to Cuba and strikes the historic city of Santiago de Cuba with winds of about 110 mph, only 1 mph below the status of a major Category 3 hurricane. “Everything is destroyed,” Santiago resident Alexis Manduley told Reuters by telephone.
Sandy causes more devastation as it crosses the Bahamas and makes a slight turn to the north-northwest.

October 27
Sandy moves away from the Bahamas and makes a turn to the northeast off the coast of Florida. News services estimate the death toll in the Caribbean at 70 or more. The storm briefly weakens to a tropical depression, but quickly re-intensifies into a Category 1 hurricane.

October 28
Sandy continues moving northeast on a track that takes it parallel to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. But the storm’s center stays well offshore as it approaches latitude 35 degrees north off the coast of North Carolina. Still, the storm sends powerful waves onto North Carolina’s Outer Banks, washing out NC Highway 12 in places.

The storm is still a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds of about 80 mph. But an unusual configuration of weather factors is converging, and meteorologists warn that the storm likely wil morph into a powerful, hybrid super-storm as it churns northward.

A high-pressure cold front to Sandy’s north will force the storm to start turning to the northwest toward major cities such as Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. And the full moon will make Sandy’s storm surge – expected to be 11 to 12 feet in some places – a little higher as it makes landfall. Sandy has expanded into a huge storm with winds covering about 1,000 miles.

“You just don’t see this kind of stuff,” Keith Blackwell, a meteorologist at the University of South Alabama’s Coastal Weather Research Center in Mobile, tells National Geographic News. “It’s so strong and so large. Normally protected areas like New York Harbor and Long Island are seeing the worst-cast scenario.”

October 29
12:30 p.m.:  Sandy has made its expected sharp turn toward the northwest on a path for the coast of New Jersey. The storm also has started interacting with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process. The storm will dump heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Sandy will have a run of about 300 miles over open water as it heads for landfall, giving it time to build up a huge storm surge that will be a little bigger because of the influence of the full moon.

Meanwhile, a replica of the tall ship HMS Bounty, en route from New London, Connecticut to Saint Petersburg, Florida with 16 people on board, is caught in Sandy’s raging seas in the infamous “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off the Outer Banks. CNN reports that the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, tries to steer his ship away from the worst of Sandy’s wrath, but the ship’s pumps fail and it begins rapidly flooding and starts to sink.

Passengers and crew abandon the ship, but only 14 of the 16 people on board make it to the relative safety of the lifeboats. A rescue crew from the U.S. Coast Guard station at Elizabeth City, North Carolina pulls the survivors to safety aboard helicopters. They recover the body of one missing crewman, but Walbridge, the captain, is missing.

During the afternoon: Sandy brings high winds and drenching rains from Washington, D.C. northward, toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. The storm eventually will affect more than 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard.

8 p.m.:  Sandy’s center comes ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm is no longer considered a hurricane but is now classified as a post-tropical nor’easter. But the storm’s unusual path from the southeast makes its storm surge much worse for New Jersey and New York. A cyclone’s strongest winds and highest storm surge are to the front and right of its circulation because the power of the storm’s strongest winds is combined with its forward motion. New York Harbor receives this part of Sandy’s impact.

The surge is worsened because the full moon has added about a foot to the surge and because Sandy arrives at high tide. Meteorologist Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service’s office in New York, tells National Geographic News that the surge — nearly 14 feet — is a new record for a storm surge in the harbor. The previous record of just over 10 feet was set in 1960 when Hurricane Donna passed just offshore.

The surge tops the seawall at The Battery in Lower Manhattan and floods parts of the city’s subway system. The surge also floods the Hugh Carey Tunnel, which links Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The storm’s huge size means that its winds, rains and flooding will pound New Jersey and New York throughout the night and through three cycles of high tides and low tides.

Staten Island also is hit very hard by the storm. The Seattle Times later reports that towns such as Oakwood Beach, Midland Beach, South Beach and Tottenville — which lost many residents who were police and firefighters during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — were among the hardest-hit communities.

October 30
Although Sandy has started to move away from New York, the backside of the huge storm is still inflicting punishment on the Northeast. As the day progresses, Sandy weakens as it moves inland over Pennsylvania.

October 31
The storm that began as Hurricane Sandy dissipates over western Pennsylvania, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues its final advisory on the storm. NOAA’s advisory says “multiple centers of circulation in association with the remnants of Sandy can be found across the lower Great Lakes.”

NOAA reports that Sandy killed more than 70 people in the Caribbean and at least 50 in the United States. NOAA estimates that Sandy caused at least $20 billion in damages.

Update, November 3
NBC News reports that the death toll in the U.S. is now 109, including at least 40 in New York City. Half of New York’s deaths are on Staten Island. NBC also reports that damages from Hurricane Sandy likely will exceed $50 billion.

Willie Drye has been writing about hurricanes and other topics for National Geographic News since 2003. Follow his blog, Drye Goods.

Comments

  1. Breana
    August 26, 4:15 pm

    freaky

  2. willem volschenk
    south africa
    May 19, 4:46 pm

    Thank you for this information… needed this for geography research task. Tragic thing that happen but at least it’s recorded. Symphaties to the families affected by Sandy

  3. Diezel
    Cristchurch newzealand
    April 8, 8:02 pm

    How did hurricane Sandy end

  4. Jay
    Hinton
    March 21, 9:49 am

    Some people died it was so sadddd

  5. Alex Gilliam
    Glade Valley
    March 6, 1:17 pm

    That is very awful what had happened

  6. Cristofer
    Bluffton Sc
    December 4, 2013, 8:57 am

    This didn’t help me

  7. sarah
    united state
    December 3, 2013, 9:11 pm

    thanks for writing this it means a lot. i need it for my science project for school. that was terrible about what happen to does people who died. :( :( :( :( :(

  8. miranda
    110 enfield street
    December 2, 2013, 7:14 am

    that was really good information. very well presented and easy to read. i need to do a project on natural disasters and i picked hurricane sandy and the 2004 tsunami in thailand. anyway, thanks for this, it helped a lot!

  9. Robert R
    Toms River, NJ
    October 28, 2013, 10:40 pm

    Typical New York centric – while the area around me was the worse hit area – no mention of that. Seaside is right across the bridge from where I live, Ortley Beach which was completely wiped out is a section of my town. Mantoloking just north of me on Barnegat Penisula was wiped out as well.

  10. yolo
    October 3, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Good info,but seiously needs to have the years

  11. fart
    usa
    April 4, 2013, 1:47 pm

    what day did it start

  12. >_
    narnia
    March 23, 2013, 9:59 pm

    asian invasion

  13. safi alom
    detroit
    February 5, 2013, 1:55 pm

    thank you i really needed a timeline of hurricane and i finally found one and this is the best

  14. lottie
    nuna
    February 5, 2013, 1:18 pm

    i cant believe that happens in a lot of places

  15. Eazy-Breezy
    Newark, New Jersey
    December 18, 2012, 11:37 am

    Good information. I like the way that you resented your information. It is easy to read and helpful. Also, I am happy tat you only put in one picture, because the pictures are too devastating. Thanks for the information though. I am doing a science project on what happened in my town and I needed this information, desperately!

  16. ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
    Utah
    December 14, 2012, 5:47 pm

    I think that’s terrible!

  17. jack
    usa
    December 4, 2012, 1:37 pm

    hi guys

  18. Diane
    Long Island, NY
    December 1, 2012, 10:30 pm

    I live on the North Shore of Long Island (facing Connecticut) and just got telephone, television and internet restored on November 30. I was at Long Beach, New York (south shore on an outer island of Long Island facing the Atlantic Ocean). As of this writing, the streets (about 1 block from the ocean) still has about 3″ of sand on them, no electric, gas for heat, etc. Please do not forget these people and please continue to contribute to American Red Cross and the Long Beach Animal Shelter. The animal shelter was under about 4 feet of water and are in desperate need of food and supplies for all animals, especially dogs. Animals are being destroyed because they have no supplies. Please don’t forget these people and animals because the Media has stopped reporting about Hurricane Sandy.

  19. Stephen Fletcher
    chelmsley wood
    November 16, 2012, 4:43 am

    Your website is wrong.

  20. welbeck
    Ghana
    November 6, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Nice information about Hurricane sandy but without video.

  21. big boy
    corrynationstreet
    November 6, 2012, 5:53 am

    big disaster……..

  22. potato
    noneofyourbuisnessville
    November 6, 2012, 5:50 am

    Unlucky New York…

  23. gail zawacki
    United States
    November 5, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Here’s another link for photos: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/

  24. Jane Morrow
    North Carolina
    November 4, 2012, 4:42 pm

    To Ruth in Jerusalem: Ontario County is well to the northwest of New York City and far enough inland that it would not have been affected by the storm surge. The county’s official website lists county offices’ phone number as +1.877.267.1984. Perhaps you can get more information by calling that number.

  25. Muhammad Hanif
    Islamabad
    November 3, 2012, 1:34 pm

    We are worried about destruction of sandy and stand with effected people. May Allah grant courage to rebuild. We wish normalcy in lives of effectees.

  26. ruth
    jerusalem. israel.
    November 3, 2012, 7:29 am

    my daughter is not in touch with me and i am going out of my head with worry. she lives in the ontario county area of new york state in a town called victor. did the hurricane go through there and do much damage – where can i find out.

  27. HMETALNYMETSVAL
    Long Island, NY
    November 2, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Very good informative article about Hurricane Sandy’s path. Interesting to learn how and where she ended.
    Im sure the reason for only one photo is because it was about the path and size of the storm and not to show the devastion.
    Here’s a link for some photos:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/pictures/121029-hurricane-sandy-superstorm-frankenstorm-weather-new-york-city-nation/

  28. Terry
    Washington DC
    November 2, 2012, 3:23 pm

    A Nat Geo article aout the progress of Hurricane Sandy with but one photo.

    I come to Nat Geo for the beautiful images!