Sandy was a special type of storm. A hurricane that formed in the Caribbean turned “superstorm” as it came ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey on the evening of October 29, 2012.

It caused devastating flooding, high winds, and left millions without power from Jamaica to maritime Canada.  Specific impacts included incredible storm surge in the New York City region and blinding blizzard conditions in West Virginia.  In its wake, Sandy left behind over 65 billion dollars in damage, and single-handedly changed how NOAA views and forecasts tropical systems that lose their tropical characteristics, but remain a significant threat to life and property.

These 17 images tell a story that still leaves our minds blown.

The crazy model runs. The European model (ECMWF) got huge praise after Sandy. It was among the first to consistently show a huge storm and to eventually pinpoint U.S. landfall. Starting in model “fantasy land” (more than a week out) it showed a behemoth. Basically every run. 927 millibars? Almost as low as Andrew’s central pressure at landfall.

(Weatherbell Models) *Click image for larger version*

When Sandy was a baby. A Category 3 baby in the Caribbean that is. It looked like many an October hurricane does before they are more often than not swept harmlessly away. CWG hurricane expert Brian McNoldy notes that winds peaked at 100kts, with a pressure of 954mb, as it made landfall on Cuba very early Oct. 25.

(Cuban radar via Brian McNoldy)

Road block. A stubborn weather pattern caused a whole bunch of concern. Large high pressure to the north met up with another ocean low pressure nearby to keep Sandy boxed in.  While modeling details varied, the idea of this block was omnipresent. The surface chart from the morning of landfall (image below) matched up well with those prescient forecasts.

(NCEP) *Click for larger*

Entering the cone. October 25, 2012: the day pretty much everyone in the megalopolis started to freak out. Well, unless your last name is Bloomberg. Unlucky advisory number 13?

(National Hurricane Center) *Click for larger*

Black hole.  Mean (actually, very mean) sea level pressure map from the Global Forecast System model (Oct. 27 version). Not every day you see a short-term forecast for a historic 948mb low pressure off the coast of New Jersey.

(SimuAWIPS) *Click for larger*

Eerily beautiful at night. The Suomi NPP VIIRS satellite got some of its first stunning imagery during Sandy. With the storm still off the Florida coast, clouds streamed north up into New England. An advancing cold front that would help supercharge Sandy is also quite vivid.

(CIMSS/SSEC/University of Wisconsin-Madison and NOAA/NASA/JPSS Project) *Click for larger*

Living inside a nor’easter. Is it a hurricane? Why no hurricane warnings where it’s supposed to hit? That’s definitely a hurricane in there. Check out the eyewall.  Still, it looks a bit extratropical. Almost like a nor’easter gone mad.

( *Click for larger*

The “tornado” within. 3D image of potential temperature around Sandy’s inner core showing cool air getting wrapped around the center at the surface, and warm air aloft. Latent heat release through condensation! The storm was transitioning to post-tropical, but indeed still quite like a hurricane.

(<a href="">UCAR</a>)

Water everywhere? The SLOSH model indicated a storm surge height of 5+ feet for a massive coastal area including Atlantic City, NJ, New York City, and up through New Haven, Conn.

(NOAA SLOSH model) *Click for larger*

Verified: Ginormous waves. As Sandy headed to landfall, analyzed wave heights were off the charts. A record wave of 32.5 feet was recorded at a buoy southeast of Breezy Point, NY. Large waves also rocked the Great Lakes, where surfers flocked to ride surf measured to be up to 15+ feet!

(Ocean Prediction Center) *Click for larger*

Cliff dive.  Air pressure near Atlantic City, NJ bottoms out, signaling Sandy’s landfall during the evening of Oct. 29. It had a low pressure near 945mb.  A new record for the lowest storm pressure ever measured north of North Carolina. Most regional state pressure records, including Maryland’s, fell as well.

Ground zero. Satellite imagery captured the sheer size of the hybrid low near the time of landfall. At one point, Sandy’s winds expanded to 1,100 miles in diameter, making it the largest Atlantic storm on record.

(NOAA/NASA GOES-13 satellite) *Click for larger*

Bad news winds. Wind gusts past 70 mph were common in the right front quadrant (typically windiest zone) of Sandy. Coverage of 50 mph gusts expanded another hundred or more miles on either side of the storm, including into the D.C. area.

(NWS New York, NY) *Click for larger*

Neighborhoods become ocean. It was well advertised storm surge was going to hurt. That extra few feet of “sea on top of sea” relentlessly pushed inland, filled with all sorts of mangled material. It started way before landfall, and kept on coming with punishing waves.  As bad as it was, it could have been worse.

(WNYC) *Click for larger*

Dimmed lights. Just as the Suomi NPP VIIRS was useful to view the nighttime beauty of Sandy marching toward landfall, it gave good sense of the power outages in the main wind and surge impact area. Lots of folks in the dark, even well outside the region shown. Some for weeks or more.

Tropical-induced blizzardry. Sandy was a historic early season snow event in parts of the Appalachians. The upper-level portion of the storm and associated front which energized Sandy also packed the region with just enough cold air to dump powder. OK, more like cement. Snow clung to everything, causing a tree and power nightmare.


Heckuva forecast. There were lots of heroes when it came to Sandy. Despite some squabbling about hurricane warnings or the lack thereof, NHC (and others) gave as much lead time as possible. NHC in particular had a near-perfect forecast once the storm cleared the islands.

(@Geostrophic) *Click for larger*

Related Sandy Anniversary Stories

Forecasters saw first signs of Superstorm Sandy exactly one year ago

Sandy spared New York’s skyscrapers, but high-rises carry high risk during hurricanes

The incredibly snowy side of Sandy

Did Hurricane Sandy live up to the media hype? Yes, and then some…