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Two Years Later: NASA Remembers Hurricane Sandy
October 29, 2014

Turbulent, swirling winds traveled from the Caribbean Sea and along the Atlantic Ocean in late October of 2012 to produce one of the most impactful hurricanes on the U.S. East Coast— Hurricane Sandy.

In total, Hurricane Sandy caused 159 deaths and $70 billion in damages. Thousands of people slept at Red Cross operated-shelters and millions were without power during the aftermath. Fires erupted from ruptured natural gas lines meanwhile the torrential rains flooded subway systems. The New York Stock exchange was closed for a consecutive two days—an event that hadn’t occurred since 1888.

For the hurricane’s almost two weeks of activity, NASA satellites documented the storm’s movements and helped researchers anticipate and follow the hurricane’s path. The satellite data provided detailed information such as the size and direction of the winds, observations of the cloud structures near the storm and the amount and location of storm’s rainfall.

The accompanying image gallery shows past satellite imagery and simulations of Hurricane Sandy and the superstorm’s impact on the U.S. East Coast.

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Hurricane Sandy Off the Carolinas

On October 28, 2012, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States around noon Eastern Daylight Time. The wind field from the storm was said to stretch 500 to 700 miles and was likely to affect an area from South Carolina to Maine, and as far inland as the Great Lakes. Sandy has already caused significant damage in the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

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Hurricane Sandy Approaching Landfall

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy approached the densely populated U.S. East Coast. An estimated 60 million Americans were expected to be affected by rain, wind, snow, or ocean surges from the storm. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this natural-color image of Sandy at 1:35 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (17:35 Universal Time) on October 29.

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A Changed Coastline in New Jersey

At landfall, heavy rains pelted states as far inland as Wisconsin and surging seawater washed away beaches and flooded streets, businesses, and homes. These two images show a portion of the New Jersey coastal town of Mantolokig, just north of where the storm made landfall, before (March 18, 2007) and after (October 31, 2012) the storm. On the barrier island, entire blocks of houses along Route 35 (also called Ocean Boulevard) were damaged or completely washed away by the storm surge and wind. Fires raged in the town from natural gas lines that had ruptured and ignited. A new inlet was cut across the island, connected the Atlantic Ocean and the Jones Tide Pond.

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Hurricane Sandy Causes Blackouts in New Jersey and New York

In the days following landfall of Hurricane Sandy, millions remained without power. This pair of images shows the difference in city lighting across New Jersey and New York before (August 31, 2012), when conditions were normal, and after (November 1, 2012) the storm. Both images were captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) "day-night band" onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, which detects light in a range of wavelengths and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, city lights, and reflected moonlight. In Manhattan, the lower third of the island is dark on November 1, while Rockaway Beach, much of Long Island, and nearly all of central New Jersey are significantly dimmer. The barrier islands along the New Jersey coast, which are heavily developed with tourist businesses and year-round residents, are just barely visible in moonlight after the blackout.

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Tracking a Superstorm

Hurricane Sandy's near-surface winds are visible in this NASA GEOS-5 global atmosphere model computer simulation that runs from Oct. 26 to Oct. 31, 2012. The NASA model not only produced an accurate track of Sandy, but also captured fine-scale details of the storm's changing intensity and winds.

For more Hurricane Sandy images from NASA’s Earth Observatory, please visit: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/event.php?id=79504

For more NASA coverage on Hurricane Sandy during 2012, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2012/h2012_Sandy.html

To view and download some of the above visualizations, please visit: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Sandy.html

Kasha Patel
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Sandy making landfall
Image Credit: 
NASA Earth Observatory
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Image Credit: 
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
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Sandy off the coast of the Carolinas
Image Credit: 
NASA’s Earth Observatory/LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team
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Before and After Images: 
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Use the slider to see the difference between the images.
Image Credit: 
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA’s Earth Observatory
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Before and After Images: 
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Use the slider to see the difference between the images.
Image Credit: 
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA Earth Observatory
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Page Last Updated: October 31st, 2014
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner