Five years ago today, Hurricane Sandy hit the US Northeast.

Hurricane Sandy affected millions of lives and became the second costliest storm to hit the U.S. with damage totals estimated around $65 billion dollars. October 29, 2012, was a good and bad day for meteorology. Hurricane Sandy unofficially known as Superstorm Sandy was making landfall, affecting millions of people along the U.S, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast coasts. It was to be the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.

Sandy pushed ashore as a “transitioning extratropical cyclone” producing heavy rains, large storm surges, and even a winter storm in parts of West Virginia. The damage was extensive along the coastline and water from the Atlantic pushed ashore destroying buildings and bridges and bringing saltwater into the subway stations in New York City.

Sandy killed nearly 110 people in the United States and an additional 72 people that lived in the Caribbean and Canada. The total death count is still uncertain as of today as some reports assert that the death toll is higher in the United States. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, also known as ECMWF or the European model, nailed down the track of Sandy a week before the storm pushed into southern New Jersey.

About five days before Sandy hit, the GFS model began to agree with the ECMWF. NOAA launched upper air balloons all across the country at special hours to measure the atmosphere and to understand the large weather pattern and how it could affect Sandy in the long run. Despite the advances in weather forecasting that provided over a week’s worth of time to prepare for this dangerous storm, when Sandy hit the U.S Northeast, the toll was high. One reason was that as Sandy was striking the U.S. Northeast, it was beginning to interact with a cold front off of the eastern US coast. This interaction enhanced Sandy’s size and wind field.

Roughly estimated to be nearly 900 to 1,000 miles wide, Sandy tied the Great Long Island Express hurricane of 1938 as the most powerful storm ever to hit the U.S. Northeast north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Storm surge pushed across parts of New York and New Jersey. Strong winds knocked trees over and millions of people lost power.

The bottom line is that Hurricane Sandy affected millions of lives and became the second-costliest storm to hit the US. Sandy killed nearly 200 people across the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States. While Sandy caused so much damage along the U.S coast and brought winter conditions to West Virginia, it also gave meteorologists better confidence in forecasting. So the next time another Sandy develops, meteorologists will be ready!

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