by Joe Zelenak
Hurricane Sandy will be one of the most talked about storms for years to come as it massively damaged a good portion of the famous Jersey shore.
In addition, massive damage is also evident in New York, along with inland areas. I am a native of New Jersey born and raised in that state. I can remember many times over the years where water would come over the barriers and dunes during severe storms and it would cause flooding in many cases.
What happened in New Jersey this month was totally different from anything that has happened there before. I even remember a few times when the pier at Seaside had to be repaired due to storm damage.
Back in the early days of the boardwalk, I can remember several times when fire destroyed parts of the boardwalk in Point Pleasant. That was when they used the old boards that were soaked in a preservative that had a distinctive smell when you walked along the boardwalk.
Improvements in materials over the years have the boardwalks burning a bit less likely but nothing can stop the power of a major storm surge, nothing.
If you have ever lived or visited New Jersey, then you have at least one story or memory about the shore that stays with you all the time.
For me, my favorite spot was Seaside. It was a frequent destination on a Saturday night when you wanted something fun to do. I can still recall the excitement while traveling over the bridge to Seaside. While on top of the bridge you could see the bright neon lights of the boardwalk just waiting to deliver a good time. I can still smell the ocean air and hear the sounds coming from the stands as people tried their luck at winning that prized stuffed animal.
The food was great and the experience was relaxing and refreshing. Then there were the rides. My favorite was the Himalaya. The sound of the ride operator yelling "Do you want to go faster" and everybody yelling "Yaaaaa" was a great a thrill as any, while the ride would speed up to an almost insane pace all while listening to your favorite tunes in the mega speakers. When you reach the maximum speed the ride operator would yell, "It's the Himalayaaaaaaaa" while strobe lights flash and sirens go off. Although a smaller version of the Himalaya is seen at some fairs as a ride called the Music Express, this was the only place that would both go forward and then backward. It was a double thrill for the price of one ride. These are memories that one can never forget.
For about a week before the storm hit, we kept seeing the European model having a major storm sitting right over the northeast.
At first, the track almost did not even seem believable and it was not a part of the initial forecast. I kept seeing it in the models and I started talking about its potential. Most people probably did not think much about it because severe storms and hurricanes do not affect this region that often. When they do, most folks have seen dire forecasts result in a storm that is weakening while it approaches.
This storm was not your normal storm. The storm took on a hybrid state as it passed north of Florida. The center core was tropical while the outer part of the storm was like that of a nor' easter. As the storm moved north, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream all the way up the coast fueled it. This was unusual in itself. Storms usually dramatically weaken when they get to this latitude. In the case of Sandy, the wind field expanded and the strength actually increased.
The second problem was the high-pressure area to the north. This high blocked the system once it got up near New Jersey. In addition, the jet stream was positioned just right in order to pick up and suck the system rapidly toward the coastline.
The storm hit dead on, which normally does not happen in a northeast storm. Normally they ride the coast or parallel the coast just offshore. This was the first time a storm has ever crossed New Jersey at this angle. It was a combination of the storm size, strength and more importantly, the angle that the system hit at that caused the damage. We might never see a situation like this again in our lifetimes but the fact remains clear to all of us that it did happen.
The damage path looks all too familiar to what we saw in the aftermath of Katrina. There were places where the surge went clear over the barrier islands to the bay and then beyond. Most of the damage was caused by the surge.
Had the system followed a more normal track up the coast, the damage would not have been as severe. The official point of landfall was near Atlantic City. It hit with the lowest pressure ever recorded in this part of the country. Since Seaside is not far north from where the center made landfall, it became one of the hardest hit areas along the coast.
There is one more point I need to make. When you are asked to evacuate, there is a good reason for it. If you decide to try and be a hero and stay anyway, you are putting not only your own life in danger, but also the lives of the people who will have to rescue you.
If you are on a barrier island or a flood prone area, you need to leave, period. Hopefully, when you leave things will not be as bad as expected, but in the event that it is, at least you and your family will be alive.
There is no match for storm surge. It is devastating and has no mercy. It will swallow everything in its path. When you are asked to leave, get out.
Contact Joe Zelenak at email@example.com.