As Hurricane Sandy approached the mid-Atlantic region, meterologists keep focusing on where exactly the eye of the storm would hit.
The reason has proven to be an obvious one: Sandy North and Sandy South had radically different effects on New Jersey’s beach towns.
“This was going from bad to disaster,” said meteorologist Tom Thunstrom, founder of Phillyweather.net, of the destruction moving from South Jersey shores to North.
Sandy made landfall right around Ocean City. Towns south of the eye experienced heavy rains – up to 10 inches in some places – and a strong north/northwest wind. This, on top of the storm hitting at a full moon high tide, pushed water onto the barrier islands from the bays. That’s why on the tiny barrier island town of Strathmere, the oceanfront homes were relatively untouched – even where the ocean breached dunes and seawalls – while many bayfront homes suffered severe damage.
The other side of Sandy was almost a different storm. Towns north of the the eye got very little rain – an inch to half an inch in most spots, said Thunstrom. However, northern towns suffered exponentially more damage because of the storm surge, which rushed from the ocean south, combined with 70, 80, 90 mile per hour east winds to pushing that water onto the shore. Hard. “It ended up being a total trainwreck,” said Thunstrom.
So while the amusement piers in Wildwood sustained nearly zero damage, the roller coaster from Seaside’s Casino Pier is in the ocean.
“If Bethany Beach [in Delaware] had been the landfall point, everyone would have been screwed,” said Thunstrom.
This isn’t to make light of the damage to the southern shores. Many homes and unhabitable; businesses destroyed. As I’ve said to almost anyone who’s asked me about Sandy, “lucky,” is a relatively term. But, hard as it is to imagine, it could have been much worse.