Sandy was a huge storm! That's putting it mildly. Yes, it was only a Category 1 hurricane when it hit New Jersey, but it's areal coverage was so vast that it put other storms to shame. When Sandy came ashore near Atlantic City Monday evening, tropical storm force winds extended out 485 miles from its center. That means it covered an area of roughly 740,000 square miles with heavy rain, wind, storm surge and snow.
To put Sandy into perspective, lets compare it to two storms that we know well -- Katrina and Ike. Both of these storms were considered very large, essentially covering much of the Gulf of Mexico as they neared landfall along the Gulf Coast. At landfall, Katrina's tropical storm force winds extended out 235 miles from its center. The tropical storm force winds in Ike extended out 275 miles.
When you estimate the number of square miles covered by each storm, Sandy turned out to be three times the size of Ike and four times the size of Katrina. When Sandy hit New Jersey, it was truly staggering!
So, even though Sandy was "just" a Category 1 storm at landfall, it was impacting an extremely large part of the east coast, which is the nation's most densely populated region. And, considering that wide storms push more water into the coast as storm surge, the surge from Sandy ended up being much greater than a typical Category 1 surge. Ask anyone who lives on the coast from New England to New Jersey and they'll confirm that the storm was completely devastating.
These factors -- physical size and the location impacted -- add up to make Sandy one of the very worst natural disasters our country has ever faced. In time we'll have an estimate for the dollar cost of this storm. Whatever the final tally is, it will surely be mind-boggling.