Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Unfathomably large 2012 Atlantic storm; the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, and the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic—spanning over 1,100 miles from tip to tip. Sandy began on October 22 as a tropical storm in the western Caribbean, and strengthened to a hurricane two days later before battering Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Throughout its Caribbean journey, Sandy fluctuated in intensity from a tropical storm to a category 2 hurricane. On October 27 Sandy left the Caribbean, began tracking northward, and two days later the storm made an abrupt left turn and steamrolled across America's northeastern coastline.

At least 117 people were killed in the U.S., nearly half of whom perished in New York City, where flood waters filled subway tunnels, basement apartments, and huge swaths of lower Manhattan; at one point a buoy in New York Harbor registered a wave height of 32.5 feet, six feet taller than the previous record. Subway service in New York was halted, and low-lying areas of the city were evacuated. The New York Stock Exchange closed for two days and all the city's public schools were closed for nearly a week.

New Jersey also suffered greatly, with 34 deaths, mass evacuations along coastal areas, and severe gasoline shortages in the storm's wake. Millions were without power in New York and New Jersey for up to two weeks after the storm. Casino Pier, a popular boardwalk amusement park in Seaside, New Jersey, was almost completely destroyed; the pier also formed one of New Jersey’s most reliable surf breaks. Much of North Carolina’s Outer Banks community suffered devastating losses as well.

In the days before Sandy made landfall, surf breaks all along the eastern seaboard were treated to some of the best and most powerful waves locals had ever seen. Standout spots included Miami’s South Beach, which produced  six-foot barreling surf, and Pumphouse, near Palm Shores, Florida, which was transformed by Sandy’s power into a conveyor belt of ten-foot, left-breaking tubes that drew Floridian pro surfers Shea and Cory Lopez, Pete Mendia, Evan Geiselman, and eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater. (Florida was far south of Sandy’s landfall, and enjoyed mild weather while the storm raged across the northeast). “For five days nearly every inlet on the Florida coast just went Richter,” Mendia told Surfline. “These were the biggest barrels I’d ever seen on the east coast.”

Surfers in New York and New Jersey also cautiously enjoyed a few bittersweet days of fantastic surf before the storm ravaged their communities. Jon Coen, a New Jersey-based surf journalist told an interviewer that “surfing in New Jersey has a new timeline: everything will be qualified as 'Before Sandy' and 'After Sandy.' Everything's changed.”

Sandy's estimated financial cost was pegged at $50 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina, which did $108 billion in damage.