Hurricanes and Storms

New Jersey Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Study

Historic storms, including Hurricane Sandy, have severely impacted the back bay communities of coastal New Jersey. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is conducting the New Jersey Back Bays Study to investigate Coastal Storm Risk Management strategies and solutions for reducing damages from coastal flooding affecting population, critical infrastructure, critical facilities, property, and ecosystems. The study area is located behind the New Jersey barrier islands of Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, and Cape May Counties. The Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuary is one of the water bodies included in the study.

On August 19, 2021, the USACE announced the release of a draft study report. Links to the report, maps, and appendices are available on the study website. The report outlines a ‘Tentatively Selected Plan’ framework for the study area, which includes three storm surge barriers, two cross-bay barriers, and the elevation of more than 18,000 structures to reduce the risk of flood damages associated with storm surge. The USACE noted that the plan is subject to change following input from the public and agency review. Additionally, it has not yet been approved by higher authorities, including Congress, and has not been funded for implementation at the federal or state level.

On August 31st, the Barnegat Bay Partnership hosted a virtual meeting with USACE staff, who presented an overview of the Tentatively Selected Plan and answered partner questions about potential impacts to the water quality, habitats, and fish and wildlife of the estuary. Please click here to view a recording of the presentation using this password: NJbbs083121.

The Barnegat Bay Partnership submitted a comment letter on this proposal. The public and all agencies were invited to submit comments to Mr. Peter R. Blum, P.E. ATTN: Environmental Resources Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, PA 19107-3396, or by e-mail at no later than October 12, 2021. Visit the study website for more information.

Superstorm Sandy

This devastating storm started forming in the Caribbean on October 19, 2012.  It quickly gained strength, becoming a tropical depression and then a tropical storm in just six hours.  Sandy was upgraded to a hurricane on October 24th when its maximum sustained winds reached 74 mph.

Aerial photo of Mantoloking, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
Aerial photo of Mantoloking, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: Greg Thompson /USFWS

Hurricane Sandy, the 10th of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, hit Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas before turning north toward the U.S. coast.  As Sandy headed north, it collided with an arctic air mass, which created an unsually large and dangerous storm system spanning nearly 1,000 miles.  Sandy made landfall in New Jersey in the Atlantic City around 8 p.m. on Monday, October 29th, with sustained hurricane-force winds of 80 mph or more and dangerous flood tides as high as 13 feet, according to the National Hurricane Center.  Sandy’s strength and angle of approach combined to create this record storm surge.  A full moon on Monday making high tides higher than normal only added to the massive storm surge.

In anticipation of the storm’s deadly effects, New Jersey required thousands to evacuate the low-lying areas most susceptible to flooding. The advance warnings were critical in minimizing loss of life from Sandy. Property damage from the storm was extensive, and infrastructures, including roads, power transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, and water mains, were severely impacted. The physical and emotional toll was immense, with many losing their homes and businesses.

View a video from a February, 2013 helicopter fly-over of areas impacted by the storm.  Dr. Stan Hales, the BBP Director, provides commentary along with others on the flight.

Post-Superstorm Sandy Monitoring

The NJDEP Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring collected water quality data after the storm. The EPA, in cooperation with the NJDEP, collected ocean water samples from near shore waters from Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights, and analyzed them for Enterococcus (an indicator of the presence of human pathogens).  The results indicated no measurable effect from the NY/NJ Harbor stormwater discharge on NJ’s coastal waters.

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Coastal Research Center, completed a preliminary post-Sandy assessment of the New Jersey Beach Profile Network (NJBPN) profiles located along northern Ocean County.  Data collected in September, 2012  and immediately following Hurricane Sandy on November 8, 12, and 19 were used to compare and calculate sand losses to the 11 beach profiles located on a developed portion of the coastline. To read the Coastal Research Center’s  Northern Ocean County Initial Report, click here.

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