Changing Planet

A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction

This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey.


Hurricane Sandy will be remembered as a raging freak of nature that became one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. Here is a timeline from Sandy’s birth deep in the Caribbean Sea to its dissipation over Pennsylvania nine days later.

October 22
A tropical depression forms in the southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua. The depression strengthens and becomes Tropical Storm Sandy, with maximum winds of about 40 mph.

October 24
Sandy has become a Category 1 hurricane as it moves northward across the Caribbean and crosses Jamaica with winds of 80 mph. Although Sandy’s eye does not cross the Dominican Republic and Haiti to its east, the storm dumps more than 20 inches of rain on Hispaniola. More than 50 people die in flooding and mudslides in Haiti.

October 26
Sandy strengthens as it moves from Jamaica to Cuba and strikes the historic city of Santiago de Cuba with winds of about 110 mph, only 1 mph below the status of a major Category 3 hurricane. “Everything is destroyed,” Santiago resident Alexis Manduley told Reuters by telephone.
Sandy causes more devastation as it crosses the Bahamas and makes a slight turn to the north-northwest.

October 27
Sandy moves away from the Bahamas and makes a turn to the northeast off the coast of Florida. News services estimate the death toll in the Caribbean at 70 or more. The storm briefly weakens to a tropical depression, but quickly re-intensifies into a Category 1 hurricane.

October 28
Sandy continues moving northeast on a track that takes it parallel to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. But the storm’s center stays well offshore as it approaches latitude 35 degrees north off the coast of North Carolina. Still, the storm sends powerful waves onto North Carolina’s Outer Banks, washing out NC Highway 12 in places.

The storm is still a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds of about 80 mph. But an unusual configuration of weather factors is converging, and meteorologists warn that the storm likely wil morph into a powerful, hybrid super-storm as it churns northward.

A high-pressure cold front to Sandy’s north will force the storm to start turning to the northwest toward major cities such as Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. And the full moon will make Sandy’s storm surge – expected to be 11 to 12 feet in some places – a little higher as it makes landfall. Sandy has expanded into a huge storm with winds covering about 1,000 miles.

“You just don’t see this kind of stuff,” Keith Blackwell, a meteorologist at the University of South Alabama’s Coastal Weather Research Center in Mobile, tells National Geographic News. “It’s so strong and so large. Normally protected areas like New York Harbor and Long Island are seeing the worst-cast scenario.”

October 29
12:30 p.m.:  Sandy has made its expected sharp turn toward the northwest on a path for the coast of New Jersey. The storm also has started interacting with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process. The storm will dump heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Sandy will have a run of about 300 miles over open water as it heads for landfall, giving it time to build up a huge storm surge that will be a little bigger because of the influence of the full moon.

Meanwhile, a replica of the tall ship HMS Bounty, en route from New London, Connecticut to Saint Petersburg, Florida with 16 people on board, is caught in Sandy’s raging seas in the infamous “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off the Outer Banks. CNN reports that the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, tries to steer his ship away from the worst of Sandy’s wrath, but the ship’s pumps fail and it begins rapidly flooding and starts to sink.

Passengers and crew abandon the ship, but only 14 of the 16 people on board make it to the relative safety of the lifeboats. A rescue crew from the U.S. Coast Guard station at Elizabeth City, North Carolina pulls the survivors to safety aboard helicopters. They recover the body of one missing crewman, but Walbridge, the captain, is missing.

During the afternoon: Sandy brings high winds and drenching rains from Washington, D.C. northward, toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. The storm eventually will affect more than 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard.

8 p.m.:  Sandy’s center comes ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm is no longer considered a hurricane but is now classified as a post-tropical nor’easter. But the storm’s unusual path from the southeast makes its storm surge much worse for New Jersey and New York. A cyclone’s strongest winds and highest storm surge are to the front and right of its circulation because the power of the storm’s strongest winds is combined with its forward motion. New York Harbor receives this part of Sandy’s impact.

The surge is worsened because the full moon has added about a foot to the surge and because Sandy arrives at high tide. Meteorologist Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service’s office in New York, tells National Geographic News that the surge — nearly 14 feet — is a new record for a storm surge in the harbor. The previous record of just over 10 feet was set in 1960 when Hurricane Donna passed just offshore.

The surge tops the seawall at The Battery in Lower Manhattan and floods parts of the city’s subway system. The surge also floods the Hugh Carey Tunnel, which links Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The storm’s huge size means that its winds, rains and flooding will pound New Jersey and New York throughout the night and through three cycles of high tides and low tides.

Staten Island also is hit very hard by the storm. The Seattle Times later reports that towns such as Oakwood Beach, Midland Beach, South Beach and Tottenville — which lost many residents who were police and firefighters during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — were among the hardest-hit communities.

October 30
Although Sandy has started to move away from New York, the backside of the huge storm is still inflicting punishment on the Northeast. As the day progresses, Sandy weakens as it moves inland over Pennsylvania.

October 31
The storm that began as Hurricane Sandy dissipates over western Pennsylvania, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues its final advisory on the storm. NOAA’s advisory says “multiple centers of circulation in association with the remnants of Sandy can be found across the lower Great Lakes.”

NOAA reports that Sandy killed more than 70 people in the Caribbean and at least 50 in the United States. NOAA estimates that Sandy caused at least $20 billion in damages.

Update, November 3
NBC News reports that the death toll in the U.S. is now 109, including at least 40 in New York City. Half of New York’s deaths are on Staten Island. NBC also reports that damages from Hurricane Sandy likely will exceed $50 billion.

Willie Drye has been writing about hurricanes and other topics for National Geographic News since 2003. Follow his blog, Drye Goods.

Willie Drye is an award-winning author and a contributing editor for National Geographic News. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Terry

    A Nat Geo article aout the progress of Hurricane Sandy with but one photo.

    I come to Nat Geo for the beautiful images!


    Very good informative article about Hurricane Sandy’s path. Interesting to learn how and where she ended.
    Im sure the reason for only one photo is because it was about the path and size of the storm and not to show the devastion.
    Here’s a link for some photos:

  • ruth

    my daughter is not in touch with me and i am going out of my head with worry. she lives in the ontario county area of new york state in a town called victor. did the hurricane go through there and do much damage – where can i find out.

  • Muhammad Hanif

    We are worried about destruction of sandy and stand with effected people. May Allah grant courage to rebuild. We wish normalcy in lives of effectees.

  • Jane Morrow

    To Ruth in Jerusalem: Ontario County is well to the northwest of New York City and far enough inland that it would not have been affected by the storm surge. The county’s official website lists county offices’ phone number as +1.877.267.1984. Perhaps you can get more information by calling that number.

  • gail zawacki

    Here’s another link for photos:

  • potato

    Unlucky New York…

  • big boy

    big disaster……..

  • welbeck

    Nice information about Hurricane sandy but without video.

  • Stephen Fletcher

    Your website is wrong.

  • Diane

    I live on the North Shore of Long Island (facing Connecticut) and just got telephone, television and internet restored on November 30. I was at Long Beach, New York (south shore on an outer island of Long Island facing the Atlantic Ocean). As of this writing, the streets (about 1 block from the ocean) still has about 3″ of sand on them, no electric, gas for heat, etc. Please do not forget these people and please continue to contribute to American Red Cross and the Long Beach Animal Shelter. The animal shelter was under about 4 feet of water and are in desperate need of food and supplies for all animals, especially dogs. Animals are being destroyed because they have no supplies. Please don’t forget these people and animals because the Media has stopped reporting about Hurricane Sandy.

  • jack

    hi guys

  • ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

    I think that’s terrible!

  • Eazy-Breezy

    Good information. I like the way that you resented your information. It is easy to read and helpful. Also, I am happy tat you only put in one picture, because the pictures are too devastating. Thanks for the information though. I am doing a science project on what happened in my town and I needed this information, desperately!

  • lottie

    i cant believe that happens in a lot of places

  • safi alom

    thank you i really needed a timeline of hurricane and i finally found one and this is the best

  • >_

    asian invasion

  • fart

    what day did it start

  • yolo

    Good info,but seiously needs to have the years

  • Robert R

    Typical New York centric – while the area around me was the worse hit area – no mention of that. Seaside is right across the bridge from where I live, Ortley Beach which was completely wiped out is a section of my town. Mantoloking just north of me on Barnegat Penisula was wiped out as well.

  • miranda

    that was really good information. very well presented and easy to read. i need to do a project on natural disasters and i picked hurricane sandy and the 2004 tsunami in thailand. anyway, thanks for this, it helped a lot!

  • sarah

    thanks for writing this it means a lot. i need it for my science project for school. that was terrible about what happen to does people who died. 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  • Cristofer

    This didn’t help me

  • Alex Gilliam

    That is very awful what had happened

  • Jay

    Some people died it was so sadddd

  • Diezel

    How did hurricane Sandy end

  • willem volschenk

    Thank you for this information… needed this for geography research task. Tragic thing that happen but at least it’s recorded. Symphaties to the families affected by Sandy

  • Issy

    this helped me with my hw so much, thank you, that was terrible though(what happend)!

  • Christian Lattimore

    WE was talking about hurricane Sandy today in class. It was os emotional! )-;

  • Md. Tarikul Islam

    Thanks for these informations.

  • HELP

    plz write about barometric pressure

  • o my gosh :)

    so help full

  • Christopher Efthimiou

    I live on Long Island, this storm caused angry mobs, and mild apocolypse because people started looting gas stations and grocery stores (and apparently Ace Hardware stores), plus burglars started to loot peoples houses (mine wasnt looted). We had no power until the week before Thanksgiving (which i was thankful to have back that year). And above all else, LIPA (Long Island Power Association) didn’t help as much as they could’ve.
    I swear, The Home Depot and Ace Hardware were out of generators and Midland NOAA Weather Radios.

    At the time, I was in high school, which ws cancelled for a solid 2 and a half weeks because the power was out.

    And should I even mention that on Long Island, there was also a blizzard a week after Superstorm Sandy was over? I cant even explain how thats even possible…

    My Halloween with my friends was ruined because of Sandy’s aftermath.

    But anyways, about the fate of LIPA,

    After the disappointment that LIPA brought to Long Island residents, they were shut down and replaced with PSE&G, which originates from the state of New Jersey.
    A ton of people were laid off.


    My fear, is that if another storm like this hits us on Long Island, we would have an extended power outage (longer than Superstrom Sandy’s chaos), because PSE&G would probably help New Jersey before us (I know it sounds ridiculous, but you never know)

    And in addition, Verizon Fios customers are left for dead, because we cant watch updates on The Weather Channel (because Verizon Fios completely replaced it with another [worthless] weather channel),

    At least I was/am safe after it, as well as my family, and can consider myself part of history in the making.

    Thank you if you read this entire comment

  • Christopher Efthimiou

    That storm was a catastrophic nightmare. No power from Halloween until Thanksgiving. Bad times.

  • grace

    helped me so much with my geography paper!! thank you:))

  • Priscilla Jones

    Sitting here at the ocean in amagansett NY… I can’t help but become overwhelmed with memories of Sandy’s wrath. My hometown of Montauk lost a very dear friend who was walking her dog during low tide as the eastern potion of Sandy lashed our coast line. She and her pup were swept away and carried two villages west to Georgia Beach in East Hampton, Ny. Her death devastated our small local community. She was a beautiful soul… gone in an instant. Please PLEASE never underestimate the power of Mother Nature… “Deet” was a native of Long Island and always respected the ocean and her powers… just as all of us born and raised here were tought to. Sandy was underestimated by most of us as we’ve had many near misses over the years and it’s easy to gain a false sense of security because of this. Again.:: PLEASE… never underestimate the power of the sea. You never want to go through the horror of walking down the beach and having to identify your mother as “Deer’s” two young daughters had to.:: compounding their grief was the death of their father just two years before.:: My prayers go out to all who were effected by Sandy… all the loss pain and suffering will never be forgotten here as I look to the sea. God Bless

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