CHARTS: Remember Sandy? Storms Like That Could Become the New Normal

One year ago, when the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history swept up the East Coast and collided with a nor’easter, the two massive weather events morphed into a superstorm. Sandy made landfall in New York harbor during a full moon—when the tides are highest—and caused a massive storm swell that flooded much of the region. It was dubbed a Frankenstorm, a Snor’eastercane, the Katrina of New Jersey.

By the time Sandy ran its course, it had created a disaster scenario better than anything Hollywood could dream up. But Sandy wasn’t fiction—and climate models show that within the next hundred years Sandy-sized storm surges* could even become the new norm.

For a recent issue of Mother Jones, we set out to determine how soon we can expect floods like those caused by Sandy and 2003’s Hurricane Isabel—which devastated coastal Virginia—to become regular events. Using data provided by Climate Central and the National Climate Assessment, we found that the chance of another 9 foot storm surge in lower Manhattan reaches 50 percent in a given year by the end of the century. In some low-lying regions of Gloucester County, Virginia, residents can expect four foot storm surges to become a yearly event by 2060.

We also looked at the toll that weather-related natural disasters have taken on the troubled National Flood Insurance Program. Though it has recently undergone reform—raising the rates for many property owners whose homes have been deemed the most vulnerable to flooding (but also dampening the real estate market)—the federal program remains deep in the hole that Katrina created and Sandy deepened.

NOAA, FEMA, Congressional Research Service, White House Federal Budget

To find out how soon you can expect regular major flooding events in your area, type in your city, state, or zip code into Climate Central’s Surging Seas database below and move the water level line.

 

Correction: An earlier version said Sandy-sized storms could become regular events, but it is Sandy-level storm surges.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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