Although many people know of the widespread damage and destruction associated with hurricanes, they may not be as familiar with another type of storm — the northeaster — that has the potential to equal or exceed the total destructive power of a hurricane, especially along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Historically, northeasters have occurred in Delaware more often than hurricanes and have resulted in the loss of life and significant damages to beaches and properties. Although the season typically runs from October through March, these storms can occur at any time of year.
On Thursday, September 20, at 7:00 p.m. at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Wendy Carey, coastal processes specialist with the University of Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, will present “The ’62 Storm and Other Notable Northeasters in Delaware.” The talk will conclude this year’s Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which has been held monthly at the campus since April.
In her talk, Carey will provide an overview of northeasters and their impacts in Delaware, beginning with an explanation of the weather patterns that can create these powerful storms. Included in her talk will be a discussion of the Great Atlantic Coast Ash Wednesday Storm that struck Delaware on March 6–8, 1962. This northeaster relentlessly pounded the Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay shoreline for three consecutive days through five extremely high tidal cycles and flooded low-lying areas surrounding the Delaware Bay and Inland Bays. Waves were recorded at 40 feet in height, winds reached speeds of 60 miles per hour, and storm tides were over 8 feet.
“Although the storm of 1962 is considered to be the coastal storm of record in Delaware, there have been many other northeasters that have hit Delaware in the past several decades,” says Carey. “As recently as 1998, two powerful northeasters collided with the Delaware coast and caused extensive property damage to many coastal communities. As the population in the coastal zone continues to grow, the potential for damage caused by these coastal storms will probably increase as well.”
Carey also will show slides of the widespread devastation that has resulted from these storms. She will conclude her talk by discussing how past northeasters, especially the March ’62 storm, have provided valuable lessons that can be used to minimize risks from future storms.
Carey received her bachelor’s degree in geology from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in marine studies from the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies. In recognition of her efforts in making Delaware coastal communities more resistant to natural disasters, Carey was recently awarded the Project Impact Individual Leadership Award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region III.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments. While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.