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Water level response in back-barrier bays unchanged following Hurricane Sandy

May 6, 2014

On 28–30 October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding along portions of the northeast coast of the United States and cut new inlets across barrier islands in New Jersey and New York. About 30% of the 20 highest daily maximum water levels observed between 2007 and 2013 in Barnegat and Great South Bay occurred in 5 months following Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy provided a rare opportunity to determine whether extreme events alter systems protected by barrier islands, leaving the mainland more vulnerable to flooding. Comparisons between water levels before and after Hurricane Sandy at bay stations and an offshore station show no significant differences in the transfer of sea level fluctuations from offshore to either bay following Sandy. The post-Hurricane Sandy bay high water levels reflected offshore sea levels caused by winter storms, not by barrier island breaching or geomorphic changes within the bays.