Swept away by Sandy: Shocking before-and-after images of East Coast show ghostlike seaside towns with flattened houses, ravaged beaches and broken piers

  • Dramatic aerial photos show damage caused by superstorm in New York and New Jersey
  • The data will eventually stretch from North Carolina to Massachusetts
  • It will help forecasters and governments identify and protect vulnerable areas in future

By Emma Reynolds

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These incredible before and after aerial pictures show the destruction wreaked by Superstorm Sandy on the Atlantic Coast of the U.S.

The shocking before and after photos of the New York and New Jersey shoreline reveal in minute detail how much the land was altered in just a few moments.

They are part of a large-scale survey of the damage by the U.S. Geological Service, which is attempting to analyse the devastation caused to houses, public services and the lives of people from the battered seaside towns.

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Peaceful: View of Mantoloking, looking west along the New Jersey shore, before Superstorm Sandy hit the barrier island's wide beaches

Peaceful: View of Mantoloking, looking west along the New Jersey shore, before Superstorm Sandy hit the barrier island's wide beaches

Torn apart: Days after the storm, the beach, houses and roads are destroyed. Construction crews are seen clearing sand from roads and pushing it seaward. The yellow arrow pinpoints the same spot in the two images

Torn apart: Days after the storm, the beach, houses and roads are destroyed. Construction crews are seen clearing sand from roads and pushing it seaward. The yellow arrow pinpoints the same spot in the two images

Seaside Heights, N.J.
Seaside Heights, N.J.

Ravaged: In Seaside Heights, New Jersey - made famous by reality TV show Jersey Shore - part of the pier and its rollercoaster have been thrown into the ocean. Sediment deposited on the island is visible in the background

At risk: A view of Pelican Island, looking northwest across Fire Island, near Old Inlet - a very narrow portion of the island that has experienced breaching in previous large storms

At risk: A view of Pelican Island, looking northwest across Fire Island, near Old Inlet - a very narrow portion of the island that has experienced breaching in previous large storms

Devastation: The island breached during Sandy, creating a new inlet. Despite the breach, the fishing shack (yellow arrow) remained standing

Devastation: The island breached during Sandy, creating a new inlet. Despite the breach, the fishing shack (yellow arrow) remained standing

'Sandy taught us yet again that not all Cat-1 hurricanes are created equal,' said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. 'The superstorm's enormous fetch over the Atlantic produced storm surge and wave erosion of historic proportions.

'We have seized this opportunity to gather unique data on a major coastline-altering event.'

 

As major storms approach, the USGS conducts pre-storm and post-storm flights to gather images along the length of the coastline likely to take the hit of the storm’s landfall.

Pictures from these points of impact help scientists understand which areas are likely to undergo the most severe impacts from future storms, and improves future coastal impact forecasting.

When the project is complete, it will stretch from the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the South to as far north as Massachusetts.

Ordinary day: Ocean Bay Park, Fire Island, New York, looking northwest across the island towards Great South Bay

Ordinary day: Ocean Bay Park, Fire Island, New York, looking northwest across the island towards Great South Bay

Changed landscape: Overwash from the beach and narrow dunes carried sand inland towards the interior and bayside of the island, and numerous houses were destroyed or severely damaged

Changed landscape: Overwash from the beach and narrow dunes carried sand inland towards the interior and bayside of the island, and numerous houses were destroyed or severely damaged

Seaside Heights, N.J.
Seaside Heights, N.J.

Life-altering: Seaside Heights, looking west along the New Jersey shore.The red arrow points to a building that was washed off of its foundation and moved about a block away from its original location

USGS oceanographer Nathaniel Plant said Sandy caused 'significant beach and dune erosion and minor disruption of infrastructure in the south, to extreme and often catastrophic erosion, overwash and sediment deposition and inundation on northern beaches like Mantoloking, New Jersey.'

Overwash occurs when waves are higher than protective sand dunes, sweeping sand from the beach inland.

This can wreak havoc on roads and public transport, bury buildings and put lives at risk.

The photos will help USGS identify areas particularly vulnerable to severe coastal change.

Before Sandy, the service predicted erosion of 91 per cent of the Delmarva coastline, 98 per cent of beaches and dunes in New Jersey and 93 per cent in New York.

It recorded drastic changes on Fire Island in New York, where the beach all but disappeared overnight, seaside homes reduced to matchsticks and 3ft of sand dumped in back gardens.

USGS coastal geologist Cheryl Hapke said: 'On average the dunes eroded back 70 feet - the equivalent of 30 years of change.

'Our data also showed that dunes lost as much as 10 feet of elevation.'


VIDEO: Before and after: The wake of Sandy's destruction along the East Coast

VIDEO: Aerial tour of Sandy's destruction in Brick Township, NJ


 

The comments below have not been moderated.

Born and raised in NY... never had any natural disasters just blizzards and these past two years we've been hit by hurricanes, this much stronger than the last. I grow weary thinking of the times ahead, it's scary how frequent natural disasters are becoming.

Click to rate     Rating   13

It is very sad...but it was also strange to see homes built on a sand spit. We have a sand spit here in Morro Bay, California, and it is protected land. You can't even camp overnight out there, much less build a house. I feel so bad for these people - it looked like a lovely neighborhood.

Click to rate     Rating   12

RIP Sandy victims...Fire Island...spend a couple of summers there...sad...weird to see my backyard in a publication overseas. These pix do not show the real devastation of Long Beach, NY and many, many other towns on the mainland!

Click to rate     Rating   11

It's sad for the Humans. It looks to me like Sandy took back what was hers to begin with. Not a bright idea to build there in the first place.

Click to rate     Rating   34

people built their houses on a sandbar next to the ocean?

Click to rate     Rating   54

small potatoes compare to what happened in japan in the 2011 tsunami.

Click to rate     Rating   19

And unlike Katrina, nobody is leaving here and moving somewhere else. We will rebuild. - Quinn, New York, 11/13/12 5:22 PM......And all of us that took it those people still have them, and their gangs, and crime, and cost.

Click to rate     Rating   15

And unlike Katrina, nobody is leaving here and moving somewhere else. We will rebuild. - Quinn, New York, 11/13/12 5:22 PM Can't stay where you can't find a job. New Orleans is rebuilt and better. All areas affected by Katrina are rebuilt or still rebuilding. Long road ahead.

Click to rate     Rating   5

Tragic story. Thoughts with all of you in NJ. I can't hope to know how you must feel.

Click to rate     Rating   29

I wonder why they did not show before and after shots of Ike when it hit the Gulf coast. Entire towns were removed from the map but no one seems to remember that.

Click to rate     Rating   28

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