Hurricane Sandy Impacts Chincoteague Island
The summer of 2012 was very active for tropical system development. The trend was tropical systems forming in the Caribbean and staying well out in the Atlantic Ocean. Through mid-October eighteen named storms had formed with no major impacts to the mid-Atlantic area. Heading into the later part of October Chincoteague residents were feeling optimistic that our Island might escape the 2012 hurricane season without damage from a storm. Mother Nature had other plans.
Early in the week of October 21st the Weather Channel began reporting on a late season tropical storm forming in the Caribbean Sea. With the tropical season winding down local residents paid very little attention to the news. By mid-week the Weather Channel began reporting that some of the forecast models were predicting the storm to track up along the United States eastern coastline, while other models were taking the storm farther out to sea. The former, they said, could potentially have a major impact on the mid-Atlantic coast. Below is Tropical Storm Sandy’s predicted path on Wednesday October 24, 2012.
By Thursday Sandy had intensified to a category 2 hurricane. Due to a unique combination of weather factors, including a cold front approaching from the west and high pressure in the northeast, the storm was forecast to take a very unusual path and hook back into northeast United States. The projected path from the Weather Channel had Chincoteague on the western edge of an "area of concern". At this point most of the forecast models agreed on a more easterly track, which would have kept the storm well out to sea. Chincoteague was still hopeful that the storm would pass by our area without a significant impact.
On Friday, the storm forecast became ominous. The projected path had the storm hooking back directly into the Delmarva Peninsula. Media began using terms like “super storm”, “unprecedented”, and “frankenstorm”. It had become clear that the 2012 hurricane season would not pass by quietly. Not a matter of if, but how bad, the storm would impact Chincoteague Island. Looking for any ounce of encouragement, we tried to find optimism in the fact that the south (weaker) side of Hurricane Sandy was predicted to hit Chincoteague. Even if that were to hold true, we knew that the impact here would be significant. Local entities, including County Schools and Wallops Flight Facility, began announcing closers for the following week. Residents began preparations for riding out the storm.
On Saturday the projected path from the Weather Channel showed a slight shift to the North, which was good news for Chincoteague. Sandy was briefly downgraded to a Tropical Storm in the morning, but shortly later was back up to Hurricane status and expected to intensify before making landfall. The Town of Chincoteague declared a state of emergency and a voluntary evacuation of low lying areas. The United States Fish and Wildlife announced that Assateague Island would close at noon on Sunday. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company opened the gates to the pony grazing areas to allow them to seek higher ground during the storm.
On Sunday Chincoteague Island began feeling the outer effects of Hurricane Sandy. Winds began to pick up, the surf got very rough and there was a lot of sand blowing at the beach. Local businesses were mostly boarded up and waiting for the full impact of the storm. A lone kite surfer was taking advantage of the winds in Tom’s Cove.
Monday brought the full effects of the Hurricane Sandy to Chincoteague. The Island began to experience hurricane force winds, torrential rain, and extreme tidal flooding in much of the Island. Extreme winds, rain, and flooding continued throughout the day. By late Monday afternoon trees began falling across the Island, taking out power lines and leaving many homes without electricity and many roads impassable. Winds, rain, and tidal flooding continued thru the night.
By late Tuesday afternoon Hurricane Sandy began to subside in Chincoteague. Residents began to venture out to inspect the damage around the Island. What they found was a lot of debris and hundreds of fallen trees across Chincoteague Island. Chincoteague had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and the cleanup would take weeks. However, as we learned of the devastation Hurricane Sandy had caused in New Jersey and New York we realized that we had been blessed. In the end no Chincoteague residents were killed or seriously injured and all of the ponies on Assateague Island survived the storm. Check our Facebook Page for information about Hurricane Sandy.