|Hurricanes and New Jersey
New Jersey is at risk for high winds, coastal flooding, rainfall flooding and tornadoes.
During the past century, all sections in the state have experienced hurricane force gusts,
if not sustained hurricane strength winds. Hurricane Gloria in 1985 was the last tropical
cyclone to bring significant coastal flooding. Other high wind events of the past hundred
years occurred in 1933, 1936, 1944, 1954 and 1960. The remnants of Hurricane Floyd in
1999 deluged sections of the Garden State and is among the periodic tropical cyclones
that have generated double-digit rainfall and severe flooding. Many tropical systems have
spun off tornadoes.
The following are some of New Jersey's significant tropical cyclones:
1821 On September 3, the eye of the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane tracked along
what is today the Garden State Parkway. Hurricane force gusts caused widespread crop and
property losses in eastern New Jersey. Major damage occurred in shore areas. This ranks as
one of the shore's most destructive hurricanes. It was likely of Category 1 strength,
underscoring New Jersey's vulnerability to even low-level hurricane force winds.
1878 The Great October Gale on the 23rd raked southwestern New Jersey with hurricane
force winds. The oyster fleet and villages along the Delaware Bay were ravaged. At least 150
buildings were unroofed in Camden. Property damage was widespread in western New Jersey.
1882 Remnants of two hurricanes produced disastrous flooding in northern sections of the
state. The first, on September 11-12, dumped up to 10 inches of rain. The second, from
September 20-24, dumped even more. September rainfall at Paterson totaled 25.98 inches, a
state monthly record.
1889 One of the state's most destructive coastal storms occurred when a hurricane stalled
off the coast from September 8-12, producing erosive, enveloping, surf covering part or all of
many barrier islands. In scope, it was similar to the Ash Wednesday nor'easter of 1962.
1903 A borderline tropical storm/hurricane on September 16 made landfall near Atlantic
City. Wind losses were mostly in coastal areas and generally light. Rainfall was less than four
inches near the coast, with half that in the west. A more destructive, tropical cyclone stalled off
the coast from October 8-11. It dumped over a foot of rain in northern New Jersey causing
severe flooding, particularly in the Passaic and Delaware river valleys. Storm totals (Oct. 8-9)
included 15 inches of rain in Paterson, 11.58 inches in Newark and 10 inches in Perth Amboy.
1925 The latest hurricane on record to strike the United States tracked offshore on
December 2-3. A 64 mph wind occurred in Atlantic City, with a gust of 70 mph. Gales driving
long-continued rain did modest damage along the New Jersey coast.
1934 Morro Castle Storm. On September 8, gales and incessant rain from a tropical storm
off the coast hindered rescue operations of the burning ocean liner, Morro Castle, near Spring
Lake. A total of 134 people died, many from drowning.
1938 The Great New England Hurricane of September 21 battered the Jersey shore with
high winds and ravaging surf. Torrential rain throughout the state caused widespread flooding.
Gales uprooted countless trees.
1939 The remnants of a tropical cyclone set the state 24-hour rainfall record at an official
weather station, 14.81 inches, on August 19-20 at Tuckerton. Flooding caused a train wreck at
Chatsworth, about 20 miles away.
1940 A hurricane tracked about 150 miles offshore, stalling thunderstorms over western
New Jersey. 22.4 inches of rain fell on Ewan in about nine hours on September 1, setting an
(unofficial) state 24-hour rainfall record. (Ewan is just 20 miles south of Philadelphia.)
Widespread dam failures, some creating a domino effect, added to the magnitude of the
1944 The Great Atlantic Hurricane, a Category 3 storm, tracked about 40 miles offshore on
September 14. Gusts of 80 to 100 mph blasted coastal areas. A series of huge storm waves,
estimated to be 30 to 50 feet high, caused catastrophic oceanfront damage within minutes along
nearly the entire length of the coast.
1954 Hurricane Hazel on October 15. Although the center of the storm passed well west of
the state, gusts of hurricane force were widespread, especially in western sections. Millville
reported a state high gust of 86 mph. Generally, less than an inch of rain fell in most areas.
Earlier, on August 31, Hurricane Carol brushed the Jersey Shore, causing modest damage.
1955 Hurricanes Connie and Diane, on August 12-13 and August 18-19, respectively,
dumped heavy rain on the northern half of New Jersey. Record flooding occurred along the
Delaware River, with Diane ravaging northwestern sections.
1960 Hurricane Donna on September 12 swept the Jersey shore with hurricane force gusts
and churned up damaging surf. Gales blew throughout the state, with several inches of rain.
Donna's 80-mile-wide elliptical eye brushed the shore, providing a brief interlude and glimpse of
the sun before high winds returned.
1971 Tropical Storm Doria produced one of New Jersey's memorable floods on August 27-
28. Princeton collected 10.15 inches of rain. Severe flooding occurred in the Raritan River
valley and elsewhere in central and northern New Jersey. A tornado tracked intermittently for
about 25 miles from Cape May to Woodbine.
1985 Hurricane Gloria provided a scare on September 27. Winds gusted to near hurricane
force in isolated shore locations and heavy rain was widespread, but Gloria proved considerably
less destructive than expected.
1999 Hurricane Floyd on September 16 dumped more than 8 inches of rain in 12 of New
Jersey's 21 counties. Devastating flooding occurred along the Raritan and other rivers in central
and northern sections of the state.
2004 Hurricanes Ivan on September 17 and Jeanne on September 28 brought torrential
rain and significant flooding, especially to the Delaware River Valley. The river crested at its
highest level since August 1955.
2011 Hurricane Irene made landfall near Little Egg Inlet along the southern New Jersey
coast on August 28, the first hurricane to make landfall in the state since 1903. Rainfall caused
destructive flooding on many waterways. Historic flooding occurred on some rivers, particularly
in the northeast. Power outages were widespread, and Irene uprooted thousands of large trees.
In early September, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee combined with other weather elements
to produce heavy rain and some additional flooding.
2012 On October 29-30, Hurricane Sandy targeted New Jersey with high winds, heavy rains
and the most destructive coastal flooding since the Ash Wednesday Nor'easter of 1962.
Astronomical high tides, prolonged gale, storm and hurricane force winds, record low barometric
pressure and landfall near Atlantic City combined for an unforgettable attack on the shoreline.
Hurricane Sandy became the first hurricane in New Jersey during at least the past 400 years to
make an initial East Coast landfall in the year after a previous hurricane visited the Garden
State. The storm caused massive, prolonged, power outages.
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Many hurricanes and nor'easters of the past 200 years would have caused Mid-Atlantic
coastal destruction greater than Hurricane Sandy.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk was totally destroyed by
the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944. (National Archives
A hurricane in Septmber 1889 ravaged the entire Mid-Atlantic
coast, including Long Branch, N.J. (Harpers Weekly)
The Ash Wednesday Nor'easter of 1962 is arguably the
most destructive coastal Mid-Atlantic storm of the past 100
years. (Delaware State Archives)