THE MARCH 1962 STORM ON THE ATLANTIC COAST OF THE UNITED STATES

M.P. O'Brien, J.W. Johnson

Abstract


As far back as 1635, records show that the East Coast of the United States has repeatedly suffered from severe storm damage (McAleer , 1962). Most of these storms appear to have been of the hurricane type. Such storms generally form in the Atlantic to the east of the Bahama Islands and move eastward and then turn northward to sweep along the Atlantic Coast line (Fig. 1). Along the southern part of the Atlantic Coast the hurricanes move relatively slowly; damage results principally from flooding caused by direct wind action. North of Cape Hatteras the hurricanes move more rapidly (speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour) and damage is largely due to sudden flooding from a rapidly moving storm surge (Simpson, 1962). The combination of storm surge, wind-driven water, and storm waves inundating large areas along the coast has on numerous occasions caused great damage and loss of life. The great Atlantic Coast storm of March 1962, however, differed in character from the usual hurricane. It proved to be the most disastrous winter coastal storm on record, causing damage from southern New England to Florida. This storm, of relatively large diameter and having gale force winds, remained nearly stationary off the Coast for almost 36 hours . The size and location of the storm, as further discussed below, was such that persistent strong northeasterly winds blowing over a relatively long fetch raised the spring tides (maximum range) to near-record levels. The tidal flooding which attended this storm was in many ways more disastrous than that which accompanies hurricanes (Cooperman and Rosendal, 1962). The storm surge in tropical cyclones
generally recedes rapidly after one or two high tides, but the surge accompanying this storm occurred in many locations on four and five successive high tides .' The great destruction was caused by high waves and breakers superimposed on these high tides.

Keywords


March 1962 storm; Atlantic Coast of U.S.

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