Tropical cyclones (TC) frequently cause great amounts of damage to buildings, infrastructure, and other assets. End of October 2012, Hurricane “Sandy” caused severe damage in the Caribbean and along the U.S. East coast. On its unusual path, “Sandy” hit one of the poorest (Haiti) and the richest (USA) country in the world.

On 24 October, „Sandy“ moved on an unusual path from the Caribbean over Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas further north. On 30 October, the storm made landfall between New Jersey and New York. During that time, “Sandy” reached peak wind speeds of up to 148 km/h, while the diameter increased to an all-time record size of 1 700 kilometers. Due to the large spatial extent, the high precipitation totals as well as the related storm surge, “Sandy” caused severe damage especially in northeastern USA. Temporally around 21 million people were affected by power outages, which partly lasted over several days up to weeks. Even one week after the event – especially in New York and New Jersey – 3.37 million people were still affected. While “Sandy” caused 65 fatalities in the Caribbean, 142 people died in the US. In Cuba, more than 240 000 buildings were damaged or completely destroyed (Kunz et al., 2013).

The fact that Hurricane „Sandy“ hit an extremely densely populated area where the infrastructure is highly vulnerable made the event to one of the most costliest hurricanes in history. Depending on the source, direct economic losses are estimated to be between 50 and 100 billion USD. First place in this category is held by Hurricane Katrina (2005), which caused damage of more than 100 billion USD and more than 1 800 fatalities (Knapp et al., 2005; Blake et al., 2011). Hurricane Andrew (1992), reaching peak wind speeds of 268 km/h, is the third in this list (Blake, 2011) with damage of 26.5 bn USD.

Tropical cyclones are catagorized according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed in excess of 119 km/h (1-min mean). Category 5 (252 km/h or higher) indicates catastrophic damage with a high percentage of destroyed framed homes, power outages for weeks to months, and most of the affected areas uninhabitable for weeks or months (NOAA, 2015). Hurricane “Sandy” with maximum sustained mean wind speed of 176 km/h was “only” a second category hurricane.


Blake, E. S., E. N. Rappaport, and C. W. Landsea, 2011: The deadliest, costliest, and most intense United States tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and other frequently requested hurricane facts). NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS NHC-6, National Hurricane Center, Miami, USA.

Knabb, R. D.,  J. R. Rhome, and D. P. Brown, 2005: Tropical Cyclone Report, Hurricane Katrina, 23–30 August 2005, National Hurricane Center, Miami, USA.
Kunz, M., Mühr, B., Kunz-Plapp, T., Daniell, J. E., Khazai, B., Wenzel, F., Vannieuwenhuyse, M., Comes, T., Elmer, F., Schröter, K., Fohringer, J., Münzberg, T., Lucas, C., and Zschau, J., 2013: Investigation of superstorm Sandy 2012 in a multi-disciplinary approach, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2579-2598, doi:10.5194/nhess-13-2579-2013

Mühr, B., M. Kunz, B. Khazai, F. Wenzel, T. Kunz-Plapp, T. Comes, M. Vannieuwenhuyse , K. Schröter, F. Elmer, A. Leyser, und J. Zschau, 2012a: CEDIM FDA-Report No. 1 on Hurricane Sandy 22-30 Oct. 2012. Zum CEDIM-Report

Mühr, B., M. Kunz, T. Kunz-Plapp , J.E. Daniell , F. Wenzel, T. Kunz-Plapp, B. Khazai , M. Vannieuwenhuyse, T. Comes, F. Elmer, K. Schröter, A. Leyser, C. Lucas, J. Fohringer, T. Münzberg, W. Trieselmann und J. Zschau, 2012b: CEDIM FDA-Report No. 2 on Hurricane Sandy 22-30 Oct. 2012. Zum CEDIM-Report
NOAA, 2015: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Hurricane Center. Accessed: 28 Oct. 2015.

The Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology, CEDIM, is an interdisciplinary research institution of the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).