Arthur vs Sandy: How a weaker storm can do more damage

Arthur vs Sandy: How a weaker storm can do more damage

EASTERN CAROLINA - Hurricane Arthur didn't do as much damage to our coast as Hurricane Sandy did two years ago even though it was a 'weaker' hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Arthur was a Category 2 hurricane when it hit the Crystal Coast, and Sandy was a Category 1 when it sideswiped our coast.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says repairs on Highway 12 from Hurricane Sandy totaled $11 million. Large sections of Highway 12 were closed for almost two weeks in 2012 because of Sandy. After Arthur most of Highway 12 stayed open. One exception was the Bonner Bridge which was closed for two days.

Scientists say there are three main reasons why Sandy did more damage. The first is the forward speed of the storm.

"I think it didn't cause as much erosion because it went by so quickly that it didn't have time to pile up the water." says Tony Rodriguez, a scientist from U.N.C. Institute of Marine Sciences.

It is especially easy to see how important storm speed relates to impacts when comparing Arthur and Hurricane Irene. Greg Rudolph of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office says Irene did much more damage than Arthur to area beaches. You can see an example of the differences in shore damage in this photo.

The second factor that determines the impact a storm has is it's size. Wider storms have been linked to bigger storm surges. Sandy was one of the widest storms ever to form in the Atlantic.

The third has to do with the conditions of our beaches when each hurricane hit.

"So with Sandy, I think we had so much beach erosion because Irene came before Sandy and we hadn't fully recovered after Irene.' says Rodriguez.

Hurricane Arthur is a good example of why it's important not to base the impact of a storm on just Category strength. Instead, scientists recommend looking at the individual threats to assess possible damage like speed, size, and track.

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