The top 11 most significant weather-climate events in NJ history
⚫ NJ’s biggest weather-climate events in recorded history
⚫ A wide range of wild weather is included
⚫ One storm in particular stands out
New Jersey has certainly its fair share of wild weather in recent years, but what comes to mind when you think of the biggest, most spectacular and significant weather-climate events in recorded state history?
According to New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University Dave Robinson, several events stand out for a variety of different reasons.
He said when putting together a list of New Jersey’s Top 11 most significant weather-climate events that ever took place he considered how much of the Garden State was impacted, and “then I looked over time, I didn’t want to be all caught up in what’s happened recently and forget some events from the distant past.”
Many different kinds of events.
“I didn’t just want to talk about flooding along the coast, or inland flooding or blizzards or droughts,” he said, “I went for a variety.”
Robinson said he carefully reviewed records as far back as the late 1800s, and when all was said and done, one event stands out as the biggest, most impactful weather-related occurrence in New Jersey history
He said Superstorm Sandy hit the Garden state Oct. 29, 2012 there were heavy rains, 80 mile-per-hour sustained winds and record-breaking storm surge.
“Sandy led to the most fatalities, by far the most damage, it was a transformative event not just on the physical side, but even the psyche of the state was impacted by this event,” he said.
He noted while storm surge along the coast and in nearby inland waters was devastating, there were extremely powerful winds in central and north Jersey “that felled tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of trees, and then people may not know it but the very farther southern counties of the state had 6, 8, 10 inches of rain.”
Robinson said after Sandy there were 10 other weather-climate events, in no particular order, that were also extremely significant and had a major impact on the Garden State.
The great drought of the mid-1960s
He said from 1963 to 1965 Jersey had tremendous rainfall deficits, which led to reservoirs plummeting and uncontrollable wildfires.
“Even tree rings suggest this might have been the worst drought in the mid-Atlantic states in several hundred years, the Delaware River was a trickle," he said.
The storm of 1903
He said on the other end of the spectrum, during October 1903 there was what seemed like a never-ending rainstorm.
“The state as a whole, stem to stern averaged a little over 8 inches of rain, that’s 2 months’ worth of rain in just a couple of days,” said Robinson.
He said that storm produced the worst flooding on record in the Passaic River basin.
The back-to-back Hurricanes in 1955
He said it’s hard to forget Hurricanes Connie and Diane in August of 1955.
“Connie brought the state about 6 and a half inches of rain, but then on top of that came Diane just a short while later, and that led to tremendous flooding on the Delaware.
Floyd and Ida
Robinson said in September of 1999 the remnants of Hurricane Floyd lashed Jersey causing terrible flooding in the Raritan River basin.
Then in 2021 the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida hit with state “with upwards of 2 months worth of rainfall in 6 hours, it was the second deadliest event on record in New Jersey with approximately 30 drowning deaths.”
Ida also brought the largest tornado in New Jersey in 30 years, an EF (Enhanced Fujita) 3 tornado in Gloucester County.
He pointed out we also have a list of memorial blizzards in the Garden State and 3 make the Top 12 list, including the blizzard of 1888.
“It’s a legendary storm, it had hurricane-force winds, many people died at sea, there were deaths, tremendous damage and suffering.”
But he said another blizzard, in 1899 was actually worse.
“The polar vortex invaded the eastern half of the U.S., this was a stem-to-stern major blizzard in New Jersey with cold temperatures, strong winds and abundant snowfall, 2 to 3 feet,” he said.
And then there was the blizzard of 1996
“In January multiple feet of snow fell near the Philadelphia Camden region, up in portions of Northern New Jersey,” he said.
“It was the worst storm during the snowiest snow season in Jersey recorded history, every month from November through April had above-average snowfall in New Jersey.”
The Nor'easter of 1962
The final event to make the Top 11 was the Nor’easter of 1962, also known as the Ash Wednesday storm.
Robinson said the storm stalled off the mid-Atlantic coast “and for 3 days kept pushing easterly winds onshore in New Jersey and each high tide got higher because the previous high tide didn’t have time to go back out to sea.”
He noted from LBI south that was actually a more damaging storm than Sandy.
He added the list is certainly subjective, and depending on where you were and what you were doing, other storms may be more memorable or impactful for you.
“It is a bit in the eye of the beholder,” he said.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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