Remembering the Ash Wednesday Storm, 60 years later

Posted at 12:11 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 12:11:08-05

If you live or have lived along the East Coast, you are probably familiar with the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962.

Even though the storm wasn't a hurricane or a 'classic' nor'easter, The National Weather Bureau, now the National Weather Service, named the storm The Great Atlantic Storm. This was because it caused so much damage. It was later called the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, because most areas sustained the most damage on March 7th, which was Ash Wednesday.

According to the U.S Geological Survey, the strong northeast winds caused record flooding and beach erosion from Florida to New England. It tore through six states and caused more than 200 million dollars in damage. The storm killed 40 people and injured more than a thousand.

"Ash Wednesday Storm of March 1962 was probably the largest East Coast winter storm in terms of land loss and number of homes damaged or destroyed. This nor'easter, which coincided with a spring tide, remained stationary for almost 36 hrs so that beach and barrier flooding lasted over 5 consecutive spring high tides," the U.S. Geological Survey says.

The Outer Banks, Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore experienced catastrophic damage.

The Museum of the Albemarle posted to their Facebook page on Monday, March 7th, commemorating the 60th anniversary.

Below is an excerpt on storm data recorded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It details the destruction to the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads area.

Department of Commerce-Storm Data

Luckily, sixty years later, we have better technology including satellite, radar data, and weather models. We also have means to warn people earlier, and more often. People can now get early warnings right in the palm of their hand. More people may have been able to evacuate if this was available back then.

Even with today's technology, the storm would still be destructive and cause a lot of damage to the area. When a storm is stationary, catastrophic damage is bound to happen. If we were to experience a storm like this one again, the best plan of action would be to evacuate. The Outer Banks, Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore are still prone to flooding and is always the biggest concern during large coastal storms.

It's always good to make sure your family has a Disaster Preparedness Plan in place. Visit the Red Cross for more information.