While the storm was neither a hurricane, nor a classic nor’easter, its impact was so powerful, the U.S. Weather Bureau gave it a name: “The Great Atlantic Storm.” That name was later changed by Outer Banks resident, Aycock Brown. Referencing the solemn holiday that shared the day the storm unleashed its fury he named it “The Ash Wednesday Storm.”
— 50th Anniversary: The Greatest Nor’easter of the 20th Century – Weather.com
The most devastating storm to hit the Jersey Shore happened 50 years ago this week. Long Beach Island, where vacationed regularly until recently, might have been hit the hardest. LBI was cut into three separate islands near Harvey Cedars.
“A two-story house sat in the middle of the main road, Long Beach Blvd., for months. I remember school books, refrigerators, and living-room furniture washing in on the waves all summer long. It took years for the island to get back to normal.”
A newspaper later reported on the scene in the town of Harvey Cedars, “The houses are everywhere, in no order, sometimes piled two or three together. Around them crushed and mangled cars and trucks lie half buried.”
The March ‘62 storm is a major part of LBI lore. The expression the “ocean met the bay” understates what happened on LBI. Two new channels were created by the five pounding high tides of the storm. After the storm, sand was pumped in the channels to rebuild the land lost and reconnect LBI.
A great book by Margaret Thomas Buchholz and Larry Savadove Great Storms of the Jersey Shore by Down the Shore Publishing focuses a whole chapter on the storm, focusing on LBI in particular. The book is well-written and there are many historic photos. I highly recommend it for fans of the Jersey Shore or weather history.
The 1962 northeaster hit during a boom time for the Jersey Shore. It rolled in just five years after the Garden State Parkway had been completed, offering vacationers an express route to the sand. The storm’s financial toll, adjusted for inflation, was more than $600 million.
“There was a big rush of post-WWII affluence and mobility,” says Gebert. “It unfortunately happened to coincide with the biggest northeaster that anybody experienced up to that point in the 20th century. The storm’s impact included at least five states but you could say that New Jersey was right in the center of the worst damage. There’s two components of that. One is the duration of the storm but New Jersey also had, and still has, the greatest percentage of shoreline that was developed, for better or worse.”
Killer nor’easter devastated Jersey Shore in March 1962; transformed approach to building along coast – Asbury Park Press
March ‘62 Storm: Lessons Learned? – The Press (Atlantic City)
The March 1962 Storm that rocked the Jersey Shore, the home movies! – Downashore, philly.com
50 years ago, a storm that redefined the Jersey Shore – The Inky