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Kansas Water Science Center

Water-Supply Paper 2499
U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Summary of Floods of 1992

December 11-12, 1992, in New Jersey

By Thomas P. Suro

An intense, slow-moving "nor'easter" storm hit the eastern coast of New Jersey during December 11 and 12, 1992. This storm produced strong winds and record and near-record flooding along the entire Atlantic Coast of New Jersey from Bergen County to Cape May (fig. 50). Two deaths were attributed to the storm. The President of the United States declared Bergden, Essex, Hudson, Somerset, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties a disaster area. The State was granted $46 million in disaster relief funds for public damages (A.S. Mangeri, New Jersey State Police, Emergency Management Office, oral commun., 1994) and $265 million for insured damage (National Weather Service, 1994) that occurred as a result of this storm. (No information on uninsured private damages is available.) The hardest hit areas were near Raritan, Newark, Sandy Hook, and Upper New York Bay. The effects of this storm were documented by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from records at tidal crest-stage gages and from streamflow-gaging stations, and from high-water marks located along the entire coast. The storm's effects also were recorded by several National Ocean Service (NOS) tide gages along the New Jersey coast and in adjacent States.

Data were collected from 11 tidal crest-stage gages, 1 streamflow-gaging station, 2 USGS tide gages, and 5 NOS tide gages to document the effects of the storm on the New Jersey coast. After the storm had passed, the USGS identified high-water marks to document tidal flooding within the State. The elevations of these high-water marks were determined by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and several counties.

The location of and coincident storm elevations at the USGS tide gages and crest-stage gages, as well as the NOS tide gages, are shown in figure 50. The highest tide elevations during the storm occurred in the northern part of the State near Raritan Bay (by crest-stage gages) at Perth Amboy (site 2; 10.4 feet) and Keyport (site 3; 10.13 feet above sea level). The NOS tide gages at Cape May (site 17), Atlantic City (site 13), and Sandy Hook (site 4) recorded maximum tide elevations of 6.83, 7.20, and 8.68 feet above sea level (the highest tide elevations recorded at these sites during their periods of record).

The northern parts of the State sustained more extensive flooding and higher observed tide elevations than other parts of the State as a result of the timing between the normal tide cycle and the storm surge. The storm surge occurred nearly at low tide at Cape May (fig. 51) and nearly at high tide at Sandy Hook (fig. 52). High-water marks indicate that parts of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties experienced even higher tide elevations than those recorded by these gages. Record elevations were observed at Keyport (site 3), Manahawkin (site 6), Beach Haven (site 7), and Ocean City (site 15). Several of the crest-stage gages that did not record a new maximum for the period of record did record the highest maximum since the "nor'easter" of March 7, 1962. The adjacent Coastal States of New York and Delaware, as well as Maryland, also experienced record and near-record tide elevations as a result of this storm. The USGS tide gages and crest-stage gages and the NOS tide gages that recorded elevations during the December 1992 storm are listed in table 31.

This storm produced precipitation in the coastal areas that ranged from 0.6 inch at Cape May to more than 2.4 inches at Sandy Hook. Inland precipitation ranged from more than 1.70 inches at Somerville to more than 3.80 inches at Mooristown (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,1993). Most of the flooding and damage were the result of increased tide elevations. Some nontidal streamflow-gaging stations recorded large discharges associated with the storm as the result of runoff from excessive rainfall. The most severe flooding and damage occurred in Monmouth and Middlesex Counties near Raritan Bay. Major highways and railroads were closed from a few hours to several days. At one point, the Garden State Parkway was closed in the area of Cheesequake. Parts of New Jersey Routes 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, and 72 also were closed during the storm. In addition, the New Jersey Transit's North Coast line was shut down due to flooding and debris. The PATH subway line also was flooded for many days in the Newark area because of this storm. Flooding was less severe in the southern part of New Jersey because the surge from the storm hit the coast closer to low tide there (fig. 51B). By the time the storm reached Middlesex and Monmouth Counties, the surge associated with the storm was nearly in phase with the high-tide cycle (fig. 52), which resulted in much more intense flooding than in parts of southern New Jersey. As a result of the full moon on December 9 and an unusually long storm duration that affected several tide cycles (Deitemyer, 1993), the resulting tide caused the most severe flooding along the New Jersey coast in nearly 30 years.

Reference

Bauersfeld, W.R., Moshinsky, E.W., and Gurney, C.E., 1994, Water-resource data for New Jersey-water year 1993, v. 1, Surface-water data: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Data Report NJ-93-1, 523 p.

Deitemyer, D.H., 1993, Effects of December 1992 northeaster on water levels, data report: Silver Spring, Md., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OES 006, 51 p., 2 app.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1993, Climatological data-New Jersey, December 1992: Asheville, N.C., National Climatic Data Center, v. 97, no. 12, 11 p.

National Weather Service,1994, Disaster survey report, The Great Nor'easter of December 1992: National Weather Service Eastern Region, 59 p., 1 app.


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