If you live on the East Coast of the United States, you’re probably familiar with nor’easters. You know that contrary to what it might sound like, it’s not just a funny way of referring to people from the East Coast. 

A nor’easter is a storm that usually develops in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles east or west of the East Coast.  

Though they may resemble hurricanes in satellite imagery, they are not. Hurricanes get their strength from warm ocean waters, whereas nor’easters occur because the air temperatures over the land during certain seasons are often colder than air temperatures over the ocean. 

They’re dubbed “nor’easters” because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. Though they can happen at any point throughout the year, nor’easters are more common and stronger between September and April. So, here we go (again)! 

These storms are no laughing matter--they’ve caused billions of dollars in damage, severe economic, transportation, and, human disruption, and in some cases, disastrous coastal flooding. 

Many individuals and families face the loss of power for days and even weeks on end, as well as limited access to supplies. Though nor’easters only occur on the East Coast, the same principles of preparedness and survival can be applied to natural disasters in other parts of the country--from hurricanes to blizzards. 

Let’s get to some recent history. I’m sharing three case studies of nor’easters from the past and what we can learn about them when it comes to preparedness and survival... 

 

#1: March 2018 Nor’easters 

NOAA's GOES East satellite captured this dramatic image of the powerful nor'easter that brought gale-force winds, rain and snow to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on March 2, 2018.

East coasters couldn’t catch a break in March of 2018--there were four nor’easters in a row within the same month! The storms brought about flooding, snow, unusually high tides and storm surges along the coast, wind, and downed trees. This caused massive inland power outages for millions over the course of the month. 

Many were without electricity and, in some cases, heat and hot water. As WNYC reported, New Jersey resident Anya Raskin gave birth to her daughter Rita just a few days before the storm. Taking care of her newborn was clearly Anya’s top priority. 

Luckily, she had prepared ahead of time and had flashlights and a battery-powered night-light ready to go. Her main concern was making sure her baby stayed warm during the snowstorm. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll benefit from… 

  • Layering your clothes and wearing gloves, hats, scarves, and wool socks.
  • Having a backup generator. Most portable generators can power the refrigerator, a light, and a small 1500W space heater.
  • Using a wood stove or fireplace--safe alternatives to other heaters that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ocean City, N.J. Streets are flooded after a winter storm passed through the area. (Photo by: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Lyon)

Additionally, NBC Connecticut reported that shoppers were stocking up on the essentials just before the storm hit. “Bread, milk, soups. Things like that that are easy to prepare,” said local resident Katie French. Another resident shared, “We have extra batteries, we’ve already got the flashlights out, the flashlights are by each bed, and we have water drawn off in case the flush doesn’t work.” 

But you know the drill. Store shelves clear quickly when storms like these approach. It’s best to have long-term food storage on hand to avoid the chaos of running to a store last-minute with thousands of others that are ill-prepared. 

With each storm, folks prepared a bit better. You can do the same in your area of the country too--be sure to keep these tips in mind in case you ever face similar conditions.

 

#2: Superstorm of 1993 

Ranking as the most destructive nor’easter in history, the superstorm of 1993 is often referred to as the Storm of the Century. A combination of three different weather systems, the superstorm made landfall on March 13. 

It affected states all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine and brought about... 

  • Storm surges of up to 12 feet high that swept houses out to sea.
  • 318 deaths.
  • $6 billion in damage.
  • Power outages for 2.5 million people, some of which were due to power lines shorted out by salt spray (see recent Survival Scout with preparedness tips, specifically a similar 2003 power outage).

Some power outages lasted for days, since crews encountered impassable roads and massive snow drifts. However, residents and businesses found ways to persist despite the loss of power. 

As a news clipping from the Brunswick Star News reported, one restaurant in Long Island was able to continue to cook hot food and provide meals for up to 60 customers riding out the storm. This was thanks to the fact that they had a gas-powered grill. Having a gas-powered grill on hand is a great way to boil water and cook a meal during a longer power outage. 

According to another report, a Walmart in Wilmington, North Carolina, was able to remain open to customers seeking candles and kerosene fuel. They used battery-powered registers to remain open as long as possible. 

In the case of a power outage, make sure you have enough fuel and battery-powered appliances (such as radios and flashlights) to last you and your family for several days. Hand-crank and solar radios and flashlights are even better! 

 

#3: 1978 Blizzard

On February 5, 1978, a deadly nor’easter hit the East Coast, transforming into a blizzard that lasted two days and causing more than $529 million in damage. This amount would equal more than $1.85 billion today. 

The storm created treacherous road conditions, trapping many motorists. Unfortunately, drifting snow completely covered the vehicles, as well as landmarks, homes, and businesses. 

Some stranded commuters froze to death, either awaiting rescue or traveling by foot.

In the end, more than 4,500 people were hurt and another 100 people killed during the whiteout. 

Despite these harrowing statistics, there were various stories of survival and quick thinking. 

For example… 

  • People who were trapped in their offices during the blizzard resorted to living off vending machine food.
  • 300 stranded motorists in Dedham, Massachusetts, found shelter at the Showcase Cinema right off the highway. There, they ate popcorn and passed the time watching movies.
  • Fans attending the Beanpot college hockey tournament found themselves stranded at Boston Garden. They ate hot dogs, slept in the bleachers, and used combs and deodorant left behind by the hockey players.
  • As cash ran short, public officials asked stores to accept checks and even lOUs from their customers. 

Whether at work, on the road, or at home, make sure you’re stocked up on nonperishable food items, cash (or popular barter items), first aid supplies, and other essentials. You won’t want to be caught off-guard with little access to the essentials. 

During disasters such as these three powerful nor’easters, it’s important to focus on these practical stories of survival, and learn from them. As we move into storm season, make sure you and your family are prepared with the necessary supplies and knowledge. 

Have a great weekend and stay alert, friends. 

In liberty,

Grant Miller

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

 

Sources:
https://www.wnyc.org
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com
http://content.time.com
https://www.wsls.com
https://science.howstuffworks.com
https://www.nbcconnecticut.com
https://www.vox.com
https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/what-to-do-when-heat-goes-out/
https://www.weather.gov/images/ilm/climate/Superstorm93/StarNews-Brunswick.png
https://www.weather.gov/images/ilm/climate/Superstorm93/StarNews-RescueDamage.png
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