Geotechnical Effects and a 6-Year Outlook of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy in the Eastern United States

Sissy Nikolaou, Youssef M.A. Hashash, Beena Sukumaran, Aaron Sacks, Michael J. Burlingame, Chris Baxter, Aaron Bradshaw, Lee Wooten, Hugh Lacy, Cheryl Moss, Joseph A. Daraio, Thomas D. O’Rourke

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Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive event of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It originated as a storm off the coast of West Africa that turned into a tropical wave in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, and then into a hurricane that moved slowly north along the United States East Coast. Numerous regional coastal communities and urban centers in New Jersey (NJ) and the New York City (NYC) metropolitan area experienced widespread flooding, extreme winds, and heavy damage that disrupted daily life and business in Lower Manhattan, the world’s financial capital. Consequences with great geotechnical engineering interest include: (i) modification of the regional coastal geomorphology due to storm surge, with the birth of new inlets, erosion, scour of soil at the shorelines; (ii) damage in coastal communities that revealed the vulnerability of residential building foundations not designed according to modern flood protection standards; and (iii) interruption of service of buried structures and below ground infrastructure due to flood damage to non- structural components. This paper presents observations of characteristic damage to geotechnical infrastructure and alteration of the geologic setting collected and documented by the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association (GEER; team that was activated while the hurricane reached NY-NJ. It was led by the first two co-authors with a core of ten GEER volunteers from academia and the industry, who were joined by a large team of local engineers with the support of public agencies, all working diligently to capture observations in a timely manner. A summary of the reconnaissance work, background research, main design impacts, and examples of improvement projects are provided. The importance of urban infrastructure resiliency and sustainability is discussed as a main lesson from this case history, and some actions needed to achieve those are proposed.


Hurricane Sandy, GEER, geotechnical reconnaissance, New York - New Jersey, infrastructure, erosion, foundations, sustainability, resilience


Nikolaou, S., Hashash, Y. M., Sukumaran, B., Sacks, A., Burlingame, M. J., Baxter, C., Bradshaw, A., Wooten, L., Lacy, H., Moss, C., Daraio, J. A., O’Rourke, T. D. (2020). Geotechnical Effects and a 6-Year Outlook of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy in the Eastern United States, Vol. 5, Issue 4, p.106-128. doi: 10.4417/IJGCH-05-04-06


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