Selected effects of the 2012 hurricane sandy along the U.S. east coast: A geotechnical perspective

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Hurricane Sandy was unprecedented in impact on the urban cluster comprising New York City and the surrounding metro areas, in addition to numerous coastal communities along the New Jersey and New York coasts. The storm caused severe coastal damage and major flooding that disrupted daily life in a number of communities and business activities of Lower Manhattan, the financial capital of the world. In addition to damaging winds, Hurricane Sandy had several major consequences of geotechnical engineering interest, including (i) the storm surge modified the coastal geomorphology of the region with the birth of new inlets, erosion, and scour of soil at the shorelines, showing how marshes, dunes, and barrier islands influence soil erosion patterns and the resulting damage; (ii) storm surge damage in coastal communities revealed the vulnerability of residential building foundations not built to modern flood protection standards; and (iii) flood damage to nonstructural components took many buried structures and below-ground infrastructure out of service. The hurricane initiated discussions among civil infrastructure planners, engineers, architects, and environmental scientists on how to create resilient and sustainable future designs. Short-term geotechnical engineering solutions are needed to retrofit or rebuild, with the main concern being the safety of the communities and continuation of everyday life. There remains a need to translate the intents of resiliency and sustainability into quantifiable terms and incorporate them in a performance based engineering framework that considers life-cycle costs. Jurisdictions and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy are working intensely to meet the dual challenges of sustainability and resiliency in several ways. Their plans have a direct impact on the geotechnical engineering community and provide an opportunity for geotechnical engineers to be part of the decision process. This paper presents observations of characteristic damage to geotechnical infrastructure and alteration of the geologic setting of the affected areas as collected and documented by the GEER (Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance, www.geerassociation.org) team. The authors discuss, from a geotechnical perspective, key shifts in future planning of metropolitan areas toward resilient yet sustainable designs against extreme natural events. © 2014 American Society of Civil Engineers.

Publication Title

Geotechnical Special Publication


235 GSP