Only a few people get to experience the great storms and they tend to remember every detail of every moment. And while most hope they never have to go through one again, only a few wish they’d missed it in the first place.”

— from the Preface

Great Storms
of the
Jersey Shore

By Larry Savadove,
Margaret Thomas Buchholz
and Scott Mazzella

Foreword by Senator Bill Bradley
Afterword by Gilbert M. Gaul

240 pages, 274 illustrations, index, bibliography, 11" x 11" hardcover

ISBN 978-1-59322-123-2

Expanded 2nd edition —includes Superstorm Sandy

Click for selected storm


2020 Gold Award winner: Best regional book in the nation! (Chosen by more than 160 librarians, booksellers and design and editorial experts nationwide in the 32nd annual Benjamin Franklin Book Awards)

This new and expanded edition of a “history of wild weather on the Jersey Shore...with harrowing eyewitness accounts” (Booklist) now includes Superstorm Sandy and even more weather.

Illustrated with nearly 300 photographs, engravings and graphics, this large-format book is filled with vivid personal accounts from storm survivors. Covering the earliest recorded storms through the devastating March '62 northeaster, the 1944 hurricane, December 1992's extreme northeaster and Superstorm Sandy, this “bible of Jersey Shore storms” also touches upon the mythic nature of great storms and looks at the environmental implications of coastal living.

With added color photographs, more storms, and updated information, record tides and storm tracks, this new edition includes an Afterword about climate change, sea level rise, and the future of the coast. It is a must for every Shore resident’s library.


This is a book about living on the edge. It is a book of survival stories — gripping accounts from those who have experienced major storms along the New Jersey Shore, woven together with contemporary news and you-are-there reports.

Originally published in 1993, this expanded second edition includes an extensive chapter on Superstorm Sandy, the most destructive storm to strike the region in generations. But readers who know only of Sandy may be amazed by the stories of the Shore’s historic storms, especially the hurricane of 1944 or the March northeaster of 1962. Before modern building codes, flood insurance, evacuation orders, or reliable forecasts, these epic storms were as completely devastating.

This new edition updates other coastal weather events from recent years. And because development at the Jersey Shore continues apace — driven by a never-fading desire to live by the ocean, at a time when the climate is changing and the seas are rising — an afterword on the future of the Shore has been added.

Great Storms of the Jersey Shore is dramatically illustrated with nearly 300 photographs, engravings, and graphics. Reproduced here, these images take on new life and provide a window through which we can view the past and appreciate both the horror and beauty of nature unleashed.

Within these pages the voices of those who have known the power of great coastal storms draw us in to a time and place where survival is uncertain. For those who have experienced such storms — as their stories reveal in this book — it is a defining moment in their lives.

CRITICAL PRAISE for the 1st edition

“One of the best documented compendiums ever published of what it meant to be there.”
— Shirley Horner, The New York Times

“Just as the title promises; this is a history of wild weather on the Jersey shore...The authors set the scene in colonial history and then take you — with harrowing eyewitness accounts —
through the famous modern storms of 1944 and 1962.”
— John Mort, Booklist

“... a human tapestry of loss, heroics and, most important, the resilience of the human spirit.”
— Winnie Bonelli,
The North Jersey Herald & News

“...A terrific job of chronicling the devastation and rebirth that has marked the Shore’s history.”
— Thomas H. Kean

“...As much an adventure story as it is a scientific chronicle of natural disasters.”
— Barbara Bogaev, "Radio Times," WHYY-FM

“It should be required reading....”
—Dr. Robert C. Sheets, Director National Hurricane Center,
Coral Gables, FL

“It is simply one of the best weather books I have ever seen.”
— Richard DeAngelis, Editor Mariners Weather Log

“It startles, intrigues, challenges the imagination, and commands attention.”
—John T. Cunningham, author and historian

“It is evocative and provocative, gritty, beautiful, a rare historical record of some of
nature’s greatest moments.”
— Senator Bill Bradley, from the Foreword

“If you want to work up a cold sweat... I recommend you pick up a copy.”
— Clark DeLeon, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Brief, Selected EXCERPTS

From the Preface:

To be at the Jersey shore during the hurricane of 1944 or the northeaster of 1962 was to be witness to forces that boggle the mind, bend the imagination and beggar description, the kind that had our ancestors huddled in the backs of caves and continue to instill in us an awe approaching reverence. Only a few people get to experience the great storms and they tend to remember every detail of every moment. And while most hope they never have to go through one again, only a few wish they’d missed it in the first place.

From Chapter 8, “Sandy”:

The helicopter flew over Staten Island’s north shore and Stephen Wilkes focused his camera on the oil tanker John B. Caddell, which sat stranded on the beach below. Wilkes, a photographer who covered Superstorm Sandy for Time magazine, had just set out from Republic Airport on Long Island with two assistants and pilot Al Cerullo to get an aerial perspective of the damage left days earlier. Already they had witnessed destruction in Coney Island, a fire-ravaged Breezy Point in Queens and the twisted remnants of piers below the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island.

Nearby, Wilkes spotted a house in the middle of a 10-acre sea of cattails. A long trail of broken reeds marked its path to exile. He took some photos and leaned back into the cabin, easing his gunner’s belt and tension line. He motioned to Cerullo and they turned and headed to New Jersey.

They crossed Raritan Bay and paralleled the bayshore from South Amboy to Sandy Hook, flying just north of Morgan, where boats from demolished marinas had been mashed into a steel New Jersey Transit railroad trestle.

Past Sandy Hook, they turned south toward Sea Bright, where large beach club cabanas lay tossed onto their side and Donovan’s Reef restaurant, a popular social spot, sat in a pile of rubble...

From Chapter 6, “March 1962”:

There is no story to this storm. It didn’t have what’s needed for a story — a beginning, middle and end. It was all middle. It came all at once, without warning. It stayed for three days. Then it went away. It was nothing like a hurricane, with notices and watches and advisories to herald its approach, flags flying, satellite pictures of its beady little eye and flailing arms — Is it heading here? Is it heading out to sea? — and then it comes and blows and bellows and spits and rages, and then the calm eye passes over — God’s eye, some have called it — and then you get hit with the backside, furious, mighty, unassailable, unanswerable, and then it goes off to unload on somebody else.

A hurricane is a progression: the sound of distant cannon, the attack, a lull, redoubled violence, and then peace. This storm was nothing like that. This storm was five high tides, the highest 8.6 feet, just 4.8 inches below 1944’s 9.0-foot record, water that just kept coming. It was a northeaster more ruinous than any hurricane that ever happened here, a demonstration that nature is a hard mother, a reminder that those who dwell beside the sea are always only a wave’s length away from sleeping with the fishes. “A savage gale, with pounding tides, towering seas and heavy snows,” said The New York Times.

It was unexpected and unannounced, sudden and surly, inundating, devastating, mutilating, obliterating. It battered and bludgeoned the shore until there was no more shore, until it was all running water and milling debris, until almost every trace of a human presence had been washed away. Then it was gone.
But not, to this day, forgotten. One newspaper called it “a scene of human misery unparalleled within the memory of longtime resort residents, exceeding that wreaked by the hurricane of 1944”

While there was no one story to the storm, there are a thousand stories of the storm.

Captain Paul McGill, a professional pilot, flew over the shore midway through it:
“It was the worst sight I ever saw. I flew over Louisiana after Hurricane Audrey, but this was worse than that. I thought Hurricane Donna was bad but this looked like an atomic explosion compared to it....”

From Chapter 4, “Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944”:

Kate and John Lovett did not evacuate soon enough to avoid the wall of water that hit their home. In fact, they’d already taken in two women and children who lived even farther from the Coast Guard station. Before they could get out, four feet of water came into the first floor; they grabbed life jackets and moved up to the attic. Whole cottages floated by; one crashed into their house, collapsed a wall and filled the attic with water.

Lovett kicked out a window and helped his wife and the others onto the roof. Two of the women and a child floated through 15 feet of water to the station. Lovett, who didn’t have a life jacket, swam into the attic of another house. His wife and one child disappeared in the raging surf. Her body was found the next day; the child was never found.

MORE Storm Stories
we were not able to include in new edition

1944 Hurricane letter

The Storm That Eats the Jersey Shore
by Larry Savadove

P.O. Box 100, West Creek New Jersey 08092
email • fax (609) 812-5098

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