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Hurricane Sandy: Storm WAS more powerful than Hurricane Katrina

Sandy WAS more powerful than Hurricane Katrina — and it’s the second most powerful storm in modern history

  • Sandy was more powerful than Hiroshima’s atomic bomb
  • The storm surpassed Hurricane Katrina in strength related to size ratio
  • Sandy Could Be Second Costliest Hurricane Behind Katrina
  • Despite being only Category 1 at landfall, Sandy generated a significant storm surge spanning hundreds of miles

Hurricane Sandy is the second most powerful hurricane in modern history, with strength surpassing even Katrina, according to a measurement of the hurricane’s strength relative to its size.

Researchers have found that Sandy’s Integrated Kinetic Energy Index, or IKE, which quantifies a hurricane’s strength based on how far tropical storm-force winds extend from its center, was ranked second after Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

Hurricane Sandy’s IKE was 140 Terajoules, which was about 20 Terajoules higher than Katrina’s, according to Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marin and Atmospheric Science.

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Sandy only had a Category 1 rating due to wind power, but suffered a significant storm surge after hitting land

Sandy only had a Category 1 rating due to wind power, but suffered a significant storm surge after hitting land

Color enhanced satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Color enhanced satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Sandy, just hours before it finally made landfall on the US East Coast

Sandy, just hours before it finally made landfall on the US East Coast

Record storm: Hurricane Sandy was more powerful than Katrina, but its power was more scattered, researchers say

Record storm: Hurricane Sandy was more powerful than Katrina, but its power was more scattered, researchers say

“Sandy’s IKE was over 140 Terajoules (TJ, 1 TJ = 1 Trillion Joule = 277,778 kilowatt-hours), meaning it generated more than twice the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb,” McNoldy wrote on a blog published by the Washington Post

“At any given time, many hurricanes contain more energy than an atomic bomb in their surface winds alone (even excluding higher-altitude winds and latent heat energy),” he added.

The category levels more commonly cited to quantify the strength of hurricanes purely measure wind speed. Katrina was measured as a Category 3 hurricane on landfall and later rose to Category 5.

The estimated cost of Hurricane Sandy is $20 billion

The estimated cost of Hurricane Sandy is $20 billion

Residents walk past burnt homes in Breezy Point, a New York City borough of Queens, after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy

Residents walk past burnt homes in Breezy Point, a New York City borough of Queens, after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy

Sandy, meanwhile, was measured as a Category 1 hurricane upon landfall.

But Sandy could end up being the second costliest hurricane in history after Katrina because of its high IKE, McNoldy noted.

“Sandy had Category 1 winds at the landfall but was able to create a very significant storm surge over hundreds of miles of densely populated coastline,” he wrote.

General view of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana after Katrina struck in 2005

General view of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana after Katrina struck in 2005

Katrina’s IKE was more concentrated, Sandy’s was more scattered. This measure — more than wind speed — summarizes the dire effects of the respective storms.’

Sandy is estimated to have cost at least $20 billion in damage, while Katrina cost about $106 billion.

VIDEO: Following Sandy from start to finish…

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