Hurricane Sandy’s Jersey City Debris Line

November 2, 2012 § 6 Comments

(Note to L.A. folks: this former L.A. resident is now spending time living with my fiance in Downtown Jersey City. I’ll be posting occasional east coast pieces that I think may be interesting to L.A.’s Creek Freaks. For more information on recent changes at LACF, see this earlier post.)

I’ve spent the last month living in Jersey City, a place that was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. I am not going to go over all the damage done by Sandy nor the environmental factors likely responsible for second “storm of the century” in two years here… but I wanted to share one small observation about debris – because Sandy’s debris lines resemble those I’ve seen on the L.A. River after storms.

The good news is that my fiance and I are safe and dry, and suffered nearly no serious damage. We did have a day-long blackout, and train service is still out. Neighbors’ places flooded, but our basement stayed dry. At least right here on our street, near Hamilton Park in Downtown Jersey City, we got some strong winds but very little rain. The flooding issues here (and in nearby Hoboken, Manhattan, etc.) were the result of a surge of the waters of the Hudson River. The hurricane pushed water upstream, overflowing the banks and flooding low-lying areas. The surge added to already high-tide conditions on the Hudson – in this area a tidally-influenced river.

Hurricane Sandy’s debris line along a level contour at Jersey City’s Liberty State Park

After the storm, we bicycled around – stretching our legs and checking out downed trees and other damage. We frequently bike at Liberty State Park – a low-lying park along the Hudson, just west of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The park has great views of the Manhattan skyline. The park contains the Liberty Science Center, located on a small hill. Along the base of the hill (see above photo), we spotted a debris line running along a level contour around the hill. The river pushed its flotsam as far as it could, and then receded, leaving a telltale line. 

I’ve written before about the L.A. River’s post-storm debris line – see these earlier posts. Basically, after a storm, if one looks at the L.A. River’s sloped concrete walls, on can spot a line of debris that represents how high the river rose during the storm.

Sandy’s debris line shows the extent of the storm surge… reported (somewhere I heard or read) to be something like 14 feet above what’s typical.

Here’s another photo near Liberty Science Center:

Photo of Hurricane Sandy’s debris line – near the Liberty Science Center in Liberty State Park, Jersey City.

It appears that more debris deposited next to trees, which can create eddies, slowing floodwaters down:

Hurricane Sandy woody debris settled near tree in Liberty State Park

The debris line shows the contours of the landscaped median islands at the Liberty Science Center parking lot:

Hurricane Sandy’s debris line along the grassy medians at the Liberty Science Center parking lot, Jersey City, New Jersey

Lastly here’s a shot of an industrial site adjacent to Liberty State Park.

Hurricane Sandy surge washes away bark mulch at industrial building near Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey

I guess the only good news is that this tilt-up building is located on a small rise, so it avoided actually flooding… and they do use bark mulch – a relatively watershed-friendly material. The debris line here is just to the right of the right white post – nearly at the top of the small slope. Mulch above remains intact, mulch below floated away. Sandy’s surge revealed the plastic mats located below the mulch.

I hope L.A. Creek Freaks find this somewhat interesting… Wherever we find them, rivers and their high-water debris create similar contour lines.

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§ 6 Responses to Hurricane Sandy’s Jersey City Debris Line

  • Mike Letteriello says:

    Fascinating. Glad you reported back. I was born in the east, near the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, which my father used to be very proud of.

    It’s a cliche, but today we’re all easterners in our concern for the Atlantic Seaboard.

  • Thank you, fascinating. We can only get this kind of information from Creek Freak.

  • Lane Barden says:

    I’m surprised both sides of the debris line are identical. There seems to be no damage to the grass from saltwater.

  • Really interesting to note the debris lines. They do tell a story. This storm has the potential to be an incredible teacher. We’ll have to see what we learn going forward. Thank you!

  • john tichenor says:

    Mulch in this area is ground up wood waste, old pallets,downed trees etc……wood garbage! See the whole “Reliable” operation from the Bridge at 14B to Garfield Ave. Imagine what the dust from this does to the lungs of the local residents…..Bark Mulch must be an LA thing..
    welcome to jersey……….

  • Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these photos is that they show that when development in a flood plain is appropriate for tht location (that being a park), there is next to no damage from a monster flood. That is a great lesson learned that will hopefully be applied to future developments in flood zones everywhere.

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