Expanded Edition of Great Storms of the Jersey Shore Available Now

New Chapter Covers Superstorm Sandy
By RICK MELLERUP | Aug 07, 2019
Courtesy of: Down the Shore Publishing

Surf City — An expanded second edition of a classic Jersey Shore book, Great Storms of the Jersey Shore, has been released by Down The Shore Publishing and The SandPaper.

In the early 1990s Larry Savadove and Margaret Thomas Buchholz were kept busy writing the original, published in 1993.

They had to keep busy working on it because Great Storms turned out to be a tremendous book in two ways.

One, the coffee table-sized opus was huge and hefty. And although it was filled with scores and scores of pictures it also featured text galore thanks to its small print – folks of a certain age needed a powerful pair of reading glasses indeed.

Two, Great Storms could have been subtitled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Great Storms of the Jersey Shore But Were Afraid to Ask. It was comprehensive to the nth degree.

It covered not only hurricanes and northeasters but tornadoes and waterspouts, blizzards and meteotsunamis (a tsunami caused by weather events, not earthquakes) and even thunderstorms such as one in 1926 when a lightning bolt hit the Naval Ammunition Depot at Lake Denmark in Morris County setting off explosions that caused between $70 million and $90 million in damage and killed 16 people at the depot and in surrounding communities. Bet you didn’t know about that one! About the only weather events the book didn’t touch on were heat waves and cold snaps and they, after all, aren’t storms even if they can be extremely deadly.

The focus of Great Storms, though, was clearly hurricanes and their winter cousins, northeasters. Savadove and Buchholz did exhaustive research into hurricanes, near-hurricanes and northeasters that hit or brushed the Jersey Shore since long before hurricanes were named (starting in 1953 when Barbara, a Category 1, missed the New Jersey coast by 85 miles on its way out to sea – just think, the second named hurricane almost visited the Garden State!).

Great Storms referred to hurricanes – or at least tropical storms, because hurricanes hadn’t yet been defined by meteorologists – that tangled with the Jersey Shore as far back as 1769. As for northeasters, the book copied a March 1778 “Letter from Monmouth County” (Ocean County didn’t break away from Monmouth until 1850) in the New Jersey Gazette that mentioned LBI, then known merely as Long Beach:

The storm has destroyed many of the small salt-works on our shore, with all the salt in them. The night tide was several feet higher than has ever been known before – a considerable number of horned cattle were drowned on Long Beach and other places.

The Long Beach is almost wholly leveled, and with little more than a sandbar left. The furniture has floated out of some houses. The inhabitants never saw so distressing a time.

As decades of history flashed by, Savadove and Buchholz were able to recount great storms in, uh, greater detail.

Storms Great

And Not So Great

They, of course, focused on two “greatest hits,” the Great Atlantic Hurricane of September 1944 and the Ash Wednesday Storm of March 1962, which wasn’t a hurricane but rather a three-day northeaster, one that featured five incredible astronomical high tides.

The former hit the southern Jersey Shore, Long Beach Island, northern Ocean County and Monmouth County hard. Holgate and Harvey Cedars were severely damaged, as numerous photographs in Great Storms showed.

The latter, also known as the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962, was even more devastating. It afflicted just about every state on the eastern seaboard, doing about $200 million in damage in 1962 dollars. It killed 40 people, according the Red Cross.

It sliced LBI from ocean to bay in several locations, destroyed half of Harvey Cedars, stranded the U.S. Navy destroyer Monssen on the sands of Holgate and, most importantly, was responsible for the deaths of Long Beach Township Police Chief Angelo J. Leonetti, LBT Police Commissioner Kenneth H. Chipman and First Aid responder Robert Osborn.

Savadove and Buchholz also recounted numerous storms I will call “B-sides.” In other words, they are nowhere near as famous or memorable as the 1944 hurricane or the Ash Wednesday Storm. Let me put it this way – what was the B-side of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Don’t recall?

If you don’t remember “I’m in Love with My Car” you may not remember the northeaster of November 1932 that did so much damage to the Little Egg Coast Guard Station on Tucker’s Island that the station had to be abandoned the next February. Or the November 1935 northeaster or the November 1953 northeaster or the March 1984 northeaster or the December 1992 northeaster. Even if you lived through them. Because northeasters are a fact of life on the Jersey Shore and, well, you just get used to them.

Sure, most may just take off a roof or several and they cause a lot of flooding on LBI, but then again Long Beach Boulevard becomes practically impassible after a major rainstorm. Meanwhile, tides add to flooding – I remember well standing outside Kapler’s Pharmacy on Halloween 1991, engaged in a conversation on a sunny, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day with nary a bit of wind when suddenly bay water started gushing up out of the storm drains. The so-called Perfect Storm, made famous by the book and movie of the same name, was pushing the Atlantic into the bay!

In other words even “B-side” storms on the Jersey Shore can cause fairly serious damage and scare the hell out of visitors who are unaccustomed to them. The aforementioned northeasters, and many more storms, were major if not catastrophic weather events, and Savadove and Buchholz had them covered.

Now, with more photographs, added color and 40 pages worth of an update and expansion by Scott Mazzella including a chapter on Superstorm Sandy, the book is even more comprehensive.

But don’t believe just me. No less of a judge than The New York Times said it was “one of the best documented compendiums ever published of what it meant to be there.” Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean said it did “a terrific job of chronicling the devastation and rebirth that has marked the Shore’s history.” “It should be required reading,” said Robert C. Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center.

Mazzella’s Writing

Fits Like a Glove

The 1993 Great Storms contained much factual data and the expanded second edition does as well. You’ll find storm definitions, the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale, hurricane names for 2019 through 2024, a list of hurricane names that have been retired due to their place in history (Sandy, which was a hurricane before it became a superstorm just before it crashed into New Jersey, is one of them), a list of hurricanes that came within 100 miles of the Jersey Shore between 1893 and 2018 and a map showing the tracks of those storms in relation to the Garden State. Also included is a series of graphs that show record storm tide heights as recorded in Sandy Hook (since 1910), the Cape May Ferry Terminal (since 1965) and the Atlantic City Steel Pier (since 1911).

The original book had tons of great photographs. I’m sorry, but I’m a sucker for the pictures of the Monsson sitting aground in Holgate. Well, the expanded second edition has even more photographs – at least 274 in all – and two pictures of the beached destroyer.

But what made the original Great Storms truly tremendous were the first-person accounts Savadove and Buchholz collected from survivors of the storms of the second half of the 20th century.

Mazzella, for his part, has stepped up to the plate.He was more than familiar with Sandy, owning a summer home in Holgate that was severely damaged by the storm. And the educator, former journalist and big-time weather buff had already written a book, Surviving Sandy: Long Beach Island and the Greatest Storm of the Jersey Shore.

Like Savadove and Buchholz, he conducted many an interview with survivors of Sandy on both LBI and elsewhere on the Jersey Shore and, like Savadove and Buchholz, he was able to turn those interviews into highly readable first-person accounts. The writing throughout the expanded Great Storms, well, flows.

The expanded edition has another new element, a three-page afterward by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Gilbert M. Gaul. He’s also the author of a 2019 book, The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas and the Cost of America’s Coasts.

Gaul questions the wisdom of building on barrier islands when sea rise is being predicted by the majority of scientists in the world. As building continues and the price of real estate goes up it is certain that the cost of damage caused by hurricanes and other storms will rise as well. And, perhaps, the cost in lives as well.

“Sooner or later, water wins,” wrote Gaul concluding his afterward. “Water always wins.”

That is quite probable. But one thing that is certain: Given past history and current conditions, this probably won’t be the last expanded edition Great Storms of the Jersey Shore and books like it will ever need.

Great Storms costs $45 and can be found on LBI and in regional bookstores and gift shops. Visit down-the-shore.com for more information.

Scott Mazzella will be presenting a free public program on all the great storms at the LBI Historical Museum on Monday, Aug. 19 at 7:30 pm.


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