National Geographic : 1962 Dec
© NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Stripped of Its Walls, a House Sags to the Sands in Stricken Harvey Cedars Battering storm forced more than a thousand islanders to flee from their homes. Many returned to find their dwellings had disappeared completely. "I watched houses crumple to their knees like men who had been dealt stunning blows," an eyewitness wrote. "Then they slowly disintegrated and yielded their contents to the waves' greedy fingers." AFREAK STORM, I noted earlier. What made it so? To start with, the United States Weather Bureau explains, a pair of weak storm cen ters joined forces to make a single big storm. North Atlantic storms normally move north eastward, but this whirling giant of last March didn't. It paused, instead, off the Middle Atlantic coast, in just the right spot to vent its fury landward. Then it took an erratic jog to the southeast and lashed the shore south of the Mason-Dixon line as well. The storm's position gave it a 1,000-mile "fetch," as weathermen describe the distance over which a wind can sweep unimpeded in a single direction. Winds that begin to build 864 waves so far at sea can pile up a lot of water before reaching shore, and that water will invade a lot of places where no water should ever be found. That is what happened last March. The winds themselves did little direct dam age-another freak aspect. Only a short dis tance inland, away from the reach of the bruising waves, the effects of the storm were almost negligible. Finally, the storm struck at precisely that period in the 28-day lunar cycle when the gravitational forces of sun and moon are pull ing together to produce the highest tides of the month. So there it was-"the great Atlantic storm of 1962," persistent, thorough, relentless.