Before going any farther, I must caution that the nor'easters on the East Coast are not the only threat. For parts of the country see some of their biggest blizzards of the season in March, the Midwest and South sees a huge spike in tornadic activity and heavy winds prevail over much of the land. But the nor'easter, a storm which requires the right balance between high and low pressure gradients to be in place, coupled with a coastal storm working up the coast, can cause destruction of unbelievable degree due to the long lasting nature of such a storm. Often, the variable pressure gradients and wind patterns combat one another so close that the storm can literally stall in place right offshore with the wind coming ashore lasting for multiple days at a level approaching hurricane strength. This pushes huge volumes of water toward shore where, when it reaches land with high waves on top, something has to give and that something is the land. If there is an inlet, water rushes into the sounds beyond and pushes past barrier islands to the inland shore, flooding dramatically. Then when the storm goes by, the shifting winds push the water back toward the open sea, flooding the opposite side of the barrier islands similar to a tidal wave rush. Through it all the barrier isles take a beating with erosion and flooding which frequently can make a permanent change to the landscape. Some years it's not too massive, but on other years it is very severe and we don't know when and where until within a day or so of whether or not such a storm is in the offing. It can then be impossible to get everyone to higher ground if the wait is too long to call it.
Probably the best example of the worse case in recorded history on the Eastern Seaboard was the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, which happened fifty-eight years ago from approximately March sixth through ninth. Heavy winds and rain, excessively recurring high tides topped with giant waves, laid havoc to coastal communities from South Carolina to Massachusetts and none was harder hit than the North Carolina Outer Banks. Just look at satellite picture below of the Banks and it's obvious why they are so vulnerable. The Banks sit jutting out into the ocean as if daring the storm to hit. They also have the phenomenon of a cold Labrador Current flowing along shore from the north to Cape Hatteras, at which point it clashes with the slower moving but much larger warm Gulf Stream coming from the Gulf of Mexico. The mixture of cold and warm current meeting under strong winds and hurricane-like conditions is impossible to dodge and in 1962 it hit with reckless abandon. The saving grace of the day was the Outer Banks were very lightly populated, unlike today's massive growth, yet all of that growth being on a fragile sand base facing the mighty sea. Sand readily succumbs to the sea when the sea is angry. Will this be the year of another such major event? Well, we won't know until we know but everyone should be aware that the possibility is always there. After all it's March, the month which usually comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. So, beware of the Ides of March, then go about your life, only with a little understanding of what can happen.
I'll write more about that historical storm in the days ahead but I'll also pray that the entire East Coast be spared from a tragedy like the Big One in 1962. Just don't say you weren't warned of the possibility.