Delaware's 1962 Northeaster

Delaware's stormy coast

Delaware's March 1962 storm caused unprecedented destruction to life and property. Unusually high wind-driven tides carried breaking waves inland, destroying buildings and structures that, ordinarily, would have been beyond the reach of the surf.

Telling the story of the storm in photographs is Delaware’s 1962 Northeaster, the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The book — written by local coastal storm experts Wendy Carey of Delaware Sea Grant, and Anthony P. Pratt and Kimberly K. McKenna of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control — is set to preview at the 38th annual Coast Day on Sunday, Oct. 5, at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.  

The book boasts 200 vintage images, many of which have never been published, and chronicles the destructive storm. These photographs and the story they tell about devastation and destruction carry a strong message about hazards, risks, and the vulnerability of Delaware's communities and environments.

According to the authors, “Hurricane Sandy was a recent reminder to all who live along the shore that coastal storms present a constant threat to our well-being and livelihoods. While the reality is that no two storms are alike, we must assume that a significant meteorological event will happen again and do the best we can to be better prepared when the next devastating storm hits.”

More than 50 years ago, development along the Delaware coast was relatively sparse by today’s standards. Beachfront cottages, many built at ground level on concreted block foundations, were constructed without the expectancy of huge waves washing completely over barrier beaches.

Boardwalks, houses, and other structures were destroyed on sites where they had been safe for 60 to 80 years. The cost of recovery was unlike anything the state had experienced before. In Delaware alone, private and public property damage estimates exceeded $70 million, equivalent to approximately $547 million in 2014.

“Coastal community resiliency has continued to improve in the decades since 1962, especially with many lessons-learned about the impacts of coastal storms from around the country,” add the authors. “Coastal storms will always pose a threat to Delaware’s communities. The keys to safety are improved zoning, development and construction practices, along with a sensible response by the public to warnings when they are issued. Risk can be minimized through increased awareness, preparation, and preparedness.”

Delaware’s 1962 Northeaster will be available at area bookstores -- including the Barnes and Noble University of Delaware Bookstore -- independent retailers and online retailers and through Arcadia Publishing on Monday, Oct. 6. Royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program for continued education and awareness programs related to coastal hazards. A UD Bookstore representative said readers are welcome to reserve copies in advance of the release.

About Arcadia Publishing

Arcadia Publishing is the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States. Its mission is to make history accessible and meaningful through the publication of books on the heritage of America’s people and places.

Published Oct. 2, 2014

Page Updated on March 3, 2015