Quoted from Swiss Re
It has happened before
Nearly 200 years ago a major hurricane pummeled the entire Mid-Atlantic and Northeast - from Norfolk to Washington, DC to Boston. The 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane made landfall on the coast of North Carolina with wind gusts above 156 mph and carved a path of devastation up and down the Eastern Seaboard, making subsequent landfalls in Delaware, New Jersey and New York. Only 136,000 people lived in New York City and Washington at the time and losses were modest by today’s standards. There was no such thing as radar, satellites or the National Weather Service, yet there were many vivid accounts and records, which can be extrapolated to the present to create instructive assumptions.
Past plus present equals future
A new report from Swiss Re, The big one: The East Coast's USD 100 billion event (PDF, 730 KB) examines how the 1821 hurricane would impact the region today. Trillions of dollars of assets and infrastructure would lie in the storm’s path, much of it aging and along the coast. Using our in-house, proprietary tropical cyclone model we reconstructed the storm track, wind field and potential storm surge and concluded that a large area of the most heavily developed Eastern Seaboard would be exposed to hurricane force wind gusts.
Storm surge comparable to Sandy would inundate New York City, accompanied by powerful winds gusting over 100 mph. Norfolk, Virginia - home of critical US Navy installations - would be completely flooded. Coastal counties would sustain wind damage alone in excess of USD 1 billion. Combined physical damage from both storm surge and wind would exceed USD 100 billion, while the storm's total potential economic impact is on the order of USD 150 billion.
Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call; if left unheeded, the 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane would be the nightmare.