Early estimates suggest the hurricane's economic fallout will be severe, but the storm could have been far worse in other ways.
Part of what makes Hurricane Sandy so gripping is its dramatic impact on a region of the United States that rarely sees such intense storm activity. This is only the third hurricane to have hit Maryland, Virginia, Delaware or New Jersey in the 161 years since the National Weather Service began keeping track. Sandy struck hardest in New York, one of the world's financial and media capitals, and that alone has been enough to concentrate global attention on the hurricane's effects. As I write, "FEMA" and "Queens" are both still trending on Twitter worldwide.
A report this morning from researchers at Kinetic Analysis Corp. estimates Sandy has caused over $20 billion in damages -- so far. But that's an incomplete measure of the hurricane's impact, just one of the myriad ways we come to grips with the scale of a disaster in its aftermath. How does Hurricane Sandy stack up against the worst storms of all time?
As much destruction as it's caused the mid-Atlantic, Sandy, a category-1 storm that has killed 26 and counting, still barely stands up to the deadliest storm in history. That dishonor goes to the Bhola cyclone of 1970, which struck Bangladesh as a category 3 storm and killed as many as 500,000 people -- 250 times more than Hurricane Katrina's death toll in 2005. The cyclone's floods virtually erased whole fields and low-lying villages with sustained winds approaching 115 miles an hour.