Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City and New Jersey and left millions of people without power. But the storm will likely cause less harm to the Chesapeake Bay than past major storms, like Hurricane Agnes in 1972, or last year’s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, whose rains flushed vast quantities of mud, debris, and other pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay, according to Dr. Beth McGee, Senior Scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Sandy dumped less rain than these previous storms upstream from the Bay in Pennsylvania, in the watershed of the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake's largest tributary. At the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River this week, water levels hit 19 feet. That was significantly lower than flood stage, which is 23 feet, and also lower than the 32 feet the waters hit during Hurricane Irene last year, according to U.S. Geological Survey.
“There was a lot less runoff this year,” said Dr. McGee. “We don’t expect to see much of an effect on the Chesapeake Bay proper. But we might see a lot of erosion on the smaller streams and low lands on the Eastern Shore.”