Hurricane Sandy Disaster

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States, causing astounding devastation--in loss of life, destruction of property, and widespread ecological damage--that will be felt for years to come.

Piping plover chick

Piping plovers are among the birds most susceptible to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy.


While it's too early to know the full impacts of Hurricane Sandy, a storm of this staggering size and scale could have serious consequences for the region's wildlife:

  • Heavy rains and winds caused massive flooding and erosion of coastal and river National Wildlife Refuges from North Carolina to Maine--damaging more than 40 Refuges.

  • Flooding of coastal marshes inundated breeding habitats of many coastal bird species, including Atlantic Coast piping plovers--a threatened species which depends upon the shorelines affected by Sandy for breeding habitat.

  • Hurricanes like Sandy can disrupt bird migrations as well as blow sea birds inland, causing them to end up in unusual places sometimes hundreds of miles away from their coastal habitat.


Hurricane Sandy is a devastating reminder of the risks of a changing climate, as increased warming raises the intensity of extreme weather events. Higher ocean temperatures are contributing to heavier rainfall and higher sea levels are producing stronger storm surges. And new research suggests that Arctic ice melting is likely one of the conditions that helped turn Hurricane Sandy into a superstorm.

  • TUNE IN to the The Dirty Weather Report, a 24-hour live online broadcast beginning at 8pm EST tonight and featuring former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger, and climate advocates from across the globe.


Hurricane Sandy makes two things clear: we need to reduce the risks of climate change by reducing our carbon pollution, and we must strengthen our defenses to minimize future storm-related catastrophes.

At National Wildlife Federation, we're working to pass policies to keep people and wildlife safe from storms and floods, and working with on-the-ground partners to protect and restore habitat in areas vulnerable to extreme weather events.

NWF Actions to Protect People and Wildlife from Storms and Floods:

  • Protect Wildlife from Climate Change - Like us, wildlife are vulnerable to climate change. Without conservation efforts to protect wildlife from climate change, many species are at great peril. We are working to conserve habitats for wildlife and taking measures to keep their populations strong, better enabling them to withstand the extreme weather of climate change.

  • Reduce Carbon Pollution - To avoid increased damage from severe weather events, we must get serious about reducing carbon pollution. We are pushing the administration to follow through on its efforts to use the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and other sources, and working quickly to expand clean energy solutions.

  • Promote Climate Readiness - The best time to protect against and plan for natural catastrophe is long before it happens. Some federal, state, and municipal agencies have taken steps to develop climate-adaptation plans, but most of these plans have yet to be implemented, and will require political will and adequate funding to truly create more climate-resilient communities. We are working with coastal communities to find nature-based solutions for increasing their resilience to climate change.

  • Make Flood Insurance Reform Real - Hurricane Sandy destroyed countless properties across the Northeast, including many that belonged to people who had no idea their property was located within a floodplain and therefore did not have flood insurance. By working to reform the National Flood Insurance program which wrong encourages development in floodplains, we'll protect more properties and encourage smarter and safer development.

  • Protect Our Natural Defenses - Natural features like wetlands reduce storm intensity and protect nearby properties and wildlife habitat from flooding. We must ensure that the government helps protect these beneficial and cost-effective flood control features. NWF is working to restore coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico which will help protect places like New Orleans from the potential impacts of storms like Hurricane Katrina.

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Parents & Educators

Do you need materials to talk with your kids about Hurricane Sandy?

Check out Hurricane Sandy resources that are kid-friendly in our Eco-Schools website.