For the second straight year, campgrounds in the Northeast have faced the fury of a major tropical storm.

This time around, “Superstorm” Sandy struck right before Halloween – when many parks were already closed for the season – instead of right before Labor Day as Hurricane Irene did in 2011, wiping out the weekend in many areas and ending the season in others.

Still, the damage from Sandy along a 1,000-mile swath stretching from Florida north to Maine and westward as far as Lake Michigan is immense. The Associated Press estimated damage from the storm in 17 states could top $20 billion, making it one of the most costly in U.S. history. The death toll has reached 61.

Sandy is taking on other dubious superlatives:

  • Evacuation zone: Included communities in more than 400 miles of coastline from Ocean City, Md., to Dartmouth, Mass.
  • Highest storm surge: 13.88 feet, in New York City.
  • Power outages at peak: More than 8.5 million.
  • Most rainfall: 12.55 inches, at Easton, Md.
  • Most snow: 29 inches, at Redhouse, Md.

The impact on the campground industry is uncertain because communications to many areas remain cut off.

Campground Highlights

Spotty reports are coming in, however. Some follow.

High tide more than three feet above normal from the Chesapeake Bay sent waters from the Severn River over the grounds of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort at Gloucester Point in southern Virginia on Monday.

“We’ve had 4 inches of rain and it’s still raining,” co-owner Eileen Gedicke told Woodall’s Campground Management on Tuesday afternoon. She and her husband, Ken, had not been able to get out and properly assess the storm damage, she added.

The 220-site resort not far from Williamsburg is open year-round and had several campers stay on to wait out the storm.

Tall Pines Harbor Waterfront Campground near Temperanceville on Virginia’s eastern shore apparently suffered major damage.

Karl Littman, president of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA) told WCM he was on the phone talking with the owners of that park when he learned that some cabins had started to float away.

“The park released its horses and was getting water in the store when we lost contact with them,” he said.

Phone service had not been restored as of this morning.

In Maryland, at Buttonwood Beach Campground near Earleville at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay, where rainfall totaled between 8 inches and 10 inches on Monday and Tuesday, campers were sent home on Sunday in advance of the storm.

Debbie Carter, campground president who also is executive director of the Maryland Campground Association, said the beach was flooded and approximately 50 properties in the 537-site resort sustained damage. Many locust trees came down during the storm which packed wind gusts in excess of 75 mph with 40 mph sustained winds for two days. The campground was without power for 16 hours.

“It could have been worse,” she said.

A recent beach improvement will reduce the amount of debris that comes down the Elk Rver from stopping at her beach. Buttonwood Beach activated its new emergency evacuation plan and it worked as planned, she said.

The park is scheduled to close for the season on Thursday. But campers will be allowed back in to inspect their properties, she added.

In Hagerstown, Md., Judi Durham, owner of the Hagerstown KOA reported, “Two trees down and have been flooded in since Tuesday a.m., but finally going down slowly …. better go faster we have a club due in tomorrow for the weekend!”

In New Jersey, reports came in from about 10 campgrounds and the worst damage thus far appears to be downed trees and power outages, according to Joann DelVescio, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association.

“No one has requested help yet,” she said.

However, she has yet to hear from member parks in Ocean and Monmouth counties which took the brunt of the storm.

“I’m sure I’m not hearing from them because they don’t have electricity,” she said.

In her community of Ocean View located in the southern tip of the state, the street in front of her home resembled a river for several hours on Monday as rainfall inundated the state, then the rain stopped for three hours.

“It was very bizarre,” she said.

“Then the winds picked up again and we had 90 mph winds after the storm made landfall. Then it became calm again.”

National Parks Report

National parks impacted by “superstorm Sandy” are putting things back together, some more quickly than others, National Parks Traveler reported.

In Virginia, Shenandoah National Park was closed indefinitely due to storm damage, as was Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Gateway National Recreation Area in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, and Fire Island National Seashore in New York.

Park Service officials also were discouraging travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Click here to read the entire story in National Parks Traveler.

In New York City all 10 national parks in New York Harbor are also closed until further notice, but National Parks officials say that the Statue of Liberty and its pedestal and Ellis Island were not damaged by Sandy, AP reported.

The top wind gust on land in the U.S. was 140 mph at Mount Washington, N.H.

Elsewhere, Pennsylvania state parks appear to have escaped the brunt of the storm.

“We have not had any significant damage, just some trees down and some minor flooding,”  Christina Novak, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources, told WCM. “For all our state parks and forests, we have gotten by with minimal damage. We fared pretty well.”

However, today, the department added to its damage report.

Hazardous conditions created by Hurricane Sandy have forced the cancellation of a planned white-water release this weekend from Lake Nockamixon into the Tohickon Creek in Bucks County, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced.

The storm toppled many trees into Tohickon Creek, creating severe danger to boaters and requiring significant cleanup by Bureau of State Parks work crews.

Annually scheduled for the first weekend in November, the release was to take place Saturday and Sunday. Water was to be released from the Nockamixon State Park dam on a schedule that would provide boating water downstream each day at Ralph Stover State Park.

Held each spring and fall, the water releases are eagerly awaited by white-water paddling enthusiasts, and draw skilled kayakers, canoeists and occasional rafters from throughout the northeastern United States. Most launch their craft at Ralph Stover State Park, near Pipersville, Bucks County, and travel approximately four miles along the Tohickon Creek to its junction with the Delaware River at Point Pleasant.

In Delaware, state officials planned to reopen day use areas at most Delaware State Parks today (Oct. 31) for normal operations, the Associated Press reported.

Exceptions include the Brandywine Zoo, Cape Henlopen State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park, which remain closed for cleanup and damage assessments.

Officials say campsites, cabins and yurts at Lums Pond and Trap Pond State Parks will reopen Wednesday, and that Killens Pond State Park campsites and cabins will reopen Thursday. Campsites, cabins and cottages at Delaware Seashore and Cape Henlopen State Parks in Sussex County remain closed.

State wildlife areas also were to reopen today for duck hunting and recreational activities, except for Assawoman in Sussex County.