New estimates make the recent hurricane the single-worst disaster ever to strike the US boating community

More than 65,000 leisure boats were lost or damaged during Hurricane Sandy, according to new estimates from BoatUS.

The boating lobby group said the damage bill to boats alone could stand at $650 million, making it the single-worst disaster to strike the US boating community since records began in 1966.

“We are all reeling from the huge impact this storm has had on communities and people’s lives,” said BoatUS spokesperson Scott Croft.

“We’ve never seen anything like it. The scope of the damage to boats is unprecedented, affecting large areas from the Atlantic seaboard as far inland as the Great Lakes, with the majority of damage in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.”

Hurricane Sandy came ashore over New Jersey on October 29, bringing with it a storm surge that hit almost 14ft in New York.

“The combination of boats stored ashore at low elevations and record high surge levels caused hundreds, if not thousands, of boats to float away into neighborhoods, parks and marshes,” Croft said.

“The tri-state coastline left no place for the surge to go, but up. While some boats that stayed in the slips did fine, other boats tied to floating docks simply lifted off too-short pilings and floated away – still tied to the dock. Some vessels never made it out of their slip and rest on the bottom.”

The state to suffer the most boat damage was New York, where 32,000 boats are estimated to be damaged or lost, followed by New Jersey (25,000) and Connecticut (2,500).

The huge scale of the damage is only beaten by 2005’s destructive hurricane season, when a pair of hurricanes, Wilma and Katrina, caused $700 million worth of damage to boats between them.

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