The Hurricane That Almost Hit New York City On 9/11

On Sept. 11, 2001, as terrorist attacks were unfolding in New York City, the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a hurricane was hovering off the Northeast seaboard. In one of the most chilling weather images ever taken, both Hurricane Erin — about 500 miles southeast of New York — and the smoke plume from the World Trade Center Twin Towers about 2 hours after the first tower was hit was captured in a NASA satellite image. The previous morning, a cold front swept through the East Coast, with rain and thunderstorms. Crystal clear, cool weather followed on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, accompanied by light northwest winds. Hurricane Erin was never an East Coast landfall threat, as the cold front and increased westerly winds aloft gave a final east, then northeast shove to Erin. The hurricane did, however, generate large swells, which eventually reached the East Coast. Those specializing in alternative history can speculate how world events would have turned out differently if Hurricane Erin would have hit the Northeast on 9/11. It’s fair to assume that a significant number of flights to and from the major Northeast hubs would have been cancelled, and some of those airports may even have been forced to close for a while. Whether a hurricane would have thwarted or delayed the hijackers’ plans to carry out the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil will never be known.