Almost every day local citizens in the New York and New Jersey area are made more aware of the scope of Hurricane Sandy. Disasters are strange creatures in that the huge devastation in the impacted areas is only fully understood several weeks out from the event. Such is the case for us in the New York City area.
The City the epicenter of Hurricane Sandy with massive devastation in the city but also on each side extending down the New Jersey coastline and to the east along the Long Island shoreline. Entire towns have simply disappeared in a pile of rubble. Tourist attractions, such as the Boardwalks are now simply splinters. Businesses have been wiped off the map. Building that have survived decades of storms along the coast are now floating in the ocean.
The statistics take your breath away. Estimates now run that over 100,000 homes and businesses have been totally destroyed. Over 120 people lost their lives. Damage will most likely be in the area of $50 billion making it the second most costly disaster in American history. Entire areas of the coast have been changed forever. Railroad infrastructure, in New Jersey especially, has taken a hard hit with bridges, grids and stations destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Environmentally it only gets worse. Sewerage, fuel from tanks and chemicals are still in large areas of water. Power could take weeks to restore along the coast. Places like Fire Island have been cut in two and the dunes have been completely lost. Rubble is extensive and real questions exist where to put the tons upon tons of scattered houses. Most of the coast from Cape May, New Jersey to the end of Long Island no longer have any serious natural protection from the ocean. Beaches, marshes and dunes have vanished into the sea.
How powerful was Hurricane Sandy?
The hurricane was so powerful when waves and surge came ashore it caused earthquakes. The storm was the second most powerful in history and even stronger than Hurricane Katrina. It had the force of twice the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Although the wind speed was that of a Cat 1, forecasters now can rate the power of storms outside just wind. They have created the IKE scale that convey's the destructive power from both wind, size of storm and surge. Hurricane Sandy was the second worse hurricane in modern history on that scale.
The good news is that thousands and thousands of Americans have poured into the devastated areas each weekend to help people recover from this unprecedented disaster. Without question, it is the worse natural disaster to hit New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. The recovery will take decades and there will be careful (and yes emotional) discussion about where to rebuild.
Storms like Sandy are more likely to happen in the future. Right now we have to help our neighbors to their feet, take care of the victims of the storm and rebuild infrastructure so areas can function to some degree. However down the road, climate change demands that we address long term issues of recovery and the reality of this harsh new world.