On Monday, October 22nd, Tropical Storm Sandy formed. Several weather forecast models were already, one week in advance, suggesting the possibility of a major coastal storm for the East Coast. Tracking northward from the Caribbean Sea, Sandy strengthened into a hurricane on Wednesday, October 24th. After passing over Jamaica, Cuba, and the Central Bahamas, Sandy set her sights on the east coast of the United States, close to the Northeast.
By Saturday, October 27th, with weather forecast model guidance predicting landfall near the southern coast of New Jersey, authorities in the Northeast began to take action. The states of New Jersey and New York both declared a state of emergency. Cities in the region started their emergency management preparations. In New York City, evacuation orders were issued for high-risk flood zones, parks were closed, and public mass transit was suspended. In New Jersey, the barrier islands were evacuated and reservoir levels were dropped to reduce the risk of flooding. All states activated shelters, expanded their emergency forces, and prepared their local landscapes for the extreme conditions expected from Sandy. Likewise, utility companies set out to protect their infrastructure, and planned for systematic power shutdowns and blackouts, for example by hiring work crews from regions unaffected by Sandy.
On Monday, October 29th, Sandy, made landfall along the coast of southern New Jersey as an extra-tropical storm, breaking records along the way. Sandy set the all-time record for lowest central pressure (a measure of storm intensity) at landfall of any east coast storm north of Cape Hatteras, NC. The size of the storm—tropical storm force winds of 39 mph or greater expanded nearly 500 miles—was also remarkable, and would contribute to the damage in the region. Violent winds and periods of heavy rainfall lashed coastal locations for several hours. Sandy came ashore near the time of high astronomical tide in the New York City metropolitan area, contributing to catastrophic coastal flooding. A wind gust of 90 mph was recorded in Islip, New York, and wind gusts of over 60 mph were recorded at all three major airports in the New York City region. The surge at the Battery was 13.88 feet, the highest ever recorded. A buoy south of New York City, reported a wave height of 34 feet, the second highest Sandy-induced wave height recorded anywhere.
By morning on October 30th, the extent of the devastation was becoming clear. More than 4 million people lost power, low-lying areas including parts of lower Manhattan, southern Brooklyn and Southern Queens were flooded and a coastline was changed forever. Downed trees blocked roadways, making them impassible to emergency vehicles. Severed gas lines became an additional hazard, with fires sparked in several areas. The transportation system of the region was grounded, with several tunnels flooded to the brim.
Preliminary estimated suggest that at least 100 deaths in the U.S. alone from resulted from Sandy, and a price tag that could exceed $50 billion. More than 20,000 people in New York City alone may have been made homeless by the storm, and more than 40 City schools may remain closed for the school year due to building damage.
Despite the severe challenges that remain, the recovery process is well underway. During the first week after the storm, most subway and commuter rail service was restored, and power was restored to a majority of the population. But major challenges remain, especially for coastal populations, and will for some time.
Sandy has also energized discussions about New York City’s vulnerability to climate, as well as possible adaptation solutions. Below is a summary of some of the communications activities of CCRUN members about Sandy.
In the news
NBC News - Rock Center with Brian Williams: Hurricane Sandy provides 'wake-up call' for cities at risk of flooding
Cynthia Rosenzweig talks about preparing for the next Sandy using multi-faceted approaches.
New York Times - Room For Debate: Rising Sea Levels Are Serious
Cynthia Rosenzweig and William Solecki talk about the importance of rising sea-levels and incorporating this reality into preparations for future storms.
New York Times - Room for Debate: Big Projects, Big Problems, So Think Small
Philip Orton raises the issue of whether New York City should consider building storm surge barriers.
The Scientist Magazine: 3-Year-Old Report Predicted NYC Flooding
Cynthia Rosenzweig and William Solecki warned about the dangers of rising sea-levels and increased flood risk in a 2009 report.
NPR's Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross: Sandy Raises Questions About Climate And The Future
Radley Horton talks about risks associated with rising sea-levels and the impact this might have on future storms.
Democracy Now!: A Crisis Foretold: Studies Warned New York Infrastructure Critically Threatened by Climate Change
Cynthia Rosenzweig speaks about the impact climate change could have on NYC infrastructure and how to best prep for the future with Amy Goodman.
NBC News.com: Sandy leaves NYC subway system, infrastructure licking its wounds
Radley Horton discusses the affect of coastal flooding on NYC's aging transit system.
Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response: New York City Panel on Climate Change 2010 Report
NYSERDA Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID)