Elephants – blog 7

Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season. It was also the second costliest hurricane on record in the United States until surpassed by Hurricane Harvey and Maria in 2017. Sandy was a category 3 storm when it reached its peak when hitting landfall in Cuba, overall killing 159 and injuring many, many more while destroying over 650,000 homes and putting 8 million American customers out of power.

Of the articles we’ve read, the theme throughout is hopeless. The statistics from Hurricane Sandy are intimidating and the losses sustained are disastrous. The Atlantic wrote on November 1st (‘Hurricane Sandy: The Aftermath’, 2012) of the number of lives lost, the estimated costs in damages, along with various blurbs of what life is like throughout the city post-storm. There is little mention of positive action being taken, and the outlook looks rather grim. Another article, written by The Guardian is written in 2018 (‘Hurricane Sandy, Five Years Later: “No one was ready for what happened after.’’), analyzing the city five years after the storm. This article takes a much more personal theme, drawing from individuals’ stories of their experience during and after the storm and shares some perspectives on the storm itself, the aftermath, and what’s being done in response. There is little positive throughout this story as well. Damages are still not fixed, and many are wary of the lack of action to prevent further storms from occurring.

The tone of the two articles is eerily similar for being written so far apart. While I’m sure the positive work that came after Hurricane Sandy is being biasedly ignored for the situational exposure the two articles are hoping to achieve, it is still important to note how both articles have a feeling of shock, doom, and tense nervousness to them. Both exert feelings of scared awe in the face of such destructive storms, even with a five-year gap.

Many of the storms attributes such as flooding and heavy winds had devastating impacts on the infrastructures of the cities affected in the mid-Atlantic. Densely populated areas such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were affected by the brunt of the storm.  An article written by the Huffington Post, “Hurricane Sandy Deals Infrastructure a Devastating Blow” describes the excess water to be a major problem for the electrical grid.  The hurricane had, “cut off power to at least 8 million customers” (Sledge Zeller). In New York City, a major electricity provider known as ConEd had left, “780,000 customers without power” after severe flooding damaged many power plants components. Flooding had also impacted public service areas such as a hospital that was temporality without power after their backup generator failed. On Long Island, “83 percent of Long Island Power Authority customers were without power” which took ten days to restore electricity to all 950,000-people affected. Access to work on the grid was limited as the water from the floods prevented repair to the damaged sites. Public transportation methods were also victim to flooding, such as the New York Subway system that had temporality closed because of the storm surge. Poor water runoff from heavy rains contributed to the brutality of the storm.

As of now a lot of new construction currently going on around the city. Many new glass structures are being built by the water, and, as of now, almost none of them have storm proof windows installed. A big factor while dealing with hurricane winds are the aspect of broken glass. To be more prepared for future storms many houses near the water should have some form of protection from strong winds. It’s easier to board up windows on a house but it’s really hard to board up windows on a high rise. So, to protect exterior glass damage and the people in these newer high rises these structures should have these windows installed.

Also having the cities investing in watergates/levees would be a huge factor. Installing these could keep a large amount of rising water out of certain areas prone to flooding. Doing this would make successful flood protection zones around these cities. With these new wall structures, they need to have new sewage systems or tanks that are meant to hold large amounts of water, so the streets don’t flood as much as before.

Updating certain power plants for storms like Sandy would be a huge help. Installing stronger power lines and putting most of the power lines underground will prevent them from getting knocked over by winds or trees. Also, making the plants strong in the way of withstanding high-velocity winds would make the odds of losing a large amount of power much lower.

Even though these storms don’t come a lot, certain communities should really push evacuations when needed. As seen in previous hurricanes, people don’t listen to the evacuation notices and thought they could just wait out the storm. This is a huge factor in safety issues because when you know something is coming you should leave as early as possible. Also, just like how you talk to your family about the scenario of “if there’s a fire in your house” certain communities should have guidelines to what to do when a storm this size is coming. Having a plan ready before a storm hits will make an overall better community recovery.

The most prominent obstacle to implementing any of these precautions would be financing. Reinforced windows and construction of levees would be a cost that the towns hit hardest could not afford. When faced with destruction from a hurricane, reconstruction takes priority over improvement. These costs could be mitigated by community fundraisers. Across the island, communities have been hosting charity events in order to raise money to repair and hopefully reinforce what was lost to Sandy. Communities that weren’t left as damaged could also help out towns that were devastated by the hurricane. Having those who were fortunate help those who weren’t as lucky allow for the revitalization of a community hit with a natural disaster.

        Also, the blackout across Long Island had caused the residents to realize how weak the electric grid truly was. Spending money on strengthening the power grid wasn’t the top priority until Governor Cuomo passed the LIPA Reform Act to requires companies to do so. The legislation was passed quickly after Hurricane Sandy and required companies strengthen power lines to prevent another power loss as severe as it was. This legislation was highly effective as there hasn’t been another outage even remotely as severe as there had been. The laws passed creating storm-focused regulations for Long Island’s power grid forced electric companies LIPA and PSEG Long Island to take new precautions with the power supply.

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