The second-worst Atlantic storm of known history, Hurricane Sandy, made landfall in New Jersey on the Atlantic coast on October 29. The hurricane began as a tropical storm in the Western Caribbean Sea, then gained strength as it moved North and became a hurricane. As Sandy moved through the Caribbean Sea, across Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic, it caused an estimated $3 billion in damages and claimed over 110 lives in the United States alone.
When Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, it brought the largest storm surge ever recorded on the Atlantic coast. At nearly 14 feet, it topped the previous record of ten feet. As the storm moved inland it pushed hurricane-strength winds as far inland as Michigan, causing massive waves on Lake Michigan and affecting weather as far west as Wisconsin.
The worst-hit areas of the nation include New Jersey and New York, where roughly 800,000 people were without power for over a week. Large neighborhoods that were in low-lying areas were entirely wiped out, leaving only splintered frames of houses remaining. To add to the drama, a New York power company, Consolidated Edison, experienced a massive explosion in Manhattan’s East Village, which subsequently lost all power.
After the storm surge hit Manhattan Island the entire subway system rapidly flooded, leaving the city’s residents without any way to travel out of the city. Many main roads were flooded as well, effectively eliminating any possibility of using mass transit until the water subsided.
In New York City alone, the storm claimed 48 lives before it petered out. In contrast Hurricane Katrina claimed some 1833 lives across the affected area, nearly ten times that of Sandy. This may be due in large part to the geographical differences between the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico Coast, as well as the relative preparedness of emergency responders.
Early estimates of the monetary impact of the storm project that Sandy has caused nearly $55 billion to the U.S. and other countries affected. This is roughly half of the damage that Katrina caused in 2005.
Sandy is widely considered to be the second-worst storm to hit the Atlantic Coast. With the immediate cost of the storm so high, the long-term impact of Sandy is difficult to ascertain at this time. After this record-breaking storm, many are wondering if there is a way to engineer our way out of this level of destruction if a storm of this magnitude ever comes again. Experts in water resources and climatology are proposing a plan that would involve installing massive “sea-gates” across the low-lying areas of Manhattan, which could be deployed in the event of a large storm with the potential to cause a storm surge. These gates would sit on the sea floor until needed. Initial estimate of the cost of such a massive undertaking are in the range of $10-$17 billion.