When Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard on October 29, 2012, there was a great deal of advance notice about the potentially devastating effects of the storm. Nevertheless, when the hurricane finally ended, the tremendous losses of life, property, and the damage to the economy could not be adequately predicted. This paper will support the thesis that the vast and varied amount of damage created by Hurricane Sandy ultimately made it one of the deadliest storms in US history.
When the loss of people was calculated following the storm, the numbers were divided into deaths directly related to the environmental force of the disaster and indirectly related in situations where the disaster created unsafe conditions, such as hazardous roads (Deaths Associated with Hurricane Sandy–October/November 2012, 2013.) There were also many deaths that were unable to be counted because either they were unknown or only potentially related to the storm. Ultimately, 285 deaths in the United States and Canada were attributed to Hurricane Sandy; two thirds of those mortalities were classified as directly related to the storm, most commonly drowning deaths followed by bodily trauma as a result of being crushed, struck, or cut (Deaths Associated with Hurricane Sandy–October/November 2012, 2013.) Most of the deaths occurred in the first few days following the event, but the indirectly caused deaths climbed into mid-November.
For survivors of the storm, the disruption to people’s lives was staggering. Entire communities were washed out, fires destroyed hundreds of houses, and there were explosions and downed power lines all throughout the six states affected by the storm (Barron, 2012.) In New York City, the subway system was flooded, leaving millions without any means of transportation. As a result of power outages, in the cities there were no traffic signals to help organize transportation, and there were shortages of gas that eventually caused people to experience difficulty using their automobiles. The subway system in New York experienced its worst damage in its 108 year history, and was shut down for a longer period than expected because the damage was considerably worse than had been anticipated. Water seeped into the subway stations of the South Ferry, and the tracks in stations were covered with debris because of water rushing in and out, flooding at least seven stations. Other means of transportation were also disrupted, such as the terminals of the Long Island Railroad that had to be evacuated because two of its tunnels had become flooded. The railroad was not able to fully restore power for days, and the deadline for restoring service was open-ended. In addition, airports were tremendously affected, because water flooded onto the runways at major airports such as Kennedy International and La Guardia, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights; because Kennedy Airport represents a significant departure point for international flights, passengers and business interests experienced extensive losses and inconvenience (Barron, 2012.) In smaller ways, people were also impacted: for example, power outages prevented people from retrieving money from ATM machines, communication was at a standstill because of lack of cell phone and Internet service, and many people remained in the dark for weeks and homeless until this day.
Other hazardous conditions affected the public for weeks as well. In New York, five of its wastewater treatment plants were located in the areas of the city that were the lowest-lying, and they had to be evacuated. As a result, when such plants are filled to capacity or flooded, sewage and storm water mix and bypass the plant (Assessing the Damage from Hurricane Sandy, 2012.) This water then runs into flooded streets as well as buildings, jeopardizing the water supply and exposing people to disease. Flooding was also a major problem in many neighborhoods, causing entire communities at the shore to disappear or become significantly eroded, resulting in entire homes being swept out to sea. To compound the disaster, more than 100 homes were destroyed by a wind-fueled fire because significant flooding prevented fire engines from reaching the flames (Assessing the Damage from Hurricane Sandy, 2012.)
The economic impact of reconstruction following Hurricane Sandy resulted in billions of dollars in damages that extended through all the counties in New Jersey as well as the 13 counties in lower New York that were designated “disaster areas” by FEMA (Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy.) Although most businesses experienced only short-term disruptions in business, the travel and tourism industry in New Jersey continues to suffer from the effects of the storm. Travel and Tourism experienced approximately $950 million in losses and had to reduce employment by more than 11,000 workers in the hospitality and transportation industries. The state government of New Jersey estimated that the costs of construction to repair and replace various aspects of storm damage were $29.5 billion. The need to provide reconstruction in that state was estimated to create more than 67,000 construction jobs each year, and that was experienced as a positive aspect of the reconstruction phase.In New York, the government anticipated $41.9 billion in construction costs necessary to fix and replace the damage created by Hurricane Sandy in that state. As in New Jersey, these funds were anticipated to create about 350,000 new jobs needed to accomplish the reconstruction (Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy, 2013.)
Given the loss of life, disruption to ordinary people over six states for extended periods of time, and the tremendous amount of property damage and need for repair, Hurricane Sandy was considered to be the deadliest hurricane that had occurred in the northeastern United States for four decades, and was the second most expensive event in the nation’s history. Although it largely affected the East Coast, its consequences extended as far as Wisconsin, Maine, and Florida, causing a rise in sea waters that was seen by some as a harbinger of what will occur as a result of global climate change. The Storm was a sobering reminder that despite all the scientific and technological advances that have enhanced the lives of people in modern times, the forces of nature simply cannot be entirely predicted with accuracy, and certainly cannot be thwarted.
- Assessing the Damage from Hurricane Sandy. (2012, October 30). Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/10/30/nyregion/hurricane-sandys-aftermath.html
- Barron, J. (2012, October 31). After the Devastation, a Daunting Recovery. The New York Times, p. A 1.
- Deaths Associated with Hurricane Sandy–October-November, 2012. (2013, May 14). Retrieved from Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.gov: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6220a1.htm
- Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy. (2013, October 18). Retrieved from Economics and Statistics Administration.gov: http://www.esa.doc.gov/Reports/economic-impact-hurricane-sandy