Monday, November 19, 2012

Sandy: A Story of Survival

There have been a number of stories in the media of surviving Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.  Tragically more than 200 people have lost their lives from the Caribbean to the Northeast.  Sandy was a hurricane as it moved through the Caribbean toward Cuba.  A number of lives were lost in Haiti due to the excessive rains.  The country was still trying to recover from the devastating earthquake in January, 2010.  Sandy has been a setback for the nation.

We have seen the images and heard the stories of Sandy from those affected in the Northeast.  There have been two stories that have jumped out at me in the past week.  The first was published here in the New York Times.  Stories like this remind me of the same stories told by hurricane survivors along the Southeast & Gulf coasts.  Why would anyone stay after seeing the devastation brought by Sandy?

Oblique aerial photographs of Mantoloking, NJ. View looking west along the New Jersey shore. Storm waves and surge cut across the barrier island at Mantoloking, NJ, eroding a wide beach, destroying houses and roads, and depositing sand onto the island and into the back-bay. Construction crews with heavy machinery are seen clearing sand from roads and pushing sand seaward to build a wider beach and protective berm just days after the storm. The yellow arrow in each image points to the same feature.  Image Credit: USGS.

Then there is this story of survival by Steve Hartmann of CBS.  His is a story of a son who decided to stay to protect the house.  I encourage everyone to see this.  It is one of the best examples of why you should never stay to protect property.  Fortunately no one was killed in this example.

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There are many lessons to be learned from Sandy.  CBS This Morning briefly mentioned a few thoughts as they interviewed a reporter from Time magazine.

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It will take time to recover from Sandy.  However, this is the time to think about the next storm.  Many will get money from FEMA or some other source to rebuild.  But why build in a vulnerable spot when the next storm will simply inflict the same result?

Andy Revkin of Dot Earth wrote an article explaining how so much was at risk in Sandy.  Simply rebuilding as before is a waste of money in my view.  Keep in mind that much of this is funded by taxpayers.  I do not mind helping victims with their loss, but to simply put the money back in harm’s way is a waste.

Local and state governments are reluctant to restrict rebuilding in vulnerable areas, because of the loss of revenue.  To declare land off limit to rebuilding is to reduce the revenue base.  Yet the cost to taxpayers is increasing.  Many of the same issues are happening in South Carolina and the result will likely be the same as in Sandy.

Furthermore, we need to rethink the infrastructure.  Areas need to be fortified and the electrical grid upgraded to weather future storms.  Of course the entire national grid needs to be upgraded to the 21st century.  The frequency and severity of storms is increasing.  If we are to adapt to a changing climate, then this must be done.

Last night Nova aired a special program on PBS called Inside the Megastorm.  It is a look at the forecasts for Sandy, surviving the storm, and a look at the future.  If you missed the program, here it is:

Watch Inside the Megastorm on PBS. See more from NOVA.

The forecast for Sandy was excellent.  I first wrote about the potential eight days before landfall here.  There was plenty of warning that the storm was coming and that it would be bad.  Yet, there could have been better communication and preparation for the storm.

Still Sandy was an unusual hurricane.  I will address this in a latter post.