Lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy
Sandy was actually predicted by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (UK), a week before it arrived.
But, in the wake of superstorm Sandy, much of New York City was plunged into darkness.
What can we learn from this big flooding in New York?
Sandy caused power outage
New York University Langone Medical Center was forced to evacuate patients due to power outages during the peak of the storm. Thy lost power when the auxiliary generator malfunctioned. Most of the hospitals have installed their reserve generators in the basements. But that’s where the water comes.
NYU Langone Medical Center had to transfer 215 patients to other hospitals.
When Sandy hit, New York City was the last constituency to call for evacuation. They called for evacuations only eight hours before they shut down the subways. The storm was coming, but they waited as long as they possibly could, using Irene as the model.
Communication broke down
The lesson of Sandy is how quickly and catastrophically communication broke down. In the areas that were ordered for evacuation in New York and New Jersey, 70 percent of people didn’t evacuate. One of the reasons was how badly communication broke down.
People in New York and New Jersey didn’t know what was coming at them. Was it a tropical storm? Was it a hurricane? What is an ex-tropical cyclone?
A lot of social media misinformation starting to take the lead. People start looking at Facebook and Twitter. All of a sudden you have these amateur meteorologists talking about the storm, and they’re not being corrected by the strong arm of the National Hurricane Center. There was a lot of collective confusion.
Sea Level Rise
Sandy brought a record storm surge to the southern tip of Manhattan, and that surge received a boost from the increase in sea levels. Because of these rising sea levels, even weaker storms in the future can cause more devastating flooding.
Skepticism of storm barriers
A barrier would only provide a long-term solution and would allow the city to procrastinate in dealing with the inevitable if the city will approve its infrastructure.
Make retreat possible
Cities and communities need new tools to deal with situations in which it is unrealistic for people to stay in a particular place. For example, a legal tool called land readjustment has shown success in the Netherlands, where a portion of land lies below sea level.
When a community is threatened, its land is re-allocated elsewhere and property lines redrawn. For instance, conservation easements limit how land can be used, particularly by prohibiting development.
Change the infrastructure
A version of New York City better adapted to heavy storms would have a smaller footprint, more parks on the waterfront as buffers, and a radical change to the infrastructure.
Changes to infrastructure could include:
- modifying the electrical grid
- emptying out the lower basements of skyscrapers
- use lower basements for parking
- halting vulnerable development, such as housing, along the waterfront
Green, Blue Area
The last centuries, the region of NY has lost wetlands and oyster reefs, natural features that once protected the coast from storms. Restoring these features could help make the coast more resilient, by, for example, reducing wave velocity and erosion.
On average, every $1 spent to make infrastructure more resilient against pounding storms saves $4 in costs later on.
Water Risk Management
During the hurricane Sandy, four hospitals and dozens of buildings were hit when the water came in. The need for generic data on corporate water risk was clear. Case studies presented over the course of the day, demonstrated how organisations greatly benefit from their risk management work and the diversity of the approaches available.
- Report shows: Sea level is rising fast
- A 10 mile waterfront park will safe lower Manhattan
- Rivers need space. Improving flood protection
- The Netherlands gets climate proof
- Computer models can help coastal managers making better decisions
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