Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy's wrath knocked out power and took lives, pushing all other concerns to the background. Though it was a category 1 hurricane, it caused levels of damage and flooding never seen before.

Harlem Gas Shortages

While Upper Manhattan was largely left intact by Hurricane Sandy, Harlem faced gas shortages in the aftermath of the storm. The loss of power in much of Manhattan and in large sections of New Jersey made Harlem a go-to destination for those seeking gas for cars and for generators. Gas stations in areas with power outages could not pump gas without electricity.

Vehicles endured seemingly endless lines as Harlem gas stations ran out of gas. Some unlucky drivers ran out of gas waiting in line at gas stations that did not have any gas remaining.

We need to find a better system for delivering gasoline when roads are open but electricity is unavailable. Gas generators go into action in such circumstances and add to traditional gas demand levels. Users of gas may panic and become violent. Gas unavailability should not destroy communities that mother nature spared.

Esplanade Gardens Cars totaled

In Harlem's Esplanade Gardens housing complex, 125 cars were totaled by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, Esplanade Gardens did not face deaths; property can be replaced. But, the loss of this large number of vehicles helps underscore the power of a category 1 hurricane to inflict costs on a community that was fortunate to escape the worst of the damage experienced elsewhere.

Rockaways Anger

In the Rockaways, residents greeted the visit of Mayor Bloomberg with anger. As temperatures have dropped, and as bodies have been discovered amongst debris and garbage, there has not yet been help provided to the residents of the Rockaways who soldier on without power.

As the New York Post reported:

The Rockaways’ situation is among the most dire of any of the city’s seaside neighborhoods.

Hundreds of residents continued yesterday to dig out of the wreckage of their wiped-out homes — if they still had homes; 80 in the Breezy Point area were destroyed by fire.

Garbage and debris were everywhere, and the smithereens of the boardwalk were washed far inland.

Cops yesterday uncovered the body of 90-year-old George Stathis, who was found dead in his home on Beach 121st Street.

There was mud on streets where lights weren’t working, sand dunes in front of homes and piles of rubble all over.

“I knew it was going to be real bad, but I never expected this devastation,” said resident Ned Morgan, whose basement flooded up to 6 feet, destroying furniture, family pictures and electronics. “They’re looting cars all over the place,” Morgan said. “This is New York City. They have to help us.”

Staten Island has faced tragedies and destruction that rival the unimaginable turmoil of the Rockaways.

Our city will need a plan to prevent these areas from becoming regular victims of rising tides and storms as climate change begins to have the impact we've been warned about so often.

Proposals for Adjusting to Climate Change

The New York Times recently discussed approaches to dealing with New York City's challenges in an era of rising water levels. Building marshes, reefs, and other protections for our city of islands seems less expensive, more actionable in the near term, and more likely to succeed than building massive flood walls or removing all of the infrastructure, businesses, and dwellings from low lying areas.

Agreeing on solutions to the flood-power-outage challenge we face now after Sandy should be a top priority.

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