As local leaders took to the media, warning residents to evacuate, being very blunt, such as when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned, “Don’t be stupid,” Hurricane Sandy was leaving a path of destruction and death in the Caribbean and churning straight for the U.S. coastline. When Sandy made landfall in the United States, even experts may have been stunned by the path of destruction from the largest hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina. The full aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will not be known for quite some time.
Sandy made landfall and destruction was immediate
Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern United States as soon as it made landfall just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, on October 29, 2012. One of the early issues was that Sandy unleashed its fury under cover of darkness. Even though it made landfall early in the night, it was still dark on the East Coast. Hundreds of thousands of households and businesses lost power and at least two deaths occurred in the early minutes after Sandy made landfall. Those most at risk for injury and death were those who refused to evacuate when ordered or urged to do so and those who waited too late to attempt to seek shelter away from their home and became trapped in the storm.
Sandy battered the coastline with fierce winds up to 90 miles per hour (mph) after it picked up speed. The immense storm surge dumped flood waters across city streets, tunnels, through homes and businesses in several states. In preparation for the storm surge, public transportation was shut down and tunnels closed in New York City. Air lines cancelled flights, emptying airports except for those stranded due to cancelled flights. Businesses and schools were closed and even Wall St. shut down. Some hospitals and nursing homes had to evacuate patients to safer facilities. Residents were told not to drive and as United Press International (UPI) reported, Mayor Bloomberg urged people to not call 911 unless there was a “life-threatening emergency.“ Had the advance planning not been carried out to the level it was, there most likely would have been more destruction, injuries and deaths. After Sandy wreaked devastation across dozens of states, leaving behind massive damage, injuries and deaths, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy began to be assessed.
Suffering continues two weeks after Hurricane Sandy dissipates
The death toll continues to rise in Sandy’s aftermath. The death of a retired custodial worker brought the death toll in New York to 43 and the total of people who died is now at least 150. Live Science gives a breakdown of the number of Hurricane Sandy related deaths as of November 1.
As residents were permitted to go to their homes days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, tens of thousands of people discovered they no longer have a home. Others were allowed inside for brief periods to try to gather what clothing and other necessities they could for family members as watchful law enforcement kept their visit within the designated time limit. Family heirlooms and items with special meaning were destroyed as were entire businesses, leaving many individuals with no job. Millions of people had no power, adding to the loss as tons of food spoiled in homes and restaurants. Clothing and furniture was ruined due to the massive flooding. Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, thousands are still without power, leaving residents frustrated and angry. ABC News stated that representatives from the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) failed to show up at a recent press conference, but released a statement regarding the outages on their website.
Long gas station lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy forced some areas of New York and New Jersey to implement gas rationing, based on the last digit of a car’s license plate number, in hopes of alleviating long lines and angry people.
Problems extend beyond human loss of Hurricane Sandy
The habitat for several species of birds has been significantly damaged, as reported by National Geographic Daily News. When asked how Hurricane Sandy has potentially affected birds, Brian Watts, Director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia responded that birds requiring low habitat would be most at risk of being displaced or at risk of drowning. Watts further indicated that the effect of hurricanes such as Sandy can have “fairly long-term habitual effects.” In fact, some species have been “decimated” in the aftermath of hurricanes. The long term effect on the habitats of coastal birds may not be known for years.
Many New York residents may believe, or at least hope, that rats that plague the city, to the point of being the subject of many late-night television talk show jokes, were drowned as the storm surge flooded subway tunnels and streets. While many rats may have been destroyed, the majority of New York City’s rat population has most likely been flushed out of the tunnels into the streets. In “After Sandy’s New York Deluge, a Flood of Rats?” the National Geographic Daily News reports that “residents of the city are soon likely to see them by the thousands.” Waiting for nightfall, rats will have plentiful feasts available as trash, dead, rotting fish and small animals that washed to the streets and rotting food sources both inside and outside buildings and homes is made available to them. The article shows an AP photo of a rat emerging from a hole in a subway station. This is in contrast to a different report by Forbes, “No Rat Exodus Reported From NYC Tunnels. Millions of Them Likely Drowned,“ which states, “no reports of rodent packs roaming the streets…” and the belief that “The waters likely rushed into tunnels and crevices so fast that the rats had no time to escape and many of them died.” The Forbes report is contrary to evidence that rats do indeed survive flood waters, as demonstrated when the Winnipeg Free Press reported that rats fleeing flood waters in 2011 were seeking higher ground, leaving residents seeking help from exterminators as rats and field mice overran some residential areas.
Actual financial damage from Hurricane Sandy will take time to be determined
Financial losses from Hurricane Sandy are devastating. Those who have insurance that covers losses due to flooding may have minimal loss once damages are paid. Many others may be devastated all over again in Sandy’s aftermath if they think their standard insurance will cover all their losses and it does not. Storm surge is covered under flood insurance, which is not part of regular policies purchased by home-owners and renters. Bloomberg Business Week also explains that a big debate in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was resolved when storm surge was declared the result of flooding and therefore damages must be claimed under flood insurance policies. Overall early estimates place the potential damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to be at $20 billion.
The true aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not yet known
The clean-up will take at least several months, perhaps years. Thousands remained without power two weeks after Sandy tore through the East Coast of the United States after leaving death and destruction in the Caribbean.
The emotional impact of Hurricane Sandy has not yet been determined as individuals will have to deal with their losses of loved ones who perished or were seriously injured. Material losses, job losses due to destroyed businesses, financial losses, particularly those not covered by insurance and reassuring children when parents themselves have no assurance is likely to result in emotional devastation in addition to the losses already incurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps the more than 50 photos from The Atlantic gives a better understanding of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy