Mother Nature has once again shown humans who is boss on earth. With 102 known deaths in the U.S., 69 deaths in the Caribbean, and estimates of 60 billion dollars in damages, Hurricane Sandy marked her deadly path along U.S. northeast shores, on October 29, 2012.
Hurricane Sandy has the distinction of being the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Sandy spawned winds that spanned 1,100 miles. On October 22, 2012, Sandy developed from a tropical wave in the Caribbean, and was upgraded to a tropical storm within six hours. Two days later, Sandy was upgraded to a hurricane before making landfall on the coast of Jamaica. On October 29, 2012, Sandy began its approach towards the U.S. coast. Sandy made its final landfall five miles southwest of Atlantic City, New Jersey, with 80-90 mile-per-hour cyclone winds, and storm surges at approximately 8:00 PM.
Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states from Florida to Maine. Tropical storm force winds impacted states as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin. Sandy brought a destructive storm surge to New York City, which affected Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways. Severe damage occurred in communities along the Jersey Shore. Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Sandy impacted more than 50 to 60 million people. Many attribute the vast damages from Sandy, which is now being called a superstorm, to global warming.
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has left more than 3.7 million homes and businesses, along the East Coast, without electricity as of November 3, 2012. All seven subway tunnels under the East Bridge were flooded. The Mass Transit Authority (MTA) reported that the “The South Ferry station is filled track to ceiling with water as are several of the subway tunnels...Once water levels subside, the water must be pumped out and the tunnels thoroughly inspected by engineers.”
Runways at all New York Airports were flooded. More than 10,000 flights were grounded. All of the MTA bridges were closed to everyone but emergency workers. Amtrak suspended services in most of the northeast and as far south as Raleigh, N.C.
In New Jersey, as of November 3, 2012, more than 1.5 million homes and businesses are without electricity, with temperatures near freezing expected. Lines at gas stations are backed up about 2-3 miles with cars, according to Geri Holterhoff, a 62 year old resident of Ocean Township, N.J.
The devastation is wide spread throughout the areas touched by Hurricane Sandy. Entire villages have disappeared under massive debris. Factories and businesses were destroyed leaving an unknown number of citizens jobless.
The devastation caused by Sandy is not over in regards to health of the victims. The flooded subway systems have brought out rats leaving them to eat rotting trash and establish new homes. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies reports that the rats will quickly reproduce and spread disease in areas of high populations. They spread diseases through bites, urine, and feces contact. Health experts warn of increased risks of exposures to toxins such as asbestos found in roofing, plumbing, and insulation. Asbestos exposure can lead to lung, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers. Water could become contaminated with toxins from toxic wastes leaching into the soil and ground water. Enclosed areas that were flooded or sustained some water damage will harbor bacteria and mold.
Federal, state and local governments, the New York National Guard, the American Red Cross, FEMA, emergency relief personnel, volunteers, and animal support groups are working overtime to provide emergency services, electricity, and food and water to the victims of Sandy. Emergency funds have been established by TV stations, churches, and many other groups across the U.S.
To overcome the devastation caused by Sandy will take years. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will forever change many victims’ lives. We may never know the true costs, in terms of health, jobs, and lost homes and businesses.