Hurricane Sandy

This report provides an overview of Hurricane Sandy, a violent cyclone that rushed over the United States and the Caribbean in 2012. The first part of the report details the causes of hurricane, specifying the influence of global warming, sea level rise and other weather factors that contributed to the formation and increased severity of Hurricane Sandy. The second part describes the areas affected and damages inflicted by Sandy, focusing on the casualties and estimated cost of damage to the USA, Canada and the countries of the Caribbean region. The last part of the report focuses on future precautions and suggests possible measures to be taken which can minimize the devastating effects of the hurricanes to come. The information contained in this report was compiled from various websites, such as www.noaa.gov, www.aljazeera.com and other news articles on Hurricane Sandy.

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Hurricane Sandy

A combination of weather factors created Hurricane Sandy, the extreme storm that rushed over the United States on the evening of October 29, 2012. This paper is focused on researching materials on the possible causes of Hurricane Sandy, giving the outline of the course of events during the disastrous event, providing a summary of evidence on the damages and areas affected. Lastly, the paper describes the suggested possible ways and means to be implemented in future in order to minimize effects of extreme weather conditions.

Causes

The influence of climate change that caused Hurricane Sandy is still a debatable question, the answer for which many researchers are questing. According to LiveScience, many scientists blame global warming while others claim that global warming had a minor effect on the storm, but was not a real cause. Kevin Trenberth, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research said, The climate influences on this are what we might call the new normal, the changed environment this storm is operating in (as cited by Pappas).

Generally, most researchers come to a conclusion that Hurricane Sandy was caused by the combination of several weather factors. The main reason is that the appearance of the storm was a consequence of the hurricane season in the tropics. That is the origin of Sandy. However, normally storms do not reach such sizes as they move into colder waters. According to David Robinson, a climatologist and a professor at Rutgers University, in case of Hurricane Sandy an area of low pressure in the Arctic fed the storm. In addition, the fool moon could have also increased flooding due to higher tides. The third weather factor that contributed to the formation of Sandy was a high-pressure system that turned the hurricane towards the continent (Pappas). Thus, the three factors resulted in the creation of a violent storm of this type which happens very rarely.

 
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Returning to the question of the impact of global warming, it is considered to have played a rather supporting role. Evidence suggests that climate change made Hurricane Sandy stronger and wetter. Generally, the climate change contributes to an increase of hurricanes strength. Researchers recognize the possibility of global warming to affect Sandy's destructive power (Pappas).

The researchers outline several technical reasons why global warming is considered to make Hurricane Sandy more intense than it would have been. However, Chris Mooney argues that a reason is rather simple. As a result of raising sea levels by several inches, the hurricane had eight inches more of water to throw at the U.S. coast (Mooney). It turns out that eight inches make a great difference. As a consequence of higher water level, it flows faster because the water above the ground does not experience any friction.

Moreover, there is an exponential correspondence between these two factors. To put it another way, with the rise of water level, the size of damage increases much more steeply. That additional eight inches turned into millions of tons of water. Therefore, the argument about sea level rise is urgent. As Ben Strauss, Director of the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, argues: There is 100 percent certainty that sea level rise made this worse (as cited by Drum).

WHAT HAPPENED / DAMAGES /AREAS AFFECTED

Hurricane Sandy was the most damaging and destructive hurricane of 2012 and the most costly hurricane over the past decade after Hurricane Katrina. 286 people in the world and 147 people in U.S. died from the effects of this destructive storm. 72 Americans died directly from the hurricane, which makes Sandy the deadliest U.S. hurricane to hit the southern coast since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The rest of the U.S. fatalities were due to other wind-related causes, flooding or drowning within coastal waters (Blake, Eric S., et al).

Tropical violent windstorms spread over an area more than 1,000 miles in diameter. The speed of the strongest winds reached 100 miles per hour near New Jersey. At its peak intensity over the territory of Cuba, Hurricane Sandy became a Category 3 storm. In the United States, 24 states suffered from various effects of the storm such as wind, heavy showers, floods, and blizzards. Sandy led to the increase of water levels along the East Coast of the United States. The areas that were the most affected were the states of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Sandy affected the United States in various ways. It either damaged or destroyed over 650,000 houses by means of storm surge and/or waves. The disaster caused power cuts, which affected more than 8 million U.S. residents. In some areas, the power was out for weeks or even months. The damage was estimated at more than $50 billion. In New York City, it exceeded $19 billion (Toro).

The effects of the hurricane across the United States were worsened by the full moon period and high tides. Constant strong winds had led to the formation of huge swells along the coasts of Florida which caused moderate to major beach erosion. Wave action damaged piers, boat ramps and coastal homes. The total costs of damage to the beaches and buildings in Florida were estimated to be up to $75 million.

In Southern and Western Carolina, the effects of the hurricane were much similar to those of southeastern Florida. Beach erosion occurred along a major part of the coastline of South Carolina. The most severe erosion at the Isle of Palms caused a total loss of the sand dunes and destruction of many piers. Waves and flooding also inflicted a considerable damaged on infrastructure. Across the states, violent winds broke trees and power lines, and heavy rains resulted in streams and flooding. Maryland suffered mostly from severe beach erosion which destroyed a large part of Ocean Citys 100-ft fishing pier. The storm surge there became the worst surge to hit the coast since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Heavy downpours caused by the storm intensified storm surge flooding; as a result the Delaware River swelled to record levels. Hundreds of roads were either closed or blocked by fallen trees or flooding. Many of them remained closed for the next couple of days. Extensive power outages affected up to 1.2 million residents in Pennsylvania. The reported damage was up to $5 million in Maryland. Total damage in Delaware was about $5.5 million, and in Pennsylvania it reached $20 million.

Sandys storm surge and huge waves destroyed most of the coasts of New Jersey and New York. For the state of New Jersey, the extent of devastating damage was unprecedented. Communities were flooded by water with sand, houses were washed out, roads were destroyed, and cars were damaged. Approximately 5 million homes were without power supply across the state. Problem of power outages continued for several weeks after the disaster. The New Jersey Governor`s office reported that 346,000 housing units had been destroyed or damaged, and 22,000 houses had been abandoned. About 19,000 small businesses also experienced the devastating impact from the hurricane in New Jersey, sustaining damage of $250,000 or more. Total business losses reached $8.3 billion. The authorities removed and trimmed 48,000 trees in order to restore power. Breaches in natural gas lines that had appeared as a result of the storm led to fires in some areas and destruction of many homes. In total, more than $1 billion was spent on repairs of power and gas lines and waste pipes. Moreover, water and sewer services required about $3 billion more. Long Beach Island experienced terrible damage with more than a half of all seaside houses destroyed. Union Beach and Sea Bright were affected in the same way. The water was pushed by the storm surge into New York Bay and up the Hudson River, flooding the Jersey City. The National Guard had to rescue residents stranded in the town. About half of Hoboken was flooded with 20,000 people suffering from this.

New England also witnessed the consequences of the cyclone. The damage was less than along the New York and New Jersey coasts. However, serious impacts occurred there as well. Storm surge hit the coast of Connecticut, damaging approximately 3,000 homes. The estimates of damage in that state were more than $360 million. Rhode Island was extensive flooded. The strongest effects on the inland were power outages and fallen trees. In West Virginia and Western North Carolina, blizzards made roads impassable. Moreover, the weight of the snow led to a collapse of a number of structures. Strong winds in those states resulted in many fallen trees. Approximately 271,000 people were left without power for the whole period. The consequences of Sandy extended inland as far west as the Ohio Valley and portions of the Midwest, with the main problem being power outages.

Millions of people suffered from the hurricane in Caribbean countries, such as the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. One of the first areas to be significantly affected was Jamaica. The government of Jamaica reported that Sandy inflicted damage of about $100 million in the country. Eastern Cuba experienced the most severe damage. Eleven people died, and at least 1.3 million people suffered the consequences of the storm such as shortages of food or water. At least 226,600 homes were damaged, and over 17,000 were ruined by violent wind. In total, the damages were estimated at $2 billion. Heavy rains led to flooding and serious damage in Haiti. 54 people were reported dead and 21 missing. The flooding damaged or destroyed over 27,000 homes. Moreover, after the disaster the outbreaks of cholera spread in the area, causing 12,000 cases, and at least 44 deaths. Agricultural damage from rainfall-induced flooding was significant, estimated at more than $750 million. In the Dominican Republic, 3 people died. Wind and flooding damaged approximately 24,500 homes causing more than 30,000 people to be relocated. Total damage estimated by the Dominican government was over $30 million. Damage was not as severe on the Bahamas as it was during Hurricane Irene in 2011.. However, two people died, and five homes were damaged. In Bermuda, there were reported no injuries and only minor damages such as several destroyed roofs and smashed windows.

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Sandys disaster zone had extended into Canada, where two people died from the effects of the hurricane. About 200,000 residents were deprived of power, when the storm was at its peak in Canada. The government of Canada estimated property damage to be about 100 million of Canadian dollars (Blake, Eric S., et al).

HOW TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS/ PREVENTION IN FUTURE

Natural disasters are inevitable, especially in the conditions of climate change. A man is the driving force of the technological progress. Technogenic aspect of the issue is usually referred to as anthropogenic, or, to put in more simple words, these notions become synonymous within technically developed countries. Both human factor and human relatedness are considered in this case. Nowadays, mankind is equipped with different tools and mechanisms. However, we have not yet generated the ethics of their usage, which means that technically we understand how this or that gadget works, how this or that system operates, but we constantly neglect the aspects of the intent purpose and cause-effect relations.

All the Meteorological organizations and Disaster Relief Organizations co-operate consistently to take preventive measures and to deal with the consequences of natural disasters. In case of emergency, the responsibility is upon each person, who is caught by a catastrophe. After Hurricane Sandy had hit coasts of the northeastern U.S. experts suggested what might have been done to minimize the consequences of future extreme weather conditions due to global warming. As most scientists agree that climate change is the reason of melting of glaciers and sea levels rise, the coastal areas of U.S. such as New York City are under threat.

For example, Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University, warned years before the hurricane that road and subway connections in NYC were vulnerable to catastrophic floods during the strong storms or hurricanes. Major part of citys subway system was not flooded during Sandy only because his maps were used, which he had drawn to used in case of a flood. However, as climate change becomes more intense, there is still a lot work to do with a barrier system. Another strategy to deal with floods is to allow seawater to course along roadways. Jacob also suggests connecting buildings with walkways above the ground, but he considers permanently evacuation from the zone of disaster to higher ground areas as the best long-term option. However, Steven Cohen from Columbia Universitys Earth Institute points out that mass migration is not necessary. His main argument is that government prevented federal aid money from being paid out to people whose homes were damaged during the hurricane. According to Cohen, the function of government is to protect U.S. residents, and reconstruct business as fast as possible. Another Cohens argument is that mankind must seek for alternatives to burning fossil fuels that cause global warming and the rise in sea levels. The key to successful global warming solution is a collaborative work of each and every person.

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New York authorities are looking into other strategies for dealing with the consequences of climate change, such as Rebuild by Design. The strategy focuses on reshaping architecture and changing urban design in order to protect New York City from future disasters, and make the city beautiful at the same time (Phillips).

After the hurricane in New York City, Professor Nicholas K. Coch of Queens College suggested the government to take immediate steps to make the city flood proof. He recommends:

1) Make fuel delivery systems safe, and make backup generators at all gas stations obligatory.

2) Initiate an infrastructure project to relocate power lines putting them underground.

3) Make possible for tunnels and subway stations to shut down and become waterproof

4) Provide critical facilities such as hospitals with two backup systems, one of which should be waterproof (The City University of New York).

Compared to the U.S., the Caribbean region received less attention, even if the damage there was as enormous as in the States. As one year has passed since Hurricane Sandy, there are many lessons that we can learn from the Caribbean countries that suffer from the Atlantic hurricane season annually. Heraldo Munoz, UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, reports that even though Haiti for the last two years experienced two disasters, Hurricane Sandy and the earthquake which killed at least 100,000 people, many preventive measures were taken that helped to limit some of the storm's effects.

For example, more than 300,000 people in Haiti have been involved in community works, helping to reconstruct and minimize the risk of future catastrophes. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations aided people working on the riverbank raising walls to avoid landslides and floods. Without the help provided by the community, the rates of death and destruction in Haiti could have been much higher. Many researchers agree that measures implemented reduce the damage done by Sandy, and as a result save many lives. Other Caribbean countries followed the same steps. Cuba is a country that employs many precaution strategies for disasters. Risk reduction management centers, formed by UNDP, have helped to deal with most of the impacts of the cyclone. In fact, only 56 people died from last 20 hurricanes since 1996. It is a relatively low number. If not for the centers established, there could have been much more casualties. The centers aim at analyzing the most vulnerable areas of the country and using this data to develop preventive measures, such as better urban and housing planning (Munoz).

In case of emergencies, different warning systems have been developed and lifesaving instructions given. When Sandy hit the Caribbean last year, these systems led people away from dangerous areas to shelters. As the result, the total effect caused a much lower amount of deaths than could have been otherwise.

In countries such as Armenia, Bangladesh, Chile and Nepal, the efficiency of prevention and precaution measures has been confirmed high. The measures taken when preparing for hurricanes help minimize the impact and avoid the high costs needed for recovery and cleanup. This is a valuable lesson that other countries should adopt in order to be able to deal with the future disasters. For example, the estimated cost of protecting New York City from future disastrous cyclones should not exceed $10 billion. It is a rather low cost when compared to the estimated $18 billion of damage caused to the city by Sandy (Munoz).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compiled A Preparedness Guide, providing some timely tips on how to take precautions before a future hurricane hit. They include the following:

1) Find safe evacuation routes.

2) Learn where the closest official shelters are situated.

3) Prepare emergency gear, such as flashlights, free-running generators and a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver.

4) Buy non-perishable food and prepare a lot of drinking water.

5) Use plywood or something like it to help to secure your home.

6) Trim branches on the trees so they do not fly and hit your home.

7) Clear clogged rain sewers and downspouts.

8) Prepare your basic disaster supplies kit and decide whether to use it.

9) Find pet-friendly hotels on your evacuation route in case if you have pets (NOAA 10).

This paper has provided possible reasons of Hurricane Sandy, which is considered to be caused by a combination of several weather factors such as the hurricane season, the rise of sea levels, high-pressure system that thrown the cyclone towards the coasts of the United States and the Caribbean. Taking into account large areas affected and amount of damage inflicted, the researchers agree on the necessity of taking precaution measures. They include reshaping architecture and changing urban design in order to minimize the future impact of disasters. Scientists also claim that the issue of securing people from the effects of extreme weather conditions should be dealt on the governmental level. The authorities should restrict the use of burning fossil fuels that cause global warming and find alternative sources of power such as wind or solar energy. The aspect of public safety is an important factor as far as the preventive measures are concerned. Understanding the nature and the link between the environment and human beings (in its narrow sense) could give us the insight of the processes which are out of the control of mankind. It means that as soon as we take the responsibilities for our actions towards the nature, we approach closer to the initial linkage that existed between mankind and the forces of nature. As soon as people realize these interdependencies, they will realize how to protect themselves and feel the need and importance of defending their habitat.

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