Hurricane sandy: one year on

Added On October 30, 2013

One year ago Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and New York, destroying coastal communities and causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.

Wall Street remained closed for two days, and parts of Manhattan lost power for over a week.

Now, on the first anniversary of the storm, Columbia University scientists warn that New York City remains highly vulnerable to hurricanes.

Many residents along the shoreline of New Jersey and New York have still not fully recovered from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy.

It took several weeks or in some areas even months to restore power and rebuild flooded homes.

Many residents are still awaiting insurance and governmental aid payments.

While day-to-day life in New York has returned to normal, Columbia University scientists warn that the island of Manhattan and the surrounding areas are still highly vulnerable to future hurricanes.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KLAUS JACOB, Lamont Observatory, Columbia University
"The city as vulnerable as it was before. Why? Because we really haven't done any engineered changes. Maybe we are a little bit better prepared but still is vulnerable."

While the US Army Corps of Engineers is working on a 40-million dollar project to rebuild beaches in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, U.S. government funds are also paying for boardwalk reconstruction efforts along the New York and New Jersey shoreline. However, much more needs to be done to make New York more resilient against storms.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KLAUS JACOB, Lamont Observatory, Columbia University
"There have been a few houses raised along the coast line and there have been a few sand dunes restored, but I say restored which means, it brings us back to practically where we were before storm, but when you look at the infrastructure, the transportation system, subway and so on, no engineering measures have been put in place since. That is not surprising because engineering projects take a long time, first to design, then get them through the whole process and then, implementing them."

New York City is planning to build temporary storm walls along parts of the island of Manhattan.

However, making the subway and tunnels flood-proof will be a several-billion-dollar investment and take 5 to 10 years if the funds are even made available by the local and federal governments.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KLAUS JACOB, Lamont Observatory, Columbia University
"It gets more tricky when you come to neighborhoods like in Staten Island or on the Rockaways. They have to make decisions like should you raise entire neighborhoods, should you put levees around them or should you buy out the neighborhood. Any and all of those options are on the table right now but they are being worked out."

The scientists had warned city officials years before hurricane Sandy of the potentially devastating impact of a hurricane making landfall over the city.

They hope that their recommendations will be heard now.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KLAUS JACOB, Lamont Observatory, Columbia University
"We told in a report two years before Sandy that this is exactly what will happen, so nobody can say they didn't know – nobody wanted to know. But the information was out and we tried to make sure that that information gets to the right people. It even got to the right people but they shoved it aside and if we do that and continue to do that our economic situation will be impacted by these kind of events that are in part regular weather but in part also due to climate change and sea level rise. If we don't address those issues, we will have severe economic impacts and setbacks."

Hurricane Sandy had a diameter of roughly 1,100 miles, making it the largest Atlantic storm on record.

An analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated that the storm caused a loss of physical capital worth 75 billion US dollars. And that makes it the second worst storm after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.