Better Prepared? What Meteorologists Learned from Hurricane Sandy
National Weather Service makes number of changes, but challenges remain in improving forecasts and communication with public
Finally, some good news coming from NYC re housing reconstruction and assistance. See: City beats de Blasio’s Hurricane Sandy reconstruction goals, starts rebuilding 1,002 homes. In addition to beating the mayor’s construction goal by two, the city has send out 2,104 checks to reimburse storm victims. The payments stand at $36.5 million so far.
For those of you who share my abiding interest in recovery, and a special interest in the many new initiates from the feds post Sandy, I highly recommend this new report from the Congressional Research Service. See: The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief by Jared T. Brown. December 4, 2014.
The Diva remains interested in the recovery and rebuilding efforts post Sandy because a large amount of federal money was spent, an Executive Order creating a special federal task force was issued, and the Task Force has issued several progress reports. [I have written about this topic several times in the past two years — all of which you can find using the search function at bottom right column of this blog.]
I remain curious about the fullness of the implementation, whether some of the changes in federal recovery programs and processes are lasting, and whether the use of a recovery task force will be replicated. These topics are addressed in the CRS report.
With no fanfare HUD released its second progress report, as required by the Executive Order that created the H. Sandy Recovery Task Force. The report is 184 pages long. The press release and a link to the full report are at this website.
The Diva thinks this effort is significant because the existence of an Executive Order addressing disaster recovery and the formation of a Hurricane Sandy Task Force (which was headed by the HUD Secretary and which was required to make a report and follow up on recommendations) are the most substantive federal efforts to address and improve long-term recovery seen to date.
It remains to be seen how important and long-lasting the outcomes are from this effort. Feedback from those of you working on this matter would be welcomed.
UPDATE ON Nov. 1: The Diva just ran across a report done by the CRS in Feb. of 2014 titled The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief, available thanks to the FAS. In the last three pages of the report in the section titled Applicability of Recommendations to Future Disasters the author raises a number of key questions. They still pertain and I hope the CRS or someone else addresses these questions in the present time, based on the newest HUD report.
From National Geographic, see: Two Years After Hurricane Sandy Hit the U.S., What Lessons Can We Learn From the Deadly Storm? In an era of extreme weather, we have to keep the risk of weather disasters in the front of our minds, author says. An excerpt from the author of the book:
I think Sandy’s message to us is that we cannot know how big the risk is. We just have to assume it’s huge—and that when a storm is coming and people are telling us to evacuate, we have to listen.
From the New Yorker, see: Retreat from the Water’s Edge
Nearly two years after Hurricane Sandy, New York has begun a “managed retreat” from some low-lying areas that are vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. Many residents of the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island have opted into a program that allows them to sell their homes at pre-Sandy value, to the State of New York, which intends to return hundreds of parcels of land to nature. The cleared neighborhood will then serve as a buffer zone to protect other parts of the island. The program has been extended to other areas of Staten Island and Long Island that are at continued risk of flooding in the face of climate-change-related events. In this video, residents describe their experiences with the buyout program, and urban planners explain why communities along the East Coast need to consider moving away from the water’s edge.
From the Washington Post, two book reviews: “Storm Surge” and “Superstorm.”
Report of a recent meeting of experts on Sandy and resilience.
More on the importance of social capital, from Newsweek.
The article titled Forget Sandy, the Worst Is Yet to Come is a news account of a Swiss Re Insurance Co. report. Some excerpts:
The chilling insurance company report * * * cautions that Hurricane Sandy was nothing more than a harsh reminder that more powerful storms – like the 156-mph Norfolk-Long Island Hurricane of 1821 – await the Jersey Shore.
Hurricane Sandy was mild compared to the 1821 Hurricane
Such a storm today as the 1821 Norfolk-Long Island Hurricane could swamp Atlantic City under a 15- to 25-foot storm surge, according to “The Big One: The East Coast’s 100 billion Hurricane Event,” produced by Swiss Re American Holding Corp.
The report breaks down the potential impact of another 1821 Hurricane in South Jersey’s Atlantic and Cape May counties a well as across the Southeast, Middle Atlantic and Northeast states. The outlook isn’t good, according to Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest insurance company.
Here is the direct link to the Swiss Re report, which is titled The big one: The East Coast’s USD 100 billion event. This 21 page publication draws on history to paint a scenario that will help plan for the future.
Update: the Washington Post wrote this article on Oct. 2 about the Swiss Re report.
What ever happened to the many recommendations make in the H. Sandy Task Force Report? It has been slightly more than one year since the issuance of the Task Force’s report. At that time the Diva was optimistic about the high-level federal interest in recovery (since the initiative for the Task Force was an Executive Order) and the requirement of some follow through on the recommendations to improve recovery in the future.
The report contained 69 recommendations; however, finding out which ones have been acted upon and what the implementation has been is impossible to determine. HUD’s website for H. Sandy Task Force Report and actions is dated – their last report was in the spring.
By way of background, see the article I wrote for Emergency Management Magazine (Nov./Dec. 2013 issue)titled: Hurricane Sandy Task Force Issues Recommendations for Long-Term Recovery. Too see the many other articles on the Sandy recovery process in this blog over the past two years just use the search function on in the lower right column on the homepage of the blog.
Update on Sept. 9: HUD staff told me that a fall report on progress is in the works.
In the Wash Post today, there is a profile of the woman who coordinated the HUD recovery efforts for H. Sandy. I have to say, she surely has been low profile to date; I tracked the Sandy Task Force effort closely and never heard her name mentioned.
See: HUD Official Coordinated Hurricane Sandy Recovery Aid. Some excerpts:
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) oversaw the initial response to the storm, the White House created the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force several months later to provide government-wide coordination of the numerous federal agencies assisting the affected states and localities and dispensing the nearly $50 billion appropriated by Congress for disaster recovery.
Marion Mollegen McFadden, the chief operating officer and later acting executive director of the recovery task force, led the ambitious interagency effort, harnessing the power of the federal government during an intense 10-month period to provide unified support to the hard-hit communities as they were making decisions about their rebuilding efforts.
In my view, what remains is a full and current accounting of how the 69 recommendations of the Task Force are being implemented!
HUD does maintain this site for info re the recovery process, but it is not very current.
The World Meteorological Organization has released a new Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes. The Atlas is a 48 page document, available at this direct link.
One of the news articles about the report is: Sandy is rated world’s second costliest weather-related disaster since 1970. Some excerpts:
The $50 billion path of destruction Hurricane Sandy carved along the East Coast in 2012 ranks the storm as the second-costliest weather-related disaster in the world over the last four decades, according to a new report.
Only Hurricane Katrina wreaked more economic havoc during that period, the report said, with nearly $147 billion in economic losses caused by the 2005 storm.
Another article notes that heat waves are overtaking drought as the most deadly disaster event globally.