NEW YORK—The storm that New Yorkers won’t forget swept through one month ago on Oct. 29.
Preparations started picking up days before Sandy struck, but were nowhere near enough to prevent massive economic and personal loss.
In the early evening tens of thousands had already lost power. The entire transportation system was shut down. Multiple rounds of evacuation orders were issued.
High winds uprooted trees. Water, more destructive, quickly breached areas across the city, including the Rockaway Peninsula, Coney Island, southwest Staten Island, and Lower Manhattan. Some New Yorkers who hadn’t left low-lying areas were stranded on roofs.
By the day after, 1.1 million households had lost power across the city, not counting others under the Long Island Power Authority. Tall buildings without electricity became a nuisance to some and a crushing blow to others. Moving around became more complex. School was canceled for days. Sunset brought danger in some areas.
We need to stop having academic debate—and recognize that time is over—and commit to a comprehensive plan to harden our exterior.
— Christine Quinn, City Council speaker
“Hurricane Sandy has officially left the New York City area, but the path of destruction it left will be felt for quite some time,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg the morning after the storm. “It was a storm of unprecedented proportions.”
Then, slowly and consistently, things began improving after the winds died. Buses began running again. Subways were turned back on, portion by portion. Electricity was restored, swath by swath.
Across the city, New Yorkers helped each other get back on their feet.
Now, on Nov. 29, one month after the so-called superstorm, taking a jaunt around some areas of the city, it seems as if nothing happened.
Yet in others—including parts of Lower Manhattan, the Rockaway Peninsula, and Staten Island—the storm’s impact is evident in closed stores, blocks without electricity, and sand clumped in places it isn’t normally.
Two issues linger: restoring the areas that are still not restored, and ensuring that if another storm like Sandy hits New York City, the city and its residents will be ready.
Preparing for the Next Storm
Two studies, commissioned by city officials, are due in April. In them, risks to the city will be analyzed and the best ways of protection will be put forth.
Officials at the region’s two power companies and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will learn lessons from the storm through debriefings and study as well.
300,000 homes sustained damage
265,000 private sector businesses were affected
22 million commercial square feet in Manhattan affected
46,000 unemployment claims in the first week after Sandy
228,000 registered with FEMA
2,000 miles of damaged roads
11 tunnels flooded
2 million residents were without power
SOURCE: Gov. Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will request $32.8 billion from the federal government for post-Sandy restorations, including $14 billion for not only recovery but also future storm protection in New York City. Cuomo also created three commissions that will review and make recommendations to improve the state’s emergency preparations and response. He appointed people to the commissions Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Kevin Burke, president of Con Edison said at a forum that hurricane turned Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 had the biggest impact Con Edison officials had ever seen. Now, through Sandy, “We lost [power to] five times as many customers,” he said.
Allan Drury, a spokesman with the entity, added via phone, “Of the six biggest storm related outages in company history, five of them have happened in the last few years.”
Christine Quinn, city council speaker, is one who has said that in the places where power lines are over ground, they should be put underground.
The pace of making improvements has irked some, including Quinn, who said at a forum Wednesday, “We need to stop having academic debate—and recognize that time is over—and commit to a comprehensive plan to harden our exterior.” She emphasized sea walls, and more marshes and jetties.
Disaster recovery mode has, perhaps, been delaying faster movement toward storm protection. Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which manages the subway, bus, and commuter rail systems, are coping with a wrecked station, a washed out portion of rail, and $5 billion in total damage.
The city, state, and federal government are still coping with billions of dollars of damage, severely damaged homes, people still without electricity (1,539 households as of Tuesday), and more than a quarter of a million small business owners who need to get back on their feet quickly.
Additional reporting from Kristen Meriwether and Amelia Pang
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