News / USA

Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy

The ruins of an oceanfront home destroyed by Superstorm Sandy is scattered next to an existing home in Mantoloking N.J.,  Tuesday,  Oct. 15, 2013.
The ruins of an oceanfront home destroyed by Superstorm Sandy is scattered next to an existing home in Mantoloking N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Adam Phillips
— October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy slammed into coastal areas of the northeastern U.S., leaving thousands homeless and causing more than $65 billion in damage. Rebuilding efforts continue today. Experts suggest what might be done to minimize cost of future extreme weather events due to climate change.

Most scientists agree that global warming is causing the glaciers to melt, which in turn is causing sea levels to rise. That makes coastal areas like New York City vulnerable.

For years, Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, warned that New York’s infrastructure and subway system could be catastrophically flooded during extreme weather.
 
Because of flood preparation maps he had prepared, much of New York City’s subway system remained dry during Sandy. However, climate change continues to accelerate. Jacob says a barrier system can help in the near-to-mid term.

“The best known is in the Netherlands. Normally those storm surge barriers are open. But when a storm comes, you close them so the storm surge cannot enter into the city. But as sea level rise continues, you have to eventually close those barriers permanently," said Jacob.
 
Another strategy is to accommodate the rush of water by allowing seawater to course through roadways.

“For instance, in downtown Manhattan we'd have to give up the use of below ground and at ground levels of buildings and will have to live from the second and third floor on and do business. That means both the infrastructure - electricity, water and sewage, communications - need to be waterproofed so they can live and work under these water conditions," said Jacob.
 
Jacob says one also could connect buildings via above-ground walkways called “highlines.” But in his opinion, the best long term option, at least for Manhattan, is to retreat permanently from the island’s coastal areas to higher ground.

But Steven Cohen, executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, doesn't think mass migration is necessary.

He criticizes the federal government. For months, partisan squabbling in Congress prevented federal aid money from being disbursed to homeowners whose dwellings were damaged or destroyed.

“Part of the basic function of government is to protect people, and part of what government has to do now is to get in the reconstruction business and do it quickly," said Cohen.
 
At the same time, Cohen says, humanity must find alternatives to burning fossil fuels that create global warming and the rise in sea levels.
 
“It’s not only climate change. It’s ecological damage. It’s the cost of it all. And we have to figure out a way to build a collective response to this so nobody goes broke trying to fix it and everybody helps each other," he said.

New Yorkers are examining other strategies for dealing with climate change, including Rebuild by Design, an initiative that combines community input with disciplines like architecture and urban design to protect New Yorkers from future climate events, while beautifying the city.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid