Did we have warning?
Depends who you ask.
It has been about seven weeks since Hurricane Sandy flooded New York City.
Just seven weeks before Hurricane Sandy flooded New York City, The New York Times reported, “Critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.” (See “New York Is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise, Critics Warn,” by Mireya Navarro).
“Planning experts say it is hard to muster public support for projects with uncertain or distant benefits,” the Times reported, noting: “Officials in New York caution that adapting a city of eight million people to climate change is infinitely more complicated and that the costs must be weighed against the relative risks of flooding. The last time a hurricane made landfall directly in New York City was more than a century ago.”
Now, however, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has requested $60 billion in Federal aid to his state for Sandy. And now, New York City authorities are planning to re-draw the maps that define the areas in the city at risk from flood. News website DNAinfo has the report (“FEMA Redrawing City's Flood Zone After Superstorm Sandy,” by Jill Colvin). “Of the homes damaged by the storm, two-thirds were outside the threatened ‘zone A’ on FEMA’s existing 100-year flood maps, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a speech Thursday on the city's post-Sandy future, sponsored by the Regional Plan Association and the New York League of Conservation Voters.”
In New Jersey, beach dwellers and builders alike seemed stunned by Sandy. Looking at the remains of his house in Ortley Beach, homeowner Steve Masceri told the Huffington Post, “"Even now, I can't really comprehend what actually destroyed that house. I just can't understand how water could do that." (See “Jersey Shore Development Failures Exposed By Hurricane Sandy,” by Chris Kirkham and John Rudolf). Builder Al Sica, who built the house, commented, “"Sandy never happened before. It was never anticipated."
In fact, storm watchers have realized for years that New Jersey was a sitting duck. But it’s true that the official flood elevation maps for the Jersey shore are out of date — and as Sica noted, the home he built did comply with code.
Now, however, Jersey will be getting its long-overdue flood map upgrade, on an expedited schedule. The Newark Star-Ledger has the story (“Jersey Shore revolution begins, as FEMA releases new flood maps,” by Stephen Stirling). Reports the paper: “An analysis of FEMA and Sandy storm surge data shows in places like Ortley Beach and Union Beach, many homes would need to be raised more than four feet to avoid serious damage from an identical storm. In some locations closest to the water, it could mean raising homes a full-story.”