Today marks the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival on the New England coastline. After forming as a tropical wave in the Caribbean on October 19, 2012, Sandy quickly grew to hurricane strength and wreaked terror across 7 countries, from Jamaica to the U.S., ultimately killing 286 people.
Variously called “Superstorm” and a “Frankenstorm,” Sandy truly was a freak of nature. As it began its march up the east coast, it sucked in other weather systems to create a hybrid of sorts; thus, its official meteorological moniker of “Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy.” Physically, it was an immense storm: roughly 900 to 1,000 miles wide. Although its maximum sustained winds (those winds around the eye) were about 115 miles per hour, Sandy generated snow storms along the Great Lakes region and tidal surges up to 32 feet on Lower Manhattan. It also produced the lowest air pressure of any hurricane north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina: 940 millibars (27.76 inches). The previous record was 946 millibars from the infamous “Long Island Express” hurricane, a category 4 behemoth that tore up New England in September 1938. Sandy is also only the second “S” named storm to be retired. The first was Hurricane Stan, which struck México in October 2005.
With a $65 billion price tag and thousands of structures still sitting wrecked on various New England coastlines, Sandy reiterated what we already understood with Hurricane Katrina: the U.S. government is almost completely inept when responding to these calamities. As politics and red-tape bureaucracy remain entrenched, the American political machine often seems more reactive than proactive.
Sadly, most major disasters will take human lives; a cost that simply can’t be measured financially.