Nov 6, 2019 in Research

Hurricane Sandy and the Destruction It Caused

The purpose of this paper is to focus on the long-term environmental impacts of the Superstorm Sandy on the territory of the United States. Primarily, the New Jersey coast and the nearby areas have suffered from the destruction most of all. The federal government and a number of communities have offered various kinds of financial support and plans to improve the situation within the territory. However, neither the problems of the coast erosion, nor those of the water and land pollution are completely tackled even nowadays. Therefore, it is of great importance to analyze the connections between the environmental problems and natural disasters.

Natural disasters were always marked with the short-term and long-term negative impacts they can have on the country’s economy and different aspects of human life. Hurricane Sandy is a strong tropical storm that has caused great devastation in the United States, mainly the territory of the North-Eastern states including New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The East Coast of the US has become the most destructed territory that suffered from this storm. Formed in October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy stopped the work of the metro, train and bus stations, and airports. It has made the NY stock exchange and the UN General Headquarters close. The pre-election campaigns of Clinton, Obama, Romney and Biden were temporarily stopped. However, the above mentioned problems as well as the evacuation of people from the territories, injuries and deaths were the immediate consequences. In contrast to these consequences, the electricity was cut off, which caused various explosions and hazardous substance leakages have led to serious water and soil pollution with petrochemicals. Mainly this contamination together with the beaches erosion has become especially harmful for the US. The aim of this paper is to analyze the long-term environmental impacts of the Hurricane Sandy on the territories of New Jersey and surrounding areas as the most serious and influential from the global perspective.

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Erosion of Beaches

The attention of the geological specialists has always been captured by the changes of the coastal lines and the beach structure. In the modern era, when nature is not so predictable and greatly impacted by high technologies, people cannot feel completely safe. Therefore, nobody can prevent the disasters and their serious impacts. A terrible Hurricane Sandy of October 2012 proved it by wiping out around 9 to 12 meters of the sandy beaches and sand hills into the ocean. The tropic cyclone was very powerful and has turned into one-category hurricane according to the hurricane wind scale. It lasted eight days, but managed to ruin the Atlantic coast of the United States and took away many lives. It led to the huge destruction of the world-famous beaches. Caribbean islands were erased by flood caused by Hurricane Sandy. The beaches in Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic have suffered more than other areas. 45 meters of coastline were erased in some areas. The hurricane affected almost a half of the country and in many states caused real chaos. According to the meteorologists’ data, the erosion of sand beaches and sand dunes involved almost three quarters of peninsulas and some areas of the cost were flooded completely. 

The sand beach is not an ultimate ground as other earth surfaces. Because of upper layer of sand movements, it can be strongly deformed with the help of the wind. Even though people cannot see it, the location and amount of sand at the beaches is constantly changing because of the storms. The erosion of the sand dunes and beaches takes place when the bid storm surge and high waves strike exactly into the base of sand dune and wipe out a huge amount of sand. The beaches “were severely eroded”, while the Fire Island was” breached in three locations” because of the Hurricane Sandy. All the coastal infrastructure of the East together with the private residences was destructed. The beaches have lost 54.4 % of their volume, and the dunes were overwashed along 46.6 % percent. Hence, the forms of the coastal lines and many islands underwent serious changes in their shape. 

The specialists of the geological service Hapke and Hamilton indicated that the majority of sand beaches in the destroyed regions have become especially sensitive to such kind of phenomenon because of previous hurricanes. Furthermore, during the following winter months, the coastal line was shifted again because of its severe structural erosion. Although several areas were recovered in the early spring, only 18 % of the beach volume that existed before Sandy devastation was returned. The hurricane also caused some changes in the environment that could lead to further natural disasters in the North America. With regard to this, the geological service has issued a set of photos made from airplane to demonstrate the coastline of the USA before and after Hurricane Sandy. The results of comparison showed that the size of coastline has decreased significantly. Hurricane Sandy as any other storm caused large-scale erosion. Based on the photos made from the air and from the earth, scientists collected the unique data about the most significant changes in the size of coastline and specified the areas that were changed. During sunny-time before the hurricane, the average width of beaches was bigger and stayed in better conditions with the help of the intensive and regular financing from the government. For example, White-Sand beaches of New Jersey, which are over 200 kilometers long, were the most popular among all recreation places in the United States. Moreover, these places were the main source of income for the state. A tourism industry of New Jersey is estimated to be hundreds billion dollars. Two months after the disaster, US Congress was close to approving the aid package, which was worth dozens of billions of dollars. However, even now, a lot of destroyed sand beaches could not recover after Hurricane Sandy. Coastal planning and recovering is also crucial for the risk assessment aimed at preventing various problems in future. The impacts of Hurricane Sandy prove that coastal plans nowadays cannot adequately account for sea level rise. Any sea level rise will increase the probability of coastal erosion. For this reason, flood risks and erosion are the primary issues of the US government attempts to make positive contribution to coastal communities.

Pollution of Land

The changes of the soil structure and its characteristics can be analyzed on the basis of wetlands and residential territories. Mainly the pore-water salinity and metal concentrations were the issues to be investigated by the scholars after the hurricane-predetermined explosions. Old Bridge Township investigations after Hurricane Sandy became the primary sources. With the field portable X-ray fluorescence, the analysis was based on the core and surface ground samples. One month after the storm, the indicators of the above mentioned samples were 27 g/L for pore-salinity. Even though 3 months later it decreased, the indicator grew again to 26 g/L in the following 3 months. Therefore, the oil products leakage has had a lasting negative impact on the NJ land.  

The same explosions influenced the level of metal in the soil. The level of arsenic, copper, lead, chromium, and iron exceeded the normal level after the disaster of 2012. The measures of metal concentrations were taken from the surface and 2 cm deep in the ground. In both cases, that is on residential and wetland areas, the deeper layer was highly contaminated and did not show smaller indicators for weeks. The metal contaminations were mostly associated with storm waves caused by Hurricane Sandy.  The point is that the flooding of the beach areas was obviously characterized by the appearance of large amounts of water from the sea. This water was filled with dissolved and adsorbed metals and various suspended sediments that have most likely originated from the Raritan Bay site. The changes in salt concentration in wetland areas proved the invasion of seawater. Therefore, the evidence of metal contamination of seawater that led to the further wetland contamination was given. The transportation of metal contaminants in the coastal territories caused the risk growth of these contaminants impacting human lives. The main risks are obviously related to the vegetables and other plants that grow on the contaminated soil. Being the origin of food and vitamins for bugs, animal and humans, they become a real danger for all who consume them. The galloons of toxic and petroleum asbestos that were absorbed into the land have created much work for the Environmental Protection Agency that should provide careful inspection of the land lots with vegetation.

Pollution of Water

The water-related problems caused by Hurricane Sandy include not only flooding and waves that ruined the coast lines. The storm has destroyed the entire neighborhoods, damaged the Atomic Power Station and oil refinery. Consequently, a real problem with water has emerged. The US Commission on Nuclear Energy (NRC) announced the second of four levels of danger because of the hurricane. They were worried about Oyster Creek Nuclear power plant of New Jersey. The problem is that the design of reactor is the same as Japanese “Fukushima - 1”, which caused a tremendous pollution of water and air in 2011. Raw sewage, industrial chemicals and layers of mud floating in the water filled the waterways of New York. Toxic wastes, trapped in the water because of Hurricane Sandy, could threaten the health of residents who already had to deal with the direct losses caused by the disaster. The most problematic was one of the city districts, Brooklyn. Hurricane Sandy damaged several wastewater treatment plants in New Jersey, and carried high levels of bacteria and viruses into the waterways. As a result, many lives were under threat of consequences of the disaster that included not only material losses, but subsequent health complications and even death. If usually the overfull drainage throws the wastes into the chute and lets people avoid any contact with the polluted water, in this case, the wastes get back to the living places. Such water could be found in the basements of the houses, etc. 

Several million liters of liquid waste hit the water of the Chesapeake Bay because of the Hurricane Sandy. Forced blackouts of electricity on the waterworks river Patuxent during the hurricane led to the release of several million liters of liquid waste, which eventually fell into the Chesapeake Bay. The electricity was restored only after 15 hours of repair work. However, unfortunately, during this time, the sewage spread up to the Bay, which was previously known for its unique fauna, abundance of fish and shellfish. The experts did not think that it was threatening for somebody’s health, because water was highly diluted, but on the other hand, they tried to solve the problem. Despite that, the state government had forbidden eating shellfish and fish from the Patuxent River until it cleans up. Many of citizens were recommended not to drink water without boiling it. Patuxent poisoning was not the only case of environmental disasters that occurred as a result as the Hurricane Sandy. The ecologists had a few messages about heavy contamination of the Hudson River, which spilled a lot of fuel from boats and cars. The debris, plastic bags and oil sheens that could be found in the water led to the pollution of not only the Hudson River, but all inhabitants of the water such as sea turtles, jellyfish, mammals, fish etc. At that time experts suggested that there was a huge risk of intestinal infections and epidemic diseases. There was also a threat of flooding tunnels, which were backbone links necessary for the financial capital of United States. At least twenty-four hours the UN Headquarters was closed. According to the US Energy Department, about eight million of houses and public buildings in the United States have been de-energized by the flood. Much destruction was made to the New York City underground.  

Climatologists predicted the water level must have been 3.5 meters, but the combination of the Hurricane Sandy and high tide has surpassed all expectations of experts: the water in the harbor of New York rose to a record of 4 meters. It was not easy to get ready to such level of pollution regardless of how precise the forecasts were. There was little that could be done right before the disaster. All the plans and constructions should be done beforehand and account for a long-term perspective. Hurricane Sandy was a very painful reminder that the mankind is doing something wrong with ecology of the Earth.

Rebuilding the Jersey Shore and Surrounding Areas

Years have passed since a huge storm called Sandy destroyed the East Coast of the United States. However, the residents of the New Jersey shore, who were strongly affected, are still focused on the reconstruction of the damaged communities. In the coastal town of Seaside Park, the houses were flooded to a great level, when the storm hit the coast. Hence, the majority of them demanded re-building. Just after the storm that damaged about 650,000 homes along the coast, it was initially estimated that it would take two years to fully reconstruct the state. By now, the reconstruction is not complete. In response to the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, the availability of federal funds for projects to reduce damage from hurricanes and coastal storms was announced. Governor Chris Christie issued the Executive Order No. 140 in September 2013. Among others, the Executive Order ordered to the Attorney General to take actions required to access the properties that would allow a range of projects on extension of the beach and construction of the dunes along the coast of New Jersey. When the Executive Order 140 was declared, the state needed access to approximately 2,850 public and private properties. According to Attorney General Hoffman, about 2400 of these properties were of vital importance for the coast protection and could bring benefit to all residents of New Jersey. The success of obtaining the access to properties voluntarily was the result of the efforts of the board, which included letters, public hearings and closed hearings. Mainly the recognition that there still were “thousands of people out of their homes,” made the order be perceived as crucial and highly important for the level of life among the population. Throughout the Eastern coast of the United States, the residents of the communities affected by the storm still face the damage of their houses and wait for 48000 million of help from the federate state for reconstruction. The authorities acknowledged that these supporting funds were being given rather slowly. On 27, October 2013 federal authorities unveiled plans to start a second round of financing with  5,000 million dollars from the fund of Sandy victims for the state and city of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island. The money should be spent on rebuilding and repairing homes damaged by the storm. Though Sandy hit the ground with the force inferior to a hurricane, the wind spread over 1,600 kilometers, causing a storm that flooded Manhattan and large areas of the coast of New Jersey, leaving millions of people without power for weeks. 

Hurricane Sandy also made regional authorities rethink the way of preparing for a storm. Rebuilding strategy should be based on the community engagement and properly defined tasks and aims. Therefore, the Task Force established “a formal Advisory Group” composed of leaders of different levels coming from the greatly impacted cities. Additionally, local officials, subject matter experts, advocacy and community based organizations belong to a great amount of parties that are entitled to make their contribution to rebuilding-oriented models. In June, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a plan of 20,000 million dollars to prepare the city better for possible future storms with the help of some measures such as putting walls and building beaches that can function as natural barriers. Although the last hurricane season has been the quietest in 45 years, regional leaders claim that coastal communities should be prepared for similar storms. Among the steps that are aimed to do so and elevate the storm consequences management, one should mark out peculiar issues on forest resources, wildlife and habitat management. At the same time, national security, recreation, and some other areas demand particular attention to the ways of improving the situation with the environment and post-hurricane destruction of the country. The 3D elevation program was one of the most effective in terms of improving the life in NJ and other surrounding areas. For New Jersey, elevation data was mostly focused on the domains that have suffered more than others. Among such, one can find water supply and quality, flood risk management, natural resources conservation, agriculture and precision farming, construction management, and infrastructure rebuilding. Therefore, the main tasks of the Federal State is to work in cooperation with the local agencies to use up-to-date data and provide improved government services to reduce crop and homeowner losses, make routing of vehicles more efficient and unite citizens’ activities for the shared cooperation on all levels.  To sum it up, the main tasks of the state and community representatives are focused on the shorefront protection projects.  The report of Department of Law and Public Safety marked out the necessity to widen the beaches and dunes construction in four parts of the coast. Moreover, the beaches from Sandy Hook to Barnegat, along Raritan Bay, along the Delaware River also have to be extended.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the great Hurricane Sandy has become a real alarm for the US government. Together with the immediate actions that became the indicator of the country’s ability to evacuate and make quick and effective decisions, this disaster has created a number of the long-term tasks for the country and all of its communities. With the great flooding, the storm has caused a number of difficulties with the established technologies, transport systems and the entire life mode. The electricity cut off caused not only various failures in the agencies’ and organizations’ work, but more serious problems. The main harm was the explosion at the Atomic Power Station and oil refinery. This caused a real problem with water. The US Commission on Nuclear Energy (NRC) has even announced the second of four levels of danger because of the Oyster Creek Nuclear power plant of New Jersey that was under threat. However, the warnings were not effective. Hazardous substance leakages took place and led to serious water and soil pollution with petrochemicals. This contamination together with the beaches erosion has become especially harmful for the US. It caused serious danger for all living beings including plants, water inhabitants, animals and humans. This paper emphasized the long-term environmental impacts of the Hurricane Sandy on the territories of New Jersey and surrounding areas as the most serious and influential issue from the global perspective. The environmental changes connected with it caused various dangers related to flooding and future storms risks, health threats and many other factors concerning environmental pollution. Consequently, a number of investments and re-building programs for the New Jersey and the surrounding areas are crucial for the damaged areas reconstruction and bringing people back to the normal way of life.

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