Hurricane Sandy was a Surprise?

The second to last paragraph of this ABC News article contains a pretty shocking statement made by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “The city was not expecting Sandy.”  Really?  I think Mayor Bloomberg should have spoken to the good folks in his Emergency Management agency.  Or read one of the several reports cited in this article.  Or spoken to Michael Balboni who has been involved in emergency management and homeland security in New York State for many years.  Or looked at a map.

Optimistically, I think the Mayor’s intent here was to say that the chances of something like Hurricane Sandy happening were so low that there wasn’t much focus on it.  I’m still not thrilled with that, either, but I think that’s where he was going.

Folks, while the chance of such a strong system making landfall in the greater New York City area was pretty slim, it was still a possibility – and a very dangerous one.  A possibility, in fact, that a great deal of discussion and preparation had gone into.  The preparations that were done were good, but clearly not enough.  There needed to be massive investments of resilient, disaster mitigating infrastructure that would protect against the impacts of a storm such as this.  But we’re not too late.  We can still do these things.  Sadly, there isn’t a lot of money behind it, but we need to engage the political momentum behind this storm – just as we’ve seen in the aftermath of other major disasters such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina – which have funded massive projects.  We’ve seen ideas like a giant sea wall, which I’ve previously blogged about.  Or the mitigation projects engineered in, under, and around the city of Hong Kong, which I’ve also recently blogged about.  All these things are possible and very much necessary for the City of New York and other high risk coastal areas.

It’s time for our elected officials to take emergency management seriously.  The investments made in preparedness and mitigation can drastically reduce the loss of lives and property.

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