North American Cities and Super Storms

North American Cities and Super Storms


North American Cities and Super Storms

Make a list of the damage caused by Super storm Sandy. (5 points)

The storm’s strength is evidenced by the destruction that it caused. The damage caused by the Superstorm was not only physical but also psychological to the victims and economical in terms of property destroyed and economic activities halted. The city’s reputation as a safe neighborhood was questioned. Some people refused to evacuate the city with the confidence that its structural barriers would hold. Since 1888, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for the first time. The financial loss in the private and public sectors combined was averaged at $19 billion. As the psychological trauma cannot be accurately quantified, the focus will be mainly on the tangible damage. The storm brought down electrical lines, which reacted with the salty seawater exploding to cause fires (Toffelson & Nature magazine, 2003). Witnesses to the reactions said they saw blue flashes from different areas. The fires burned down an entire neighborhood in Queens. The roads entering Manhattan were destroyed, delaying assistance from firefighters. The resulting power outages lasted for almost two weeks in some quarters. The waters destroyed Brooklyn Bridge. These strong waves swept away hundreds of houses in Staten Island. The South Ferry Station in Manhattan was put out of business for nearly three years. Its fiscal loss can be put at $545 million. Many other stations along the coastline suffered similar fates. The fatalities amounted to forty-three individuals.

How did Super storm Sandy become so strong? (4 points)

The storm coincided with other climatic events that amplified its effects. Sandy was very strong with winds that extended 280km from the core of the hurricane’s core and storm winds that came out 965 km sustaining a speed of 39-73 mph. A high tide raised waters six feet higher than normal giving more force to the storm (National Geographic, 2012). There was a massive storm surge, and the rainfall levels were high. Most importantly, the hurricane path was irregular. Instead of the Sandy being diverted back into the Atlantic by the west-east movement of the jet stream, once it reached the east coast of the US, it took a north-south route. This was in part due to the presence of a high-pressure point to the Northeast US that steered the hurricane away from its intended track. The warm air coupled up with the warm water fueled Sandy to become bigger than it would normally have been. The high-temperature difference between the warm air characteristic of tropical cyclones and the cold air demarcated by the cold front increased Sandy’s speed. Areas in West Virginia were covered with 6 inches of snow in October.

What is “storm surge”? Why was Super storm Sandy’s storm surge so large (approximately 14 feet)? (4 points) You will have to do additional research to answer this question.

A storm surge is an impromptu rising of the water that floods the coast due to low-pressure winds blowing over the water body. The intensity of the impact of the tsunami-like flood is contingent upon the positioning of the water body relative to the storm’s path, the depth of the water body and the season of the high tide. The Sandy storm came at a time when majority of the aforementioned factors converged. The water body was on the storm’s path was shallow, and it coincided with a high tide and in addition climate change had already raised the sea level significantly higher. The presence of coastal real estate developments increased the tangible damage. The mechanism of a typical tropical cyclone dictates that the air pressure at the edges higher and the pressure at the centre is lower causing air to rush inward to minimize the difference. Concomitantly, the low pressure at the centre causes the sea level to rise as the whirlwind pushes the water towards the shore. A high tide adds height to the wave, which eventually hits the coast as a surge. It, however, could have been more destructive had a wind of equal strength to the storm blew on the same track in a similar direction (Greene, Francis, & Monger 2013). Its destructive power was augmented by the lack of preparedness of New York for an event of its magnitude. The meteorological stations always fail to predict hurricanes early enough to enable preemption.

Why was there so much damage to Lower Manhattan of New York City? Is this true for other cities along the American eastern and southern coast? (3 points)

The damage was centralized in Lower Manhattan with the other sections of the eastern coastline being affected minimally. Lower Manhattan was indeed the ground zero. The core reason behind this is that majority of the buildings in lower Manhattan are built on former wetlands. As is the rule, in an instance of a hurricane, all the wetlands become flooded (Toffelson & Nature magazine, 2003). The landfall of the storm, as it passed through New Jersey, had already weakened with high rain but causing relatively minimal damage. Lower Manhattan is has a low water body that was in the direct path of Sandy factors that facilitated the full impact of storm.

What can be done to prevent future devastation by large storms along the American eastern and southern coast? In your opinion, will these ideas really work? (3 points)

The city inhabitants should renovate its structures to preempt future damage lest it occurs again. The city must strengthen the bridges and as a precaution move buildings electrical systems to higher floors (Toffelson & Nature magazine, 2003). The city should fortify its harbors to block any oncoming storm surges. Due to the size of New York, a multifaceted approach to solving the problem should be taken. The real estate founded on wetlands should be relocated or reinforced accordingly. Majority of the structures in New York were created for normal weather conditions long ago when the choices of construction techniques were limited. The ideas will work because the city is aware of the potential problem it faces. Secondly, the technological advancements are so massive that railway tunnels are being built under the sea, there is one connecting Britain to France, and with such feats similar stable structures on land will be easier.

Is there a new normal?” Explain. (3 points)

There is no straight answer to the question as other experts have refuted the ‘yes’ answer with claims that changing a whole paradigm because of one event is wrong. However, the argument should not be on theoretical grounds of whether the stand is credible or even scientific. People should be worrying on how tangible change that will save lives should be affected (Toffelson & Nature magazine, 2003). Chances are that it happened once in contrast to the meteorological calendar it may occur again regardless how astronomical the chances are. The city officials should emulate their predecessors’ reaction to 1888 blizzard. Wisdom dictates that prevention is less costly than cure.



National Geographic. (2012). Superstorm New York: What Really Happened

. Retrieved from

Greene, C. H., Francis, J. A., & Monger, B. C. (2013). Superstorm Sandy: A series of unfortunate events. Oceanography, 26(1), 8-9.

Tollefson, J. & Nature magazine. (2013, February 13). Natural Hazards: New York City versus the Sea. Scientific American. Retrieved from


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