(Solution) Review Of Superstorm Sandy’s Impacts In New York In The Energy And Transport Sectors And A List Of Lessons Learned

Review Of Superstorm Sandy’s Impacts In New York In The Energy And Transport Sectors And A List Of Lessons Learned

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Executive Summary (Need to cover everything from the storm, lessons learnt, risk, changes, actions and the current instructure that is today more resilience ebcuase of this wake up call)

Superstorm Sandy was a massive storm in October 2012 that affected the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. and several Caribbean nations. The storm was characterized by high winds and flash flooding that swept across the Caribbean areas of Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic before hitting the U.S. High winds and storm surges at the coast caused continuous rainfall resulting in flash floods. Consequently, about 233 people lost lives and property worth millions were destroyed. In the early stages, Superstorm Sandy moved across the Caribbean as a tropical cyclone. Later, it merged with a fast-moving cold air mass heading east from the south on the coast of New Jersey, drawing it over land. This led to a rise in the mass of the moving cold air, reaching a diameter of 900 miles. In its aftermath, it was estimated that the storm caused damages worth over $70 billion in the United States alone, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in the country’s history. This is since there were no previous consideration of ensuring potential upgrades of prevalent guidelines for coastal infrastructure design including consideration of future seal level rise had not been done. From the lessons learnt, a unified building code was to be established and used for the overall harbour region including the port facilities. To develop resilience, these facilities are currently under exemptions to local building codes including state codes of New York and New Jersy. Further, the facility owners are expected to pursue one of the existing design documents as primary source of all storm-related designs. Previously before the storm, the practice was relying on a series of documentation which consistently cross-referenced each other.

The storm significantly affected New York as it suffered an economic loss of about $19 billion, while restoration efforts required at least $32.8 billion. Mainly, the assessment of damages was carried out by local entities led by the mayor’s office, which coordinated with national agencies such as officials from FTA and DOD. The first reaction by most infrastructure and utility providers was to restore their reserves. For instance, coordinated efforts involving members of the National Guard sought to ensure roads were opened while subways got restored. Similarly, the Department of Energy had already initiated plans to ensure that crucial facilities such as refineries got their power restored fast. Communication providers adopted a localization strategy as they offered portable cell phone charging points, WIFI stations, and internet access points to victims of the storm to ensure that they could communicate with mutual aid workers who were distributing food and water. Overly, Superstorm Sandy tested the infrastructural resiliency of New York and the entire USA. From the outcomes, it is apparent that the resiliency of infrastructure should be enhanced.


Table of Contents

Executive Summary. 3

1.0 Introduction. 4

2.0 The Evolution of The Storm From A Weather Perspective. 6

2.1 Initial Forecasts. 8

3.0 Reaction of The Infrastructure Operators Reacted. 9

3.1 Depart anent of Transportations (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administrations (FTA) 9

3.2 Department of Energy. 10

4.0 Reaction by The Mayor’s Office and City Administrators. 12

5.0 Reasons for Failures Across Networks. 14

6.0 Response by the Utilities and Communication Organisations. 15

7.0 Lessons Learned and Contingency Planning, Leading to Actions Administrations Could Take for Future Events  16

8.0 Who was In Overall Control 17

9.0      Conclusions and Recommendations Drawn From Above. 17

9.1 Recommendations. 17

9.2 Conclusion. 19

10.0     References. Error! Bookmark not defined.

Appendix. 25



1.0 Introduction

Superstorm Sandy, officially known as Hurricane Sandy, began as a tropical wave after the creation of a low-pressure zone in the North Atlantic on 19th October 2012. The specific area where the wave began is characterized by warm waters, which create low-pressure troughs (Halverson and Rabenhorst, 2013). The wave moved westward, reaching the Caribbean Sea within days, as indicated in figure 1. After three days of observation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami classified it as a tropical depression. As the storm continued to move northward, passing through the waters of Jamaica, it absorbed more energy, eventually growing into a tropical storm. This led to a change in categorization as the National Hurricane Center named it Sandy. As explained by Cooper, T.R. and Hong (2019, p. 52), the increased absorption of energy transformed the storm into a category 1 Hurricane on 24th October. At this point, the wind speeds had risen to 80 miles per hour, and by the end of the day, the speed had risen to 90 miles per hour, as shown in figure 2. This necessitated the reclassification of the storm to category 2 hurricane. By midnight, the wind speed had risen to 110 miles per hour, indicating an impending disaster for regions on its pathway. By dawn on 26th October, the storm had crossed into Eastern Cuba. Between the 25th and 28th of October, the storm’s intensity declined, leading to reclassification as a category 1 hurricane and a tropical storm by NHC. However, on its northward trajectory through The Bahamas, the storm slowly gathered speed hitting the Southeastern coastal states of the U.S. at speeds of 80 miles per hour. On 29th October at 8:00 PM, New Jersey and Atlantic City were hit by the storm causing significant damages since the level of preparedness was low.

The Caribbean nations affected by the storm suffered significant losses, which could be attributed to inadequate planning, the fast nature of the storm, and unpredictable intensity. However, the U.S. had over seven days to prepare, which could have led to roiling out emergency mitigation practices to manage the Hurricane. However, due to ineffective preparedness, New York and New Jersey suffered the most significant losses out other 24 U.S. states affected by Superstorm Sandy. Notably, most energy and transport systems were adversely affected. For instance, subways, tunnels, roads, and streets were flooded in New York, which resulted in the loss of power and communication failure across all networks (Qu et al., 2021). Principally, this paper reviews Superstorm Sandy’s impacts in New York in the energy and transport sectors and lessons learned that could be used as a checklist for other city administrations.

Figure 1: Trajectory of Hurricane Sandy

Source: Kunz et al., 2013

2.0 The Evolution of the Storm from a Weather Perspective

Superstorm Sandy began as a low-pressure system in tropical North Atlantic waters. The variations in pressure were caused by changing water temperatures influencing the unequal motion of air (Kunz et al., 2013). After forming, the low-pressure trough acquired sufficient convection to move in one direction leading to its classification by NHC on 22nd October as a tropical depression 18 (DeMaria et al., 2022). At this time, the storm was moving slowly, mainly due to a north-laying ridge. However, the warm waters and low wind shear developed the storm leading to its strengthening, thereby becoming a tropical storm. The storm developed an eye on 24th October, which started moving northward steadily because of an approaching trough.

The optimum level achieved by Hurricane Sandy was on 24th October when it reached speeds of 115 miles per hour and a central pressure maintaining a minimum of 954 mill bars (Kunz et al., 2013). However, after exiting Cuba, the Hurricane lost its organization, which influenced its change in direction, adopting the northwest direction towards The Bahamas. The emergency frontal structures on the outer circulation of Sandy on 27th October showed that it was no longer tropical (Cohen, Barr, and Kim, 2021). However, an incoming trough maintained the storm’s convection despite the strong shear on its path. In its re-emergency to category 1 status, Hurricane Sandy had a low barometric pressure averaging 940 minibars.

Figure 2: Wind peaks gusts during Hurricane Sandy

Source: Kunz et al., 2013

The trajectory of Hurricane Sandy was influenced by several weather factors. Primarily, it began moving westward after being drawn by a bend in the Jetstream resulting from the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) being negatively charged, as seen in figure 3. According to Parker et al. (2019), when NAO has a positive mode, tropical cyclones, such as Sandy in their initial phase, are engulfed by the predominant eastward flowing Jetstream, which thrusts them over the cold water in the North Atlantic, thereby dissipating them. However, westward flow due to NAO having a negative mode makes the cyclones and their remnants move with the northward-flowing Jetstream (Hanna et al., 2022). Consequently, they thrust into the warm north Atlantic waters, making them bend towards North America. The change in a direction influenced by differing modes of NAO is caused by the existence of high-pressure cells called blocking high, which stagnates over Greenland, thereby leading to a slowed movement of storms eastward.

The changing intensity of Sandy was caused by the interaction of warm and cold air as it moved. Principally, as the Hurricane encountered cold air mass, which usually contains low-pressure centres, it created a counter-clockwise Windfeld with Sandy’s warmer air (Hanna et al., 2018). The mixing of the two air masses pulled a section of the cold air mass from the Hurricane’s main Jetstream westward, thereby leading to the change in direction towards New Jersey’s coast. On 29th October, the cold and warm air mixed, this time merging to create a more intense extra-tropical cyclone that the NHC called a Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy.

2.1 Initial Forecasts

The European Centre for Medium range weather forecasts (ECMWF) stationed in England accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Sandy on 23rd October 2012 (Yang, Wang, and Hong, 2022). This was about eight days before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Coast. The prediction indicated that the changing troughs and surging winds in the Atlantic were likely to turn the storm westward, making it hit the coasts covering New York and New Jersey. The modelled prediction by ECMWF was contrary to many previous storm experiences, which, at this point, turn east and head back into the ocean. Despite the early prediction, the NHC and the National weather services confirmed it late, leading to poor preparation (Kyprioti et al., 2021). In the aftermath of the storm, the National Weather Service (NWS) came under intense criticism for failing to use more effective models in predicting the storm, especially its path, as this would have led to better preparedness.

Figure 3: Magnitude of hazardous impact after landfall of Hurricane Sandy (a- wind speed, b- sea level pressure and gusts, c – storm surge)

Source: Kunz et al., 2013

3.0 Reaction of the Infrastructure Operators Reacted

The confirmation that Superstorm Sandy would hit the U.S., mainly New York and New Jersey, by the NHC and NWS put many infrastructure operators on alert. Their primary reaction was to mitigate the adverse impacts of the Storm (Liu et al., 2020).

3.1 Depart anent of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) took a proactive approach towards mitigating the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Their close working together highlights the first reaction by most infrastructure operations in New York, and all over the U.S. Principally, there was increased collaboration at both departmental and institutional levels (Kirk and Mallett, 2018). For instance, the local DOT worked in close ties with the security personnel ensuring that traffic could be kept going a day to the storm as many people tried to get out of highly vulnerable areas. Similarly, there was coordination between the housing department and the DOT to ensure that people could relocate with ease to either permanent or emergency shelters. The collaborations worked prior, during, and after the storm as energy operators, mainly electricity, were part of the first responders in trying to avert disasters caused by faults in the energy systems (Zimmerman et al., 2019). Similarly, FTA and FEMA worked side-by-side just after the storm, evaluating the impact through damage assessment practices.

About a week before the storm, the FTA worked closely with the DOT in the Northeastern parts of the United States, including New York, to develop a rapid response strategy. The focus of the strategy was to quickly transit first responders during the Strom while also creating a guide to ensure that federal aid funds aimed at recovery could be administered responsibly (Kirk and Mallett, 2018). Financially, the DOT issued $59 million on quick release as emergency relief funds in weeks of the storm. The money was meant to help reconstruct tunnels, roads, and bridges to accelerate recovery. The FTA also worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to increase oversight on continuing works in rebuilding and restoring transit capacity in the affected areas by validating costs and enhancing damage assessment practices by FTA personnel (Zamuda and Ressler, 2020). FTA was also essential in helping the New York/New Jersey Port Authority in securing essential equipment that aware tough to find at that time. For example, they availed circuit breakers, which were vital in reconnecting the port with crucial infrastructure services such as the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail service with mid-town Manhattan, lower Manhattan station at the world trade Centre, and New Jersey. FTA also worked with FEMA to procure 350 buses on a temporary basis as a replacement for the disturbed railway system (Tonn et al., 2021, p. 108). This ensured that persons affected by the storm could still access and go to work.

The primary response by most physical infrastructure owners was to ensure that the transpiration system was restored. This was evident in New York when the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, in conjunction with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), started pumping water from subway stations (Eugene et al., 2022). The two agencies pumped over 125 million gallons of water from the site of the World Trade Center and additional 65 million gallons from New York City’s subway station. The efforts bore fruit as MTA managed to restore River Tunnels for rail transport lines in Manhattan, queens, and Brooklyn within a week. Seven months later, the MTA managed to restore rail service for over 35,000 people who use train service between Manhattan and Long Island (Martello, Whittle, and Lyons‐Galante, 2022). The NJT also focused on easing transpiration by using alternative means. Notably, NJT contracted social ferry services that offered transport between New York and New Jersey. For instance, a special ferry service was established from Weehawken Terminal, which had been damaged severely by the storm, to pier 79.

3.2 Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)……….

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