Hurricane Sandy hit the New York City area hard last Monday, leaving millions throughout the region without power and dealing with the aftermath of flood waters and wind damage.
President Obama declared a major disaster in New York City and Long Island. As of this writing, there have been 49 confirmed deaths due to the storm in New York State.
In the storm’s immediate aftermath, untreated sewage flowed into waterways throughout the region due to power losses and high water levels. The World Trade Center Construction site flooded, and at least 111 homes were destroyed by fires in Breezy Point, Queens in one of the worst residential fires in the city in 150 years. The 13 foot storm surges that flooded low-lying areas were 3 feet above the previous record. The financial exchanges in Lower Manhattan were forced to shut down, and nearly 90% of Long Island lost power.
Gov. Cuomo called the storm “devastating and unprecedented,” and only in the days after the storm has the scope of the damage become clear. In the immediate wake of the storm, emergency responders had to deal not only with widespread flooding, but with multi-building fires, tunnel closures, power losses to hospitals and other critical infrastructure, destroyed homes and sheltered populations.
The region’s transportation infrastructure was severely impacted. Subway and rail transportation systems that were inundated with saltwater are likely to require extensive repair and replacement moving forward. Subways began running again on Thursday, though there are service interruptions in some hard hit areas of the city. Vehicular traffic was backed up for miles at bridges to get into Manhattan.
With electricity out and gasoline supplies scarce due to closed ports and roads, there have been lines for gasoline.
There have also been widespread telephone problems – both wired and wireless — due to power outages, wind damage and submerged equipment. [Verizon is providing service restoration updates here.]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said that it will pay to cover the emergency transportation and power restoration costs. On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo asked President Obama to have FEMA pay for all of the costs associated with the storm, and he said that state may face up to $6 billion in economic impact. FEMA is required to pay 75 percent of certain damages, but can pay up to 100 percent of such costs.
The storm may impact the ability of some people to vote tomorrow. Many polling sites are still without power, awaiting power restoration efforts. The State Board of Elections is providing storm recovery updates, including poll site changes due to the storm, here. Other service updates can be found here.
Comptroller DiNapoli released an analysis on Friday in which he concludes that the economic damage from Hurricane Sandy could exceed $18 billion statewide. He looks mainly at the loss of state tax revenue (including disruption of the New York City financial services industry), needed infrastructure repairs and replacement
Given the scope of the damage, issues relating to storm recovery are likely to dominate the 2013 legislative session. If the Legislature returns for a post-election special session, it is likely that storm-related issues will be taken up.
Some groups have said that the storm demonstrates that the state must take action to address climate change.