Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy Is The New Katrina


Photo credit: ABC News. The foundation is all that remains of a man's home  in Staten Island, NY when a 20 foot wave on top of 10+ feet of storm surge wiped it away in the early morning hours of Monday, October 30. 

7:00 PM EDT 11/2  (CEO Rich Foot) In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina's impacts on New Orleans and the Gulf coast, Foot's Forecast published on this website a story titled  "A Beautiful City. A National Tragedy?" Now, 7 years later, it feels eerily familiar that we are watching another slow-moving catastrophe unfold before our eyes. I'll be blunt: My 75-member team and I have extreme concern our nation is facing the largest humanitarian crisis in it's history. If this is an outlandish claim, we invite a counter opinion as to why it's not. 

School-aged children waiting in line in New Jersey for gas.
Not unlike the scenes of desperation we saw 7 years ago.
Seeing this tragedy unravel begs the question: "Sandy vs. Katrina: Is It Fair To Compare?" We think it is, because both tragedies affected the same group: Americans. It's time for America to step up and act now. We urge you to donate to the Red Cross, the Salvation ArmyCatholic Charitiesthe United Methodist  Church or your local faith-based organization's relief effort, immediately. Our readers in Maryland have a number of good suggestions for other organizations to consider, in the comments of this post on our Central Maryland forecast page.

111 homes in Queens, burned to the ground.

One cannot measure death toll alone as an accurate gauge of a storm's effects, because the post-storm challenges of cold weather after Sandy, much like hot weather after Katrina will exacerbate existing problems of those without power, adding to the fatality and injury list. Has anyone thought about those on dialysis, undergoing cancer treatments, those who work for correctional facilities, utility workers without power themselves? When insured and uninsured losses are finally counted, as well as the government's response cost, we believe Sandy will easily eclipse Katrina to become the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. 

As far as disaster goes, Mid-Atlantic residents are far more familiar with paralyzing snowstorms and extreme cold - hazards that warm themselves up and eventually disappear, leaving the infrastructure generally unscathed. Residents affected by this storm are also accustomed to seeing terrible devastation wrought by hurricanes in the Southeast, along the central Gulf, not in Staten Island or Atlantic City.  Instead of dodging a bullet,, New York and New Jersey ended up in the line of fire. 

Photo credit: NBC News. New Yorkers lining up for bus service
Have the lessons of Katrina been applied and embraced? Whatever the country learned, and did not learn, is about to be revealed in cold fury by the citizens facing weeks without power as winter descends on them. In some communities, the entire infrastructure system is gone, hundreds of homes are either flooded, structurally unsound, unlivable or destroyed. And it's November. Temperatures are dropping, and frustration is boiling. For those who think "They're New Yorkers, they're used to the cold" - we invite you to spend ALL DAY, outside in 50 degree weather with no heat, limited food and no hope of power for weeks.  In Katrina, post-storm temperatures were in the 90's, not the 50's. That was a terrible situation to watch, but our citizens need help again, now.

One of hundreds of NYC subway escalators that remain flooded.
If this was your  only means of getting to work to make a living, what would you do?
What will be your role in helping our citizens in their darkest hour? Will your community, city or church rally to direct resources to those in greatest need? New York and New Jersey cannot do it alone. Neither can the federal government. If we are going to get these states back on their feet, it will require a national effort. Whoever is the next President will have an extremely daunting task, and he'll need all the help we can give.

We'd also like to see cries from those in media glass houses for "where's FEMA?" turn into "what can I do to help?" As John F Kennedy said, it's "Ask Not" time as in, "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country."  As for the  national media, when will we see efforts turn toward marshaling viewer awareness on how the public can help. When are we going to start seeing graphics with donation information for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local charities? When will anchors stop asking useless questions of FEMA, the answers for which are clearly the jurisdiction of local law enforcement. We'd like to see them instead ask, "how can we at (CNN, ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC, NPR) help you get the word out?"

Flood waters flooding Sandy's surge inundate coastal New Jersey
To all our new and seasoned readers, if you've followed our team before in disaster, you know Foot's Forecast is not timid in the predictions, or the post-storm analysis. It is time to accept that the worse case scenario, until now only modeled in simulations and tabletop exercises, has become real. For some, the worse case arrived with such ferocity and fervor, it looked more like a scene from Day After Tomorrow than reality. 

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal sloshing through a flooded
Manhattan street near the New York Public Library  

This is as real as it gets. We believe this storm has put America at a turning point, and we ask all our readers to do their part in to help this crisis as quickly as you possibly can. 


  • When all the water in the 842 miles of NYC subway is finally pumped out, how many walls and tunnel will have collapsed? How many transformers, substations, loading platforms and tracks may have to be replaced?  The unknown repair, insurance and replacement costs of just the Subway system  could be billions of dollars. 
  • While thousands of people wait in line for precious few buses, and viewers at home blindingly complain "where are the buses?",  can we consider that MTA workers themselves may be facing a catastrophic triple loss of no power, no schools and no way to get to work to drive the bus, train or subway. This cascading scenario  suggests New Yorkers may face several weeks or even months of crippled transportation.
  • For the largest city in America, 5th largest in the world, and a financial hub of the world economy, can we consider the national and international economic ripple effect of this potentially long-term shut down of the Subway system? The repair cost aloncould far eclipse the economic costs of Katrina. The NYC Comptrollers Office reported the city is losing at least $200 million per day at present. 
  • With winter approaching, the possibility increases of recovery efforts being  hampered by freeze/thawing of residual water within the tunnels of the Subway system may create a structural risk of collapse, placing work crews in on-going danger.  
SEEKING YOUR INPUT Additional sections will be added to this special hazard assessment of the recovery effort in the wake of Sandy. We invite your input on how you, your church, your community and your state are going to help us all deal with what may become the largest, high-cost infrastructure repair projects, and the most long-term humanitarian crisis, in the history of the nation.

(CEO and Lead Advisor Rich Foot)


Dave T said...

Thank you for writing this. Very, very good thoughts. Your team does good work, and I appreciate it.

The Wivells said...

Alright foks, so what are your thoughts on the potential election day nor'easter? Is this something we should be worried about or will it be a non event?

Foot's Forecast said...

Our hearts and fears go out to the devastated families and communities of New York and New Jersey. As for storm concerns of next week, we are examining the potential, but it is still outside 5 days, which limits how much we can say until verifiable land-based data from the west coast is input to computer models.

The Wivells said...

Ok thanks! It looks like the European model is the one predicting an upcoming storm next week. Which if I am not mistaken was the first model to predict Sandy would make a turn for the East coast. We will definitely be keeping our eyes on this one. Keep up the good work!

Pigtown*Design said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I think that so many people have no idea of the scope of this storm because they can't imagine the size of the Jersey Shore or NYC.

I've reposted this Rich Foot's letter on my blog for a wee bit more exposure.

Thanks for being there for us!

GrannieEv said...

Very well written and right on. At this time in our lives, here in America, when the economic picture is pretty bleak for lots of folks, we need to remember that even $5 dollars will add up. If you're reading this, you have a computer and can do a little work on it to check out different charities to see how they distribute the donations they receive; it's an eye-opener.

Springdale Community Association, Inc. said...

Foots- thanks for doing this. I grew up in the town where the photo above has the bridge now going into seawater instead of the barrier island - and rode my bike that way daily as a kid. Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of my cockeysville friends and neighbors, I was able to take two car loads of supplies and several thousand in cash to my old parish - Church of the Visitation, which is right down the road from that bridge. If anyone feels inclined to donate locally, please go and 100% will go the families now homeless due to Hurricane Sandy. Thank you all, and God bless

Springdale Community Association, Inc. said...

btw, I realized that when I sign in, it comes in under my community name- which is fine, because the folks here are incredible. My name is Laura and I should mention that that is the Mantoloking Bridge in Brick, NJ. Thanks again for all you do!