December 07, 2012 by Justin Roczniak
The northern East Coast of the United States experienced an anomaly a month ago when it was hit by a natural disaster that was uncharacteristic of the region. The hurricane turned out to be a Category 1 disaster, a rating at which many southern folks might have guffawed. However, the difference between southern hurricanes and Sandy was that the possible effects on industry, infrastructure, and lives were more severe due to the concentrated population in the region. In anticipation of the hurricane, media outlets sent out many warnings, including The New York Times’ statement predicting “‘life-threatening’ flooding … nation’s most densely populated areas.” USA Today even likened the potential damage Sandy could cause to that of devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005, creating cause for concern in the entire tri-state area. Even with all the necessary information provided prior to the hurricane, more damage was done due to the carelessness of residents who failed to acknowledge the true threat that Sandy presented.
When focusing on New Jersey, many instances of neglect existed prior to the hurricane’s arrival. Gov. Chris Christie was quite clear about the predicted harm Sandy possessed, including the probability of residents of having to be “prepared to go seven to 10 days without electricity.” A state of emergency was also declared on the Sunday of the hurricane period, insinuating the need for extra caution. Many shore homes and coastal communities such as Long Beach Island were ordered to evacuate on that very day, but those orders fell on a few deaf ears. Many people underestimated the hurricane’s impact, claiming the governmental warnings were unnecessarily cautious. Hurricane Irene from last year also ended up causing minimal damage to this very region. Under the assumption that a similar event would occur, some residents remained in their unfortunately located homes and were left stranded for weeks. The after-the-fact explanation for such negligence was to blame the governing body, even though the government undoubtedly did all it could to prepare its citizens for the catastrophe. Residents had the opportunity to reduce the implications of a disaster so close to home. However, failure to listen to previous advice caused severe damage in places such as Seaside and Atlantic City, both popular attractions for Americans in the northern East Coast.
Moving upward into New York City, one can see a considerable amount of damage done to the area’s infrastructure. The Big Apple, being a major population center, is dependent on the electrical power that runs through the city, and with such tightly packed buildings and streets, New York was irrefutably the region in the most danger as the hurricane rolled into the shore. Still, New Yorkers avoided efforts to prepare actively for the hurricane’s destruction. For instance, Promenade Health Care Center in New York housed several patients with disabilities. Even with such a delicate set of residents in the center, the home’s administration failed to prepare for Hurricane Sandy properly in accordance with state-mandated protocol.
When the power went out on the day Sandy hit and damaged the structure of the building, patients were forced to evacuate without identification or medicine sheets into the dire conditions outside, later to be ushered into a shelter. In the city, many residents chose to ignore mandatory evacuation orders relying on the fact that “the last time — nothing happened.” It seems that Northeast citizens have taken their fortunate weather conditions of the past for granted. The lack of suitable precautionary measures eventually hurt New York inhabitants when they were left without electricity or appropriate shelter.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Sandy’s wrath was evident, though less so than it was in New Jersey and New York. Many major roads such as Interstate 76 were shut down due to downed trees and washouts. Philadelphia, however, was mostly untouched. Therefore, it was more difficult to judge if residents were actually ready for Hurricane Sandy. To their fortune, the residents of Philadelphia were able to make it through the storm smoothly.
Past experiences often affect a person’s actions in his/her present. In this case, the lackadaisical attitude toward Sandy was due the general inactivity of Irene as well as the disregard for governmental emergency regulations. Although much of the damage inflicted by Sandy was inevitable, better preparation could have prevented some of the more ruinous impact caused by the hurricane.
Krunal Patel is a sophomore electrical engineer at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected]