One year ago today, Superstorm Sandy barreled into the East Coast of the U.S. and left an unprecedented swath of destruction in its wake. While much has been done to rebuild from the extreme event, a large part of the recovery effort remains unfinished.
Here are a few of the ways the states impacted by the storm continue to struggle in their effort to return to life as it once was and brace for the likelihood of future storms.
1. People can’t get home. Thousands of displaced residents in New York and New Jersey continue to battle with insurance companies and wait for government funds to arrive so they can return to their homes, NBC reported. One year later, “some families forge ahead with the often slow, costly construction process, with some living in their partially repaired homes. And others who lack the resources to rebuild, including those battling for insurance money or waiting for government aid, are still shacking up with relatives or living in temporary apartments.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said funds would begin flowing to displaced residents after Congressional infighting had delayed the process for several months. “It has taken too long and too many people have had to wait,” he told MSNBC. “But I think the second year will be a very, very good year.”
2. The recovery hasn’t happened everywhere. A recent poll of displaced New Jersey residents from Monmouth University Polling Institute found that 75 percent said they felt like they have been forgotten. Further, “nearly 60 percent of participants said it would take about another year or more for their family to fully recover from the storm, while 16 percent said they would never fully recover.”
The New Jersey Star-Ledger visited the state’s “forgotten western shore” and found residents largely ignored in the recovery process. For instance, “Cumberland County, the second-poorest county in New Jersey, was declared a disaster area after the hurricane, but was not named one of the nine counties eligible to receive the bulk of $1.8 billion in federal aid.” The hard-hit Delaware Bayshore has received none of the Stronger NJ grants and despite frequent visits to the eastern shore and barrier islands, Gov. Christie has not visited struggling Bayshore communities.
3. Transportation will be hamstrung for years. The damage to New York City’s transportation system was initially estimated to be around $5 billion. In addition to the astronomical cost, the challenge of carrying out those repairs while simultaneously addressing the transportation needs of America’s largest city has been tremendous. According to the New York Times, the impact of the storm on the transit system “will be felt for years, most acutely in the form of persistent service disruptions that will dog riders across the system.”
4. Hospitals need to be safeguarded. In the immediate wake of Sandy, many of the area’s hospitals were largely unprepared for such an event, prompting harrowing tales of evacuating patients in the middle of the storm as backup generators failed. One year later, while the city’s hospitals may be operating, they are still working to assess their vulnerabilities and begin to address them. According to NY1, construction on the long-term flood prevention plans cannot begin until the Health and Hospitals Corporation secures funding from FEMA and it is estimated that the hospital system will need more than $800 million.
5. Businesses are fighting to stay afloat. One year after the devastating storm, business owners throughout the region are still grappling with damage to their property, lost income and the the struggle to entice customers. From Brighton Beach to Staten Island to Seaside Park, the stories of devastated but determined business owners are numerous. In the Rockaways, an area hit particularly hard by the storm 30 percent of the businesses that were forced to close after Sandy have yet to reopen, Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, told the NY Daily News. Edgar Gómez, owner of El Pasatiempo Restaurant in the Rockaways, explained to Fox News Latino that “so many people have left, just down the street there are over 100 houses that are just gone … It’s been very difficult; I hope to keep the business open.”
More than a tragic one-off event, scientists continue to warn that storms like Sandy are becoming increasingly likely due to climate change. As temperatures rise, so do sea levels — a phenomenon that worsened the damage wrought by Sandy and makes heavily-populated coastal areas extremely vulnerable to the same sort of devastation.