Hurricane Sandy, An Enormous Storm, Whose Enormous Damage Comes From Decades of Economic Decline and "De-Preparedness"
October 29, 2012 • 9:25PM

Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey shore full force as of 6 pm EDT Monday, with hurricane force winds up to 90 mph, and a multi-state impact from New England, through Ohio, and the Southeast, and shutting down Washington, D.C. for two days, Power outages shot up to 1.5 million customers mid-day today, with the worst in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, but with thousands affected from New Hampshire to Ohio.

The storm is enormous, with an estimated span of 1,000 miles. But the damage is proportional to the decades of lack of infrastructure repair and installation of power, transportation and especially water management and drainage. In particular, the prolonged heavy rains will have a devastating effect, for example, in New Jersey, where low-lying areas hit by Hurricane Irene in September 2011, are again vulnerable. The Army Corps of Engineers water control projects were never built.

Craig Fugate, head of FEMA, avoided this aspect, in his we-stand-by-you appearance with Obama today, at a briefing on Federal response to the storm. Fugate even said that FEMA is well-provided with resources, $3.6 billion, and he listed immediate provisions: 400 generators for hospitals and institutions; 600,000 liters of water, 490,000 pre-packaged meals, etc. But meantime, the flooding, wind damage and devastation are proceeding on a wholly different scale.

Along with Fugate's briefing, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today emphasized that the storm is very slow-moving and will produce up to a foot of rain, as well as storm surges up to 11 feet at high tide. Storm surges are expected to continue up to Wednesday, Oct. 31.

A special feature of this storm, is its coincidence with a weather system coming in from the West, which has affected the path and intensity of Hurricane Sandy, and the impact. This has resulted in significant snowfall now in the Appalachians, in West Virginia and Virginia.

The Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, today stressed at its press conference, that the Corps is on special alert, to monitor river flow and try to regulate the impoundment/flood control capability at 14 dams it operates in Western Maryland, central Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

Questions from the press to FEMA and NOAA focused primarily on FEMA's preparedness, and the potential impact on the election, especially given that eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have declared a state of emergency. Fugate's declaration of having sufficient resources can only be the case if the agency has basically deep-sixed its commitments to the slew of disasters which hit in 2011, including the tornado in Joplin, Mo. and the flooding from Hurricane Irene, the Missouri Basin flooding and many other cases.