Several years ago, the team at Hurricaneville put together a series of reports on Hurricane Preparedness in the Tri-State Area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. At that time, we indicated that the New York City Metropolitan area was one of the most vulnerable cities to a hurricane in the United States.
We discussed how apathy has pervaded over most of the coastal population in this region, and that the area has been lucky in the sense that a major hurricane hasn't hit the region since the Long Island Express of 1938. Nevertheless, there continues a great deal of coastline building going on across the State of New Jersey.
Multimillion dollar homes being are becoming commonplace in coastal New Jersey communities such as Spring Lake, Mantoloking, and Harvey Cedars. People believe that the possibility of a landfalling major hurricane in the Garden State is remote at best. However, such a storm can happen, and according to Stephen Kempf Jr., who was a regional director in FEMA back in 1991, "it's not a question of if, but when."
Even though the entire coastline of New Jersey has not been impacted by a major hurricane in almost two centuries, experts believe that the state is on borrowed time. A direct hit by a hurricane will have a tremendous effect by redrawing the coastline, and devastating the huge Jersey Shore real estate industry.
Over the past several decades, a number of storms have approached the Garden State of New Jersey, but thankfully, none of them never made a catastrophic impact on the coastal communities. Storms such as Hurricane Floyd dumped heavy rains as a tropical storm over Central New Jersey including nearly a foot and a half of rain in parts of Somerset County including Bound Brook and Manville.
Other storms such as Hurricane Gloria in September, 1985 and Hurricane Bob in August, 1991 have tracked to the east going over Long Island, and putting New Jersey on the more benign western side of the storm. However, scientists are in strong consensus that powerful hurricane of Category Three strength or greater is long overdue in New Jersey.
Add to that the fact that the Atlantic Basin has entered a period of increased activity since 1995 including an active 2003 Hurricane Season with 16 named storms, and a hectic month of August, 2004 with eight named storms, and some including Kempf are thinking that 2004 "could be the year of the hurricane for New Jersey." Such a scenario could redesign the Jersey shoreline with new islands, turning current islands into shoals, and severely crippling the $117 billion dollar Jersey Shore Real Estate business.
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As mentioned in our special report several years ago, the coastal population in New Jersey has been increasing. On top of that, the state is the most densely populated in the entire United States. Talking to folks, who live in Monmouth and Ocean County from time to time in passing conversations, you can get the feeling that the building proceeds as usual.
Several years ago, we also reported on the build up of large million dollar homes in many Jersey coastal towns including Spring Lake. Previous investigations into the Tri-State Hurricane Problem revealed that if a major hurricane made landfall in the area of Asbury Park in Monmouth County, it would cause over $50 billion dollars in damage, which is twice what Hurricane Andrew did in South Florida back in August, 1992.
Now, with these million, and in some cases multimillion dollar homes being built in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties, a landfalling hurricane in say Atlantic City could be just as devastating. Perhaps even more so knowing that the Jersey Casino industry would also take a significant hit. Unfortunately, people have grown apathetic, and refused to consider the potential of a landfall from a major hurricane in New Jersey.
New Jersey is not alone in this syndrome. As a matter of fact, compared to Florida, this state has plenty more reasons to be complacent. The sea surface temperatures in this region are much cooler than off the Southeast coast, and the geography of the coastline in the Northeast protects New Jersey somewhat from a direct hit by a hurricane. Florida, which juts out into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico still has to deal with complacency.
Many residents in the Sunshine State have moved down there from up north to enjoy the good weather that is typical of the climate year round. As a matter of fact, Florida's population is expected to grow by 39 percent before the year 2010. Commercials with former television star, Erik Estrada urging people to buy property in the Port Charlotte area of Florida's Gulf Coast appear quite often on cable and regular television.
Unfortunately, what those people behind the commercials left out was the fact that Florida is very susceptible to major hurricanes. An idea still foreign to many of its residents despite the devastation brought by Andrew in 1992. In addition, Hurricane Charley recently devastated the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte area with 145 mph winds. At least 25 people are dead and $7.4 billion dollars in damages have already been claimed by those with insured property there.
Regardless, residents in both New Jersey and Florida have to eventually come to grips with the realization that these storms can happen anywhere, and must be treated seriously. Just because there are improved engineering techniques used in protecting beaches against erosion, or stricter building codes, the problem is still not going to go away completely. Barrier islands such as Captiva and Sanibel impacted by Charley on August 13, 2004, and Long Beach Island, which was split in two by Hurricane Gloria in September, 1985 are always changing with time.
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In review, we still find that people in New Jersey continue to be complacent toward the idea that a major hurricane can make landfall in the Garden State. Building along the coast as well as the entire state continues onward at a rapid rate. Hurricane activity continues to pick up over the last ten years as we have entered a period of increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic. This period may span several decades like the period of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
The New York Metropolitan area remains one of the most vulnerable areas in the United States behind New Orleans and Miami for a landfalling major hurricane. If such a hurricane were to strike in this area, insurance costs from the impact could be as high as twice those caused by Hurricane Andrew in South Florida back in August, 1992. On top of that, such a storm could have a devastating effect on the geographic landscape of the Jersey Shore, which in turn would be catastrophic for the multibillion dollar coastal real estate market.
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