Last year, the folks at Hurricaneville conducted research on the current status of hurricane preparedness in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The last time a major hurricane hit the New York Metropolitan area was back in 1938 when the Long Island Express struck the coast of Long Island on its way to killing some 600 people through New England.
Not a lot of people remember that storm, and believe hurricanes don't occur here. They are sadly mistaken. While there are towns such as Avalon, New Jersey, who are making efforts to be prepared and protected, there are still quite a few coastal communities that need to make that first step.
We have already discussed what the 1938 Hurricane did to the coastal areas of Long Island as well as the fact that approximately 78 percent of all New Yorkers living along the coast do not believe that a major hurricane can happen here. In addition, we mentioned that the coastal populations have increased not only in New York and New Jersey, but all along the United States coast from Maine to Texas.
Hurricaneville has also talked about the geography and the hurricane problem in the Northern Headlands region of the Jersey Shore. Finally, we have also talked about the various hurricane preparedness and hazard mitigation programs that are available by FEMA and NOAA, and how they have impacted coastal communities such as Avalon, New Jersey.
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The quality of our hazard mitigation and storm preparedness programs in the tri-state area are very good. The problem is that not a lot of towns are participating in them. For example, in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, there is only one coastal community that participates in the National Weather Service's StormReady program, and that is Avalon in South Jersey.
Overall, there are only eight towns combined in this region that have StormReady certification. Meanwhile, at the time that this investigative report series was done, only Avalon, Ocean City, New Jersey, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Freeport, New York had participated to some extent in the Project Impact program.
Since that time towns such as Freeport have tried to assist other communities in the area including East Rockaway. However, the Project Impact program has since been discontinued, and with the World Trade Center disaster of a year ago, not many people are thinking much about stuff such as this.
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There are many wonderful places to go along the Jersey Shore including Sandy Hook, Sea Bright, Wildwood, Cape May, and Point Pleasant, but are all these places prepared and protected the next time a storm hits?. The answer is probably not. For example, in a recent CNN report by John Zarella called, "Hurricane: When The Big One Hits.", he mentions that places in Florida that lack proper shelter facilities for those who need to evacuate when a hurricane approaches.
That's Florida folks, and they get hit with tropical storms and hurricanes a lot more than New York and New Jersey do. As a matter of fact, the Newark Star-Ledger had recently reported that New Jerseyans are having second homes built along the Jersey Shore in record numbers as a result of the housing boom.
On top of that, there are a lot of people who are not prepared properly. As a matter of fact, approximately 50% of all coastal residents do not either have an evacuation plan, or a first-aid kit. This has got to change. More education needs to be done on the local levels, and more people need to get involved so that more information can be disseminated.
More education and participation will result in more awareness of the programs available, and that will translate into getting more towns protected, and flood ratings down. We must be prepared, and it all starts with the attitude that it can happen here.
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