Cost From Superstorm Sandy Will Surpass Katrina

Price Tag For Damage From Sandy Will Be Even More Staggering

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Northern Gulf coast with a ferocity that devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the price tag of that storm was $108 billion dollars. It stands as the costliest natural disaster in United States History surpassing that of Hurricane Andrew, which cost South Florida some $27 billion dollars in damage. Hurricane Ike became the second costliest storm on record with $29.5 billion dollars in damage to the Houston and Galveston area of Texas in 2008. However, the damage produced Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will dwarf them all. For those, who don’t think that the cost of this storm will surpass Katrina, think again.

It’s very early in the game. The aftermath of Sandy is just two days old, and the recovery process is in its infancy, but the scenes of damage along the Jersey Shore, New York City, Long Island, and Coastal Connecticut alone has been overwhelming. The storm produced record storm surges at Battery Park in New York City (13.88 feet) and Sandy Hook (13.3 feet). Here in South Plainfield, New Jersey which is far inland in the Northwestern corner of Middlesex County, there is significant wind damage. The scope of Superstorm Sandy’s impacts are so vast with blizzard conditions in West Virginia, and as far south as the mountains of Eastern Tennessee (Mount Leconte had 34 inches at last count), waves of 20.3 feet on the south shores of Lake Michigan near Chicago, and severe thunderstorms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Earlier this year, Hurricane Irene was ranked as the seventh costliest storm ever after the devastation it produced across the Northeast in late August of 2011. The price tag for that storm was $10 billion, and the storm only produced a storm surge of 4 to 5 feet in New York City, and along the Jersey Shore. Irene was no Sandy either. While Irene was a storm that was fading as it came through New Jersey and New York last year, Sandy was a much more energized storm. I was in South Amboy’s Waterfront Park for both storms, and Sandy’s surge was already at the same level that Irene was when it was coming up the Jersey coast last year, and Sandy was still a number of hours from landfall. Furthermore, Sandy was a much stronger and larger storm with size that was almost twice that as Irene, and a barometric pressure that was 946 millibars at landfall, a good 14 millibars lower than Irene was when it came up through Jersey. Sandy’s path also resulted in a more direct impact to the Jersey Shore and New York City.

By making its landfall in South Jersey, Sandy was able to deliver the brunt of its power to the very expensive properties that lie along the Jersey Shore in places such as Long Beach Island, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Sea Bright, and Rumson as well as the financial capital of the world in New York City, and the casinos and entertainment hot bed of Atlantic City. Very expensive homes also lie along the coast in both Long Island and Coastal Connecticut, which were hit hard by the surge coming in from the Atlantic and Long Island Sound. These places were also hit in the post-Katrina era where insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the wake of that monumental storm. In 2001, the site also discussed the studies by insurance companies that indicated that a major hurricane hitting the Jersey Shore would cause some $50 billion dollars in damage, and this was almost five years before Katrina. Back in 2006, Hurricaneville had written an article that discussed another article by the Newark Star-Ledger that pointed out the building of multi-million dollar homes along the Jersey Shore in spite of the changing weather patterns and insurance climate.

This storm’s effects were also felt well inland. Entering the third day of the aftermath of this storm, and there were still numerous traffic lights down around South Plainfield, and many adjacent municipalities in Middlesex County. Many secondary and tertiary roads in New Jersey are still closed, especially in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Ocean County. Many trees have been uprooted, telephone poles snapped, and cell phone towers have been damaged. Power is still out for many in the Garden State, and cell phone communication has been spotty at best. Add to all of this the other events that have occurred as a result of the storm such as the 130 homes that were destroyed by fire spread by the winds from Sandy in the coastal community of Breezy Point, New York, and you have a very staggering price to pay for this storm.

The devastation along the coast in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut as well as significant damage to inland areas to those states and others from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy will generate a price tag that will ultimately dwarf that of Hurricane Katrina when it hit the Northern Gulf Coast in 2005. In a climate where weather patterns have made places such as the New York City Metropolitan area, the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and Connecticut more vulnerable, and insurance premiums in these areas as well as New England have risen significantly in a post-Katrina world, the cost could easily be billions of dollars alone. Add to that the cost of damage further inland to communities far away from the coast and as far south and west as West Virginia, Illinois, and Tennessee, and we could have our first 100 billion dollar storm.