Sandy Five Years Later. What Have We Learned?

Hurricane Sandy overhead flight - U.S. Air Force

A 2012 U.S. Air Force overflight image of damage along the New Jersey coast following Sandy.

Five years ago, Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy struck at high tide, driving catastrophic storm surge into coastal New Jersey and New York unlike anything seen before. Thirty-four New Jersey residents lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, causing over $62 billion in damage.

Five years later some areas have recovered. Some have not.

"Nature is ferocious, and a major coastal storm can devastate a community in a matter of hours. Severely impacted communities need both patience and inspiration to recover: patience with the time it takes to repair the economic and social fabric that sustains communities, and inspiration to envision and plan for a future that is less vulnerable to coastal storms," says Darlene Finch, Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator with NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.

Many community leaders believe super storms are the new norm, and are increasing efforts to make communities more resilient—a critical component of all recovery efforts. Two examples follow:

  • New Jersey's Brigantine Island community used the recovery phase as an opportunity to elevate the road off the island, strengthen barriers along the oceanfront and bayside, and improve zoning and floodplain ordinances.
  • New Jersey's coastal management program developed a Getting to Resilience program to help communities improve hazard preparedness. As a result, many communities instituted new policies that keep people and infrastructure safer, and also resulted in cost reductions for flood insurance premiums.

"Sandy's devastation provided an opportunity to make impacted communities more resilient," says Finch. "At NOAA, we are committed to providing data, tools, and information that help communities recover. Our resources enable them to work side-by-side with partners and community leaders. They can then transfer their ideas and lessons learned to other communities facing similar circumstances."