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New York Meets Sandy – Before and After

As someone who has lived in the NYC area for many years and gone through events like 9/11 attacks, northeast blackout, NYC transit strike, I have not experienced such a damaging event as the hurricane that happened a week ago. It is the second year in a row that the city was hit by a major hurricane, and this time it caused more damage than last year.

I applaud Bloomberg and other city mayors for good evacuation plans and keeping the residents and visitors updated on Sandy. The whole public transit (buses, subway, commute trains) was shut down at 7pm on Sunday. On Monday the lower Manhattan and waterfront areas started getting flooded. In the evening of that day, the place where I live lost power, and so did many other places, including lower Manhattan. Sandy left more than 8.2 million of people across the East without power, and among them were 800,000 customers who live in and around New York City. According to the forecasting firm Eqecat, “Sandy may have caused between $30 billion and $50 billion in economic losses, including property damage, lost business and extra living expenses.”

Last year when the city was hit by Irene, my place lost power only for a day, but this time it was out of power for almost a week. It was also cold as heating runs on electricity. So I had to stay at someone else’s place that had power during that week. It was terrible for many people not to have power, heat, water for such a long time, to say nothing about those who lost their houses. There were casualties, too – Whitney Hess lists people who were killed by Sandy. The subway and trains did not start running until Thursday with limited schedules and on lines that were not affected by flooding. Many people had to wait in long lines to get on buses. There are also long lines to get gas for cars. It is not something you expect in NY/NJ/CT area.

For these reasons, I was glad that the annual NYC marathon scheduled for last Sunday was canceled. It was not a good idea to divert emergency services from helping the hurricane victims and to provide water, food, and electric generators for the race while many residents stayed without basic services, so many people protested against it. I wish Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the New York Road Runners, had made the decision to cancel the marathon right after the hurricane, not two days before the marathon. I felt not only bad for the hurricane victims and frustrated as a local resident, but also bad for the out-of-towners who could have changed their trip plans to NYC instead of arriving to the city to find out that the marathon was canceled.

When watching news about how hurricanes could power up large areas, it made me wonder whether it would be possible to use hurricanes as alternative energy? Instead of waiting for them to cause significant damages, hurricanes could be used to lift dams to prevent flooding and to generate electricity before, during, and after the disaster. According to Hurricane Research Division, an average hurricane produces about “200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity”! Hurricanes could make an excellent energy potential.

Meanwhile, I would like to take my hat off to MTA workers, emergency workers, and volunteers for investing their tremendous efforts to get the city back on feet as quickly as possible.

Published in Event

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