Analysis: The full force of Hurricane Sandy

Sofia Christensen 8 November 2012

The fiercest tropical storm in decades swamped the US in the midst of the heated presidential campaigns. Hurricane Sandy moved over the Caribbean before it reached the Atlantic Coast last week, bringing torrential rains, hurricane-strength winds and widespread flooding. New Jersey and New York were the worst hit, and were declared major disaster zones by President Obama. Twelve other states are also grappling with post-storm challenges. Both Obama and Romney were forced to cancel several campaigning events in response to the disaster.

Sandy hit New York City with a record 14ft tidal surge, inundating parts of lower Manhattan and swamping the financial district. Atlantic City was also submerged, and over 20,000 people were still trapped in their homes by floodwater last Friday. Many states are facing a series of severe post-storm challenges, including fuel shortages and power cuts. New York’s subway system has been flooded and conflicts have erupted over scarce petrol supplies in New Jersey. The US death toll is over 100, with at least 22 killed in New York City alone. As temperatures drop and 1.7 million Americans remain without power, the US is struggling to recover from this natural disaster. Victims demonstrated increasing frustration with the government’s slow responses. Many survivors in hard-hit Staten Island claim the authorities abandoned them to focus on the presidential campaigns. Sandy’s disillusioned victims could have a significant impact on the election’s outcome. Both Romney and Obama were forced to interrupt their campaigning last week, and in the post-election analysis the effect of an increased awareness of the importance of climate change policies will be widely highlighted as a significant factor in Obama’s victory. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, claimed that of the two candidates, “one sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not”. Special voting arrangements were made in the worst-hit areas. However, escalating fury has forced Bloomberg to cancel New York’s annual City Marathon, triggering great controversy and division in the public’s reaction. On Sunday, almost 2,000 angered runners gathered in Central Park for an unofficial ‘Run Away New York City Marathon’. The same day, about 1,000 other people that had flown in for the event spent their time volunteering in Staten Island.

Meanwhile, the Haitian government has issued calls for international emergency aid to help deal with the aftermath of the tropical storm. Thousands of people are still living in emergency shelters from the 2010 earthquake, and there are fears of food shortages and cholera outbreaks. In the frenzy of the US elections, it seems easy to forget that Sandy claimed 69 lives and caused extensive damage in the Caribbean before reaching the East Coast.

Sofia Christensen