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November 19, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Update

One year and a few weeks ago Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey leaving destruction in its path. According to the Federal Emergency management agency:

…Approximately 72,000 homes and business in New Jersey were damaged or destroyed by the storm, with over 40,000 of the buildings affected being in Ocean County…507 buildings were destroyed, 5051 suffered major structural damage, and 66,212 incurred limited damage.

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith noted in a supplemental floor statement to the House of Representatives that “…46,000 homes in New Jersey were damaged by Sandy, of which 22,000 were rendered uninhabitable…” while Governor Christie said in BusinessWeek that “clean up from Sandy could cost upwards of $37 Billion.” The National Climatic Data Center estimated “the total cost of Sandy at $65 billion, behind only Hurricane Katrina on the list of costliest disasters ever to hit the United States.”

Federal help for Sandy was reasonably swift, New York and New Jersey received “…approximately $14 billion of aid” prior to the passage of “$60 Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013…” according to the Los Angeles Times. On his web site, Governor Christie detailed how he has put the money to work including “more than $5.67 billion of federal assistance to New Jersey, $226 million Sandy Supplemental Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds to help the most vulnerable recover and $16.1 million Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund grants awarded to 81 organizations.” Combined with private sector money, there were positive results by the summer as captured by The Economist, “The Jersey Shore was hit hard, but by the beginning of the summer most of the huge sandy beaches had reopened and boardwalks had been repaired.”

Unsurprisingly, recovery remains a work in progress as The Economist again noted “…38% of New Jerseyans spent less time at the beach this summer. And many are still not back in their homes; in Ocean County, 26,000 people have yet to return.” Even if recovery becomes fully realized, New Jersey faces the additional concern of ‘the next time.’ According to a Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration reported in the Star Ledger, “. . . another $28.4 billion is needed not only to get New Jersey back to square one, but to gird it against the next storm (New Jersey has an unmet need of $4.85 billion in direct damage costs and an additional $23.5 billion needed for hazard mitigation).” In the Ledger, the Rutgers study breaks down the $4.85 billion funding gap as well as the poor state of New Jersey’s infrastructure from roads, to drinking water, to bridges and rail.

By Smolin

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