Hurricane Sandy devastates the East Coast

Destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the U.S. has so far totalled approximately US $50 billion dollars in damage, with a reported death toll of 112. The cost of the storm and death toll continues to rise as the wreckage is sorted through.

According to the National Weather Service, the highest storm surge was 4.23 metres with a maximum storm size of 1,609 kilometres, the brunt of which hit New York. At least 17 other states were affected by intense wind, snow, and rain. The strongest wind gust, felt on Mount Washington, was 225 kilometres per hour. Maryland felt the most rainfall, which reached 31.9 centimetres in Easton, and the most snow with 75 centimetres that fell in Redhouse.

Approximately 8.5 million people were without power at the peak of the power outage caused by the storm.
Warnings of the hurricane labelled “Frankenstorm,” due to the expected amalgamation with two other weather systems over Halloween, began around Oct. 26 after it devastated the Bahamas, moving towards North America to wreak havoc on the East Coast.

Environment Canada’s chief climatologist David Phillips discussed his issues about humanizing weather patterns with CBC. According to Phillips, humanizing weather patterns motivates them to prepare for storms. If the storm is not as intense as expected then people tend to distrust the sources, making future warning attempts futile. It is important to warn people to give them time to prepare for the impact in a way that they do not lose faith in the warning system, Phillips said.

Initially, expected damages were estimated to be approximately US $1 billion. The aftermath of the storm makes it evident that the storm was as bad, if not worse, than expected.

Host of Quirks and Quarks, Bob McDonald, spoke to CBC about the difference between a specific weather event and global climate change. According to McDonald, it is risky when the media links specific weather patterns and storms specifically to global warming, which does not consist of one or two intense weather events but, rather, it is the changes that are occurring simultaneously across the planet that make up climate change.

“Storms are weather. Weather is what happens every day. Climate change is the whole planet and it’s averaged over a long period of time,” said McDonald.

McDonald agreed that global climate change, like the warming of the oceans, could have contributed but also said Sandy was so extraordinary for reasons other than just global warming. Hurricanes happen often but most of them tend to run their course in the Atlantic Ocean and, following the trade winds, head north east because of the earth’s rotation.

However, Sandy did the opposite of that. It veered north east toward the coast where it devastated millions of people living there.

Sandy was also taken in by another storm system creating a ripple effect that intensified the storm. Another factor not mentioned was the full moon, which brings in higher tides along the coast.

Hurricane relief continued in New York City as Mayor Michael Bloomberg cancelled the annual marathon amidst criticism that the event would deter much needed resources for the city’s relief.