Hurricane Sandy made history as the largest Atlantic hurricane on record when it made landfall near Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 29, 2012. With wind gusts in excess of 75 miles per hour and storm surge that inundated much of the New York and New Jersey coasts with water four to eight feet high, the aftermath proved even worse. Sandy killed at least 117 people in the United States, caused more than $50 billion in damage, and stranded millions of people for days in their homes without electricity, resulting from crippled public transportation systems and severe fuel shortages.
In the days and weeks following the storm, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mobilized more than 800 personnel from worldwide locations to fulfill Federal Emergency Management Agency mission requests totaling $351 million to assist with the relief and recovery, primarily in New York and New Jersey. The Corps worked closely with its partners to dewater approximately 475 million gallons of salt water, install more than 200 generators to critical facilities such as hospitals and police stations, remove more than 300,000 cubic yards of debris in New York City alone, provide more than nine million liters of bottled water and begin repairs to projects.
In a national commitment to help recover from the second-most costly hurricane in our Nation’s history, Congress in January 2013 passed the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. This act appropriated more than $5 billion to the Army Corps for the restoration and construction of federal projects in the impacted area. One year later, more than 200 projects and studies along the coastline from Florida to Maine and navigation channels inland to Ohio are planned and underway to restore projects to their design-level conditions and reduce the risks of future coastal storm damage.
The majority of USACE's recovery program is undertaken in the North Atlantic Division with more than 150 projects and studies totaling more than $4 billion. The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division and South Atlantic Division also were allocated funding to restore coastal storm risk reduction projects and navigation channels in their regions.
Increased resilience to future extreme weather is imperative, especially in the context of climate change, sea-level rise and other factors. The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act further allocated $20 million for USACE to collaborate with federal, state, local and tribal partners in academia, government, non-governmental and private industry sectors to complete a comprehensive study to address the flood risks of vulnerable coastal population along 31,000 miles of coastline in the North Atlantic Division’s territory. The report will be delivered to Congress in January 2015.
USACE contributed to the Sea Level Rise Tool for Sandy Recovery to create a set of map services to help communities, residents, and other stakeholders consider risks from future sea level rise in planning for reconstruction following Hurricane Sandy. The Corps also collaborated with NOAA to develop Infrastructure Systems Rebuilding Principles to promote a unified strategy for each agency’s approach to activities associated with rebuilding and restoration efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Risk reduction requires contributions from everyday citizens all the way to the federal government. It involves residents avoiding purchasing homes in flood-prone areas, raising homes that already exist, and insuring appropriately. State and local governments are responsible for appropriate zoning, cost sharing flood risk reduction projects and establishing, promoting and executing evacuation plans. With cooperation of federal partners like FEMA, EPA, DOI and others, USACE implements flood risk reduction measures such as dunes, beaches, barrier islands, levees, sea walls, groins and detached breakwaters to absorb and disburse wave energy. Despite every effort and abundant resources, there still is a degree of risk for the more than 50 percent of Americans who live in coastal regions. Collaborative efforts on all levels continue to explore and implement solution sets that reduce risk from coastal storms.