Hurricane Sandy One Year Later

Hurricane Sandy (aka “Frankenstorm”) killed nearly 300 people in seven countries and affected 24 states saving the worst for the Northeast. Sandy stormed into the tri-state area on 10/29/12. There were power outages galore – for weeks in some places – and lower Manhattan was in the dark for five days.Approximately 125 people perished in the United States: 60 in NY (48 in NYC), 34 in NJ, 16 in Pennsylvania, and 7 in West Virginia, where the storm dropped heavy snow. 71 people died in the Caribbean including 54 in Haiti.[1] More than two million were without power in NY and in NJ two and a half million. The damage is estimated at 65 billion; in NY at 42 billion. 305,000 houses were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were impacted in NY. Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest storm to strike the northeast in 40 years and the second-costliest U.S. hurricane on record after Katrina in 2005.

We’ve all seen a myriad images. So I’ll just post two that captured my heart:



How have we fared one year later?

Is it over? You be the judge: 

New York Cares activities:

News events:

Should we remember?

On the scientific level, anniversaries serve to remind us how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go in our understanding of natural disasters. 

On a personal level, anniversaries grimly remind us to take care of ourselves, families, and neighbors. “Be prepared” can all too easily fade into the background of our daily lives. We should each occasionally take stock: are we prepared for another regional flood, Mount St. Helens, Katrina, or Sandy? All of the scientific understanding in the world and institutional advice are for naught if we don’t take individual responsibility to decrease our own vulnerability to these natural events. There is one thing disaster scientists know for sure: they will continue. 

Are there lessons to learn?

Governor Cuomo solicited storm preparation ideas at a conference in Albany:

A presentation I made:

The Emotional Impact of Hurricane Sandy: Preparation and Aftermath

            I.     Know Your Population

                   A.    Who was affected?

          II.     Needs Assessment

                  A.    How affected?

                  B.    Extent

                  C.    Impact on families

                  D.    Schooling

                  E.    Financial

                  F.    Relocation

                 G.   Health

                 H.    Emotional

        III.     Typical Symptoms

            1.   Adults

                1)    Intrusive thoughts

                2)    Flashbacks

                3)    Nightmares

                4)    Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma

                5)    Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event

                6)    Avoidance

                7)    Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma

                8)    Loss of interest in activities

                9)    Feeling detached and emotionally numb

              10) Sense of a foreshortened/changed future

              11) Sleep disturbance

              12) Irritability

              13) Difficulty concentrating

              14) Hypervigilance

              15) Easily startled

              16) Feeling guilty

              17) Increased alcohol use

              18) Increased use of tobacco

              19) Increased use of medications

              20) Substance abuse

              21) Depression

              22) Hopelessness

              23) Helplessness

              24) Somatic complaints

           2.   Children

                1)    Separation anxiety

                2)    Regression

                3)    Symbolic play

                4)    Emergence of new fears

                5)    Fear of the dark

                6)    Fear of sleeping alone

                7)    Behavioral changes

                8)    Mood changes

                9)    Enuresis

              10) Physical complaints

              11) Changes in school performance

       IV.     Impact of a Disaster

            1. Anticipatory

                1) Exposure to the buildup

                2) Media hype

                3) Visual displays

                4) Evacuations

           2. During the Event

               1) In the path of harm/destruction

               2) Sounds

               3) Visual impact

               4) Breakage

               5) Loss of power

               6) Injury/loss of life

               7) Loss of power

               8) Other losses

          C. Aftermath

              1) Loss of amenities

              2) Loss of creature comforts

              3) Shelters

              4) Loss of home

              5) Serious losses/changes

              6) Physical/health consequences

              7) Emotional consequences

         D. Severe

             1) Prolonged aftermath

             2) Marked depression

             3) Marked health and emotional consequences

        V. Self-Search

             1. Self-monitor emotional and mental state

             2. Recognize role of denial and minimization

             3. Recognize impact ignoring one’s own needs has on physical

                 and emotional well-being

       VI. Outreach

             1. Needs?

             2. What can you do?

             3. How?

             4. When?

             5. Organized and coordinated along particular needs/type of assistance

             6. Listening

             7. Opportunity to get together and talk about the experience

             8. Maintain communication

             9. Simple things

           10. Know resources     

           11. For Confidential Psychological Help:

    1)    NY: New York State Psychological Association:

           Disaster/Crisis Response Network

    2)    NJ: New Jersey Psychological Association:

           Disaster Response Network:

Dedicated to those in her path, to those who suffered, and to those who continue to suffer:

In Her Path

Sandy oh Sandy!
Your middle name is Jezebel
Like Delilah to Samson,
Potiphar’s wife to Joseph
You reek of destruction
And treachery’s your game!

You were born to be wild
Just a darlin’ wind
That soon became a storm
As your greed more than doubled
Your thirst for more was endless
Sandy, you were everywhere!

There was no escaping you
Your wicked arms embraced us all
And the python’s grip
Took the breath away

Of everything you passed
There was no calm before the storm!

Again and again you hurled your fury
Till naught was to be had
T’was only then you went away
But those behind

Like the Phoenix must rise
And once again be reborn!

[1] From:

“The federal government has reported two different death totals from the Oct. 29, 2012, storm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, relying on data from the American Red Cross, counted 117. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration tally, which used local government figures and media accounts, was 159 caused directly or indirectly by the storm.

The Associated Press in September surveyed state, and in some cases, local governments along the storm’s path and got a different figure — 182 in the United States. A February report from the National Hurricane Center counted another 72 deaths in the Caribbean and one in Canada.”


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