Five Years After Sandy
Five years ago Hurricane Sandy impacted 24 states with major disaster declarations made for 12 states and the District of Columbia, committing federal resources and aid to response and rebuilding efforts. Sandy is now considered the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, second only to Hurricane Katrina. The storm impacted much of the East Coast; displacing over 23,000 residents requiring temporary shelter; and resulting in more than $65 billion in damages
The storm made landfall on October 29, 2012, battering New Jersey, New York, impacting the densely populated areas with heavy rain, strong winds and record storm surges. The storm flooded numerous roads and tunnels, blocked transportation corridors and deposited extensive debris along the way. Tidal surges as high as 12.4 feet above normal created catastrophic damage. An iconic roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J. toppled into the Atlantic Ocean, storm surge floodwater damaged equipment, electrical systems and forced an evacuation at NYU Langone Medical Center, a nine-acre academic medical facility in Lower Manhattan and storm surge and high winds knocked out power over one million Long Island Power Authority customers – 97 percent of the utility’s customers.
Through a number of FEMA programs and other federal assistance, $25.6 billion in funding has been obligated to help get people back into their homes, repair infrastructure, restore hospitals, schools, public housing and other public buildings. For every Public Assistance dollar spent in New York, 56 cents funded mitigation measures and 46 cents in New Jersey. This reinforces the commitment to rebuilding infrastructure in ways that will make it more resilient and better able to withstand storms.
The Road to Recovery
Within the first 48 hours nearly 1,200 FEMA personnel were in the field performing community relations. Field teams were responsible for determining survivor needs, distributing FEMA registration materials and serving as points of contact to help communities navigate through the application process and helping people gain access to other services.
FEMA opened 65 Disaster Recovery Centers, many of them located in hardest-hit areas, where survivors received face-to-face help. Ensuring all disaster information and resources are equally accessible is critical. To serve the region’s rich diversity, materials were provided in 26 languages, including American Sign Language, and disability integration guidance was implemented within a number of areas during the response and recovery phase.
Team members of a coordinated federal, state and local response worked around-the-clock to restore power, public transportation, critical infrastructure and services citizens depend upon. Federal partners including the Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Housing and Urban Development, SBA and the Department of Defense worked with FEMA and New York State to assist Sandy survivors.
The Department of Homeland Security’s surge force deployed 1,226 volunteers from various DHS agencies; 64 FEMA Corps teams also deployed to New York and participated in the response.
More than 500 voluntary organizations joined FEMA in serving Sandy survivors. The American Red Cross set up shelters and feeding stations across the affected areas. The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and other nonprofits immediately started working on the relief efforts. They went door to door, providing clothes and handing out supplies to residents.
Hurricane Sandy By the Numbers
- FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program disbursed $1.4 billion to 179,016 individuals and households impacted by Sandy in New Jersey and New York.
- More than $1.2 billion of this was dedicated to housing assistance, including costs for temporary housing, repair or replacement of eligible damaged property, and other disaster-related expenses not covered by homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
- About $15.2 billion has been obligated, through the FEMA Public Assistance Program, for debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent restoration of public facilities and critical infrastructure.
- To date, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) has awarded approximately $1 billion for mitigation projects in Region II to proactively reduce the loss of life and property from future disasters.
- More than $8 billion in flood insurance payments have been made to National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in New Jersey and New York.
A More Resilient Future
Post-Sandy recovery created new and innovative approaches to disaster recovery, while other changes had profound effects on mitigation efforts— both allow us to work more efficiently as an agency and help us strengthen our commitment and partnerships with state, local, tribal, and territorial stakeholders.
Impacts of the storm led to a greater focus on long-term resiliency and sustainability, mostly due to the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA) of 2013, which in short, changed the way FEMA delivers disaster assistance to streamline the recovery process for applicants. SRIA includes the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot Program which provides significantly greater flexibility in the use of federal funds for Public Assistance applicants and far less administrative burden and costs for all parties.
Hurricane Sandy recovery also transformed the federal government’s approach to rebuilding, particularly infrastructure. The Sandy Regional Infrastructure Resilience Coordination group created an interagency process where all levels of government work together to increase infrastructure resilience and efficiency. One of the significant results of this group’s creation is the New York/New Jersey Federal Leadership Resilience Collaborative. This group, comprised of Regional Administrator level leaders meet steady-state to coordinate, plan and share information on key infrastructure projects. The six agencies with the largest disaster recovery appropriations are represented: FEMA, the Dept. of the Interior, the Dept. of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
SRIA also directs FEMA to streamline its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) activities and to adopt measures to expedite implementation of the program. One of those policies that had a positive impact on regional projects incorporates guidance on Sea Level Rise (SLR) into its Benefit Cost Analysis program. The inclusion of SLR into most major New York projects is crucial in enabling facilities to cost-effectively implement hazard mitigation practices.
The Hugh L. Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) and Queens-Midtown Tunnels, both which were inundated by floodwaters, were the first projects to incorporate SLR. This proved to be a decisive factor in assuring a 500-year level of protection for the projected life of the project.
Hazard mitigation aims to reduce or eliminate potential losses by breaking the cycle of damage, reconstruction and repeated damage.
As a result of several new policies, mandates and directives since Sandy, the region and FEMA is better poised to handle storms of such magnitude. Learn more about SRIA and other legislative changes that improve how we deliver federal assistance.
Five years later, FEMA continues to support communities and families, working side-by-side with state, local, tribal nations and other federal partners. Through teamwork and by implementing new guidance, we continue to rebuild the communities that serve as the lifeline to the region.
FEMA Project Highlights
NYU Langone Medical Center, located 200 feet from New York City's East River, suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Sandy. High winds and heavy rain disrupted power to the Langone Medical Center on October 30, 2012. Backup generators failed and nearly 300 patients, including 45 critical care patients and 20 babies were evacuated to other area hospitals.
All of the buildings on the main campus are connected at the basement level. Flood waters from Hurricane Sandy breached the campus buildings through exterior doors, mechanical vents, interconnecting electrical conduits and then traveled to adjoining buildings. Before the night was over, 15 million gallons of water poured onto the campus, knocking out power, destroying equipment and forcing an evacuation of 322 patients.
Hurricane Sandy’s high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge damaged or destroyed 3.42 miles of the 5 mile boardwalk’s wooden decking system, along with some of the concrete supports and fire breaks. Storm tidal surge also severely damaged or destroyed boardwalk ramps, stairs, benches, and other park infrastructure.
Hurricane Sandy’s high winds, severe flooding, and power outages caused widespread damage to the Bay Park STP. As a result of Hurricane Sandy approximately 50 structures, numerous mechanical and electrical systems, and operating equipment were damaged at the STP.
The plant lost total conveyance and treatment services for three days. This Plant failure resulted in an estimated 100 million gallons of untreated sewage overflowing into the streets, adjoining neighborhoods and Hewlett Bay. In addition, another 2.2 million gallons of partially treated effluent was released into the bay.
At the turn-of-the-20th century, the Long Branch boardwalk promenade attracted high society tourists from all over the country. Hurricane Sandy flooding and storm surge caused damage along the entire boardwalk, undermining bluffs and erosion protection, damaging structures and lighting, and causing collapse of some areas of roadway and curbing.
Located in the Shark River Hills section of Neptune Township, the new Municipal Marina provides services for boaters and the public, including two garages large enough for boat repairs and water rescue equipment. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the storefront window system and the garage bay doors of the former marina facility, allowing floodwaters to penetrate the interior of the building and destroy all of the interior finishes. The Township determined that the partially collapsed building was dangerous to the safety of the public and it was demolished shortly after the event.
In 1955, Sea Bright Fire Rescue was erected in downtown Sea Bright. It’s still all-volunteer, but it will be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to keep residents safe. Floodwaters, high winds, and wave action from Hurricane Sandy resulted in structural damage to the firehouse. Inspection by FEMA discovered multiple, unstable structural problems and the Sea Bright code enforcement department condemned the building.
After Hurricane Sandy, FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding was made available to help pay for bridge repairs—scour remediation—throughout New York. “Scour” damage includes erosion and wear and tear from water flowing against foundations, abutments, piers and embankments. The program aims to increase the State’s resiliency, reduce hardship and mitigate the risks of loss and damage of future disasters.
Long lines for gas persisted more than a week after Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City Oct. 29, 2012. There was no power to pump gas. City officials estimated that only 25 percent of area’s filling stations were operating days later.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the coast of New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, pushing a five-foot wall of water across the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s Newark Bay Treatment Plant. The saltwater flooded a network of tunnels and equipment, knocking out the main power feeder lines and the backup emergency generators. Raw sewage backed up in the lines, and over several days 840 million gallons of raw sewage flowed untreated into the Passaic River.