Weather Nerd

Devastation in New Jersey, Concern for Staten Island

No time for a full storm aftermath update right now, but as I read this article from tomorrow’s New York Times about the devastation in New Jersey, I am struck by a parallel to Hurricane Katrina. New York is playing the role of New Orleans — the big city hogging all the attention (and, yes, this blog is as guilty as anyone) — while New Jersey plays the role of Mississippi, as the state where Sandy’s greatest impacts were felt, and the most severe destruction directly caused by the storm occurred. Excerpt from the Times:

Though the storm raged up the East Coast, it has become increasingly apparent that New Jersey took the brunt of it. Officials estimated that the state suffered many billions of dollars in property damage. About a quarter of the state’s population — more than two million people — remained without power on Wednesday, and more than 6,000 were still in shelters, state emergency officials said.

At least eight people died, and officials expressed deep concerns that the toll would rise as more searches of homes were carried out. …

One of the most pressing crises was unfolding here in Hoboken, a city of 50,000 that is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

“This is flooding like we’ve never seen,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, where National Guard troops on Wednesday were trying to rescue thousands of residents trapped by sewage-laced floodwaters.

“It filled the city like a bathtub,” she said.

There’s a lot of talk about power outages and transportation inconveniences, the latter mostly in NYC, and those are certainly important angles to this story. But let’s not forget that many lives have been lost — now 74 and counting nationwide — and more remain at stake (in New Jersey but also in Lower Manhattan and other places). That human toll has still got to be the headline nationally — not when the subway will be back online.

Speaking of which, I have some concerns about Staten Island, itself overshadowed within New York City by coverage of the other boroughs. Yet Staten Island is the borough with the highest proportion of low-lying “Zone A” territory, and I’m picking up a vague sense, bubbling up from Twitter, that the eventual death toll there may shock some people. (I have the same concern about New Jersey.) I don’t know this to be true, and I certainly hope I’m wrong — and also, I am cognizant of the need to take unconfirmed reports about possible death tolls with heapings of salt, recalling those “10,000 body bags” after Katrina. Still, I’m worried. I fear we don’t really have a good handle on Sandy’s human toll yet, and I worry that it may be worse than most of us suspect.