Craig Seldin on Hurricane Sandy and America’s disaster preparedness


Urban America could not be less hysterical in anticipating the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, although it was not alone in the damages. Power outage and flash floods in New York contrasted with a death toll of more than 200 in countries that the Atlantic hurricane affected. Only the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans presented a more devastating picture in both casualties and worth of damages.

It is disheartening to see a ravaged urban landscape, with its bustling life disrupted by the forces of fire and flood. Communities burned to the ground in Queens while the subway system in New York was an intractable piece of technology for days. For a country with a record of penetrating outer space, this picture presented a truly remarkable contrast of helplessness.

All the more as arguments about disaster preparedness have been floated in the following days of damage assessment. The damage is estimated at more than 20 billion dollars, calling in the nightmare of destruction that was Hurricane Katrina. In that particular disaster, people have wondered whether better disaster preparation could have been a mitigating consolation. All the floodwater under the bridge could only render useless the flashback of solutions.

What’s certain is that federal assistance will bankroll recovery for New Jersey and affected communities. But given the record of the United States’ vulnerability against disasters, federal action and budget could (and should) be split by post-disaster response and the anticipation of the next hurricane’s landfall.