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Energy Crisis Created During Hurricane Sandy Has Still Not Recovered

Written: January 2019

Almost seven years after Hurricane Sandy made landfall off the Atlantic coast of the United States, and the New Jersey Shoreline still has not recovered from the damage the Category 2 storm wreaked in 2012.

Making landfall on the East Coast of the U.S. on Oct. 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused 117 deaths and inflicted billions of dollars of damage, according to Columbia University.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm “ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.” The storm also affected states up the coast from Florida to Maine and reached more than 1,000 miles in diameter.


The history making storm, which forced the New York Stock Exchange to close for two consecutive days, the first time since 1888, caused power outages, gas rationing, and states of emergency in multiple states along the East Coast, according to CNN. 


One of the areas hit hardest during the storm was energy. The NIH states that after the storm hit, “the greatest public health threat was from loss of power.” 

Wreaking havoc on the lives of residents along the East Coast, the storm accounted for more than 8.5 million customers throughout 21 states to lose power, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Consolidated Edison Inc. estimates the total “response and restoration costs” of power outages during Hurricane Sandy and the Nor’easter storm that followed could “reach 450 million” dollars.

With the power outages and extreme weather conditions, the storm caused for 20,254 flights to be cancelled, according to World Resources Institute.

One particular group of people who were severely affected by the power loss were elderly living in multi-story nursing homes in the Rockaways area of New York.

“What they [search teams] found was frightening,” Nastaran Mohit, volunteer for the nonprofit group Occupy Sandy, said in an interview with NIH. “There were literally thousands of elderly people trapped in the upper floors of these buildings. The hallways were pitch black. Many apartments were without functioning plumbing. People were living in their own feces…We found residents who had gone for weeks without pain or cancer medication.”

The NIH reports that two months after the storm, many thousands of residents in the Rockaways were still without power or functioning elevators.

“There is a misconception that if a major storm hits, someone is going to take care of you,” Mohit said. “It’s just not true.”

Hurricane Sandy’s effect on power on the East Coast caused many residents of the area to purchase backup generators for future emergencies.

“We believe underinvestment in the electrical grid, an ageing population, an increased reliance on uninterruptable power and data, and more severe weather will drive demand for our residential and industrial backup generators well into the future,” Chief Executive of Generac Aaron Jagdfeld said in an interview with National Geographic.

The increase in generator purchases, though, could lead to more cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.


“Before the hurricane none of my neighbors had generators, but after Sandy they all did,” Brian Buckley, executive director of laboratories at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), said in an interview with Environmental Health Perspectives. “The proliferation of devices in neighborhoods will change the magnitude of the local CO exposure issue during the next blackout.”

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by Nov. 6, 2012 there were 263 reports of CO exposure. This report included four deaths.

The energy infrastructure of the New York Tri-State area during Hurricane Sandy was vulnerable, but leaders say lessons were learned by the experience. 

“There is always room for improvement, and Sandy has illustrated ways our energy systems are still vulnerable to disruption,” Former Under Secretary of Energy David Sandalow said according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

copyright 2020 Kimberly Stefanick

designed & created by Kimberly Stefanick

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