Is NJ ready for another Sandy?
Two years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, the state still isn’t stronger than the storm.
According to an expert with the Urban Coast Institute (UCI) at Monmouth University, New Jersey has bounced back, but not enough, and there are plenty of challenges to overcome before the “next big storm” and smaller events in between.
“I think there’s still significant risk,” said Tony MacDonald, director of UCI.
MacDonald noted the state is acting aggressively with beach replenishment projects, but said “they’re not the full answer” because flooding from the back bays, as evidenced by Sandy, can be devastating as well.
Towns like Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach saw a secondary impact from Sandy due to storm surge from the bay. At the same time, the Barnegat Bay and Atlantic Ocean met in the middle of Ocean County’s Route 35, which is currently undergoing a major reconstruction project.
“Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the back bays because in the future, I think that’s going to be a big challenge,” MacDonald said. “We really haven’t had any programs that comprehensively looked at that.”
Along the coast, the state is still seeking hundreds of easements from homeowners for dune work.
MacDonald said New Jersey’s urban areas need more attention as well, suggesting cities such as Hoboken were not developed with storms like Sandy in mind.
“Our urban areas that are really at risk – that’s where most of the people and most of the jobs are,” he said.
On a positive note, New Jersey’s major utilities have been working to strengthen their infrastructure. Towns, meanwhile, have used the lessons learned by Sandy to develop smoother evacuation plans in order to get residents out of harm’s way.
MacDonald said New Jersey is “better prepared” than pre-Sandy, but the state needs more than that.
According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 37,000 primary residences in New Jersey were destroyed or damaged during Sandy, and 8.7 million cubic yards of debris was left behind. According to the Christie administration, Sandy cost the state nearly $30 billion.