Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sandy's lessons include: put parks, not houses, on the beach

Terra Daily via SPX: Just days before Hurricane Sandy hit the New York and New Jersey coastline on 29 October 2012, scientists from the City University of New York's (CUNY) College of Staten Island had produced the most detailed model to date of the region's potential for damage from big storms.

So naturally, the morning after the floods receded from Staten Island, CUNY geology professor Alan I. Benimoff was out mapping the high-water marks in the flooded neighborhoods. There he discovered that his team's pre-Sandy model had been right on the money.

...In public discussions, Benimoff does not mince words. As a scientist, he says, he has an obligation to communicate data clearly to non-scientists. "To paraphrase our governor: There are some parcels of land that Mother Nature owns, and when she comes to visit, she visits," Benimoff says. "The reality is that these particular barrier islands are uniquely vulnerable to storm surges. They have a lot of coastal and wetland that never should have been built on.

...The College of Staten Island scientists' five-point plan recommends:
  • Protect the existing natural barriers -- the beaches and dunes;
  • Build them higher;
  • Rezone in the flood zone to prevent home construction. Buy these properties and turn them into parks, which will sponge up the inevitable floodwaters and partially protect the islands' higher lands....
  • Be very careful about engineering solutions such as sea barriers because they will not only be expensive but also protect one stretch of beach at the expense of its neighbor. ...
  • Teach coastal residents how to survive a hurricane...
Effects of Hurricane Sandy at the Edward B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, shot by Don Freiday via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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