Environmental Advocates: Let's Start Preparing For the Next Sandy

Apr 29, 2013

As the region continues to recover in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, environmental advocates are pushing for rebuilding in a smarter way to protect against future storms. As WNPR’s Neena Satija reports, they gathered last week in a summit to discuss the future of Long Island Sound.

The memories of Sandy that are freshest in many minds are from New York and New Jersey – a decimated Jersey Shore, a flooded Staten Island, more than 100 lives lost. But for Nickitas Georgas, a senior research engineer at the Stevens Institute of Technology, the focus should be on what could have happened.

“With all the devastation from Sandy, some parts of the region could have had it much worse," Georgas says.

Including coastal Connecticut. The point is that Sandy moved more slowly than many expected over New Jersey, and so in Connecticut the storm surge came several hours earlier than high tide. Had the two coincided, the surge could easily have been as deadly as it was in places like the Rockaways in Queens.

“It’s not a crazy scenario to think about having Sandy just seven, eight hours earlier.”

Georgas presented his findings at a summit in New York last week put together by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. The summit focused on ways to use the tens of billions of dollars now available from the federal Sandy bill to repair damage and protect against future storms.

Connecticut’s allocation has so far been pretty small – just about $71 million that the state wants to use mostly for home repair and flood proofing. But Susan Whalen, deputy commissioner for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, says more money is on the way. The state is thinking about using some of that for a buyout program for homeowners on the waterfront, though that will be controversial.

“And of course, you’re dealing with people who, in  many cases, have lived in these homes for generations, and it’s something we would want to do on a voluntary basis," Whalen says.

Advocates say we need to act fast to protect ourselves. And early reports suggest that the upcoming hurricane season will be even more brutal than the last.