As FEMA disperses $18 million in aid
The new overall death toll from Hurricane Sandy jumped to a startling 165 casualties Friday—with 96 deaths in the U.S. alone. According to FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, more than $18 million in federal aid money has been disbursed so far, with more reportedly on the way. From the Caribbean to the eastern United States, damaged areas are struggling to regain electricity as local providers estimate 3.529 million customers are still powerless. In an effort to help recover after the storm, the Red Cross has sent 4,000 workers across the nation to offer relief.
Blackouts and a barely functioning transportation system have magnified the economic costs of Sandy far beyond initial estimates.
Power outages that could last until late November, gas shortages, and a snarled public transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have more than doubled the estimated economic costs of Superstorm Sandy from initial estimates.
Tricia Burke walks over debris which washed up onto her property in the wake of superstorm Sandy, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Brick, N.J. Three days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, New York and New Jersey struggled to get back on their feet, the U.S. death toll climbed to more than 80, and more than 4.6 million homes and businesses were still without power. (Julio Cortez / AP Photo)
The insurance modeling firm Eqecat on Thursday released new estimates for both insured losses (amounts insurance companies will have to pay out) and total economic losses. Eqecat’s first estimates, widely cited in the media, put insured losses at $5-$10 billion and economic losses at $10-$20 billion. But after gathering more data, it boosted the loss estimates severely: insured losses of between $10 and $20 billion, and total economic losses of between $30 billion and $50 billion. These figures would put Sandy among the most economically damaging disasters in the United States. Moody’s has projected Sandy’s total economic cost from both property damage and depressed output at $50 billion. That’s just below the total cost of Hurricane Andrew, but well below the $157.1 billion and $98.6 billion in economic losses from Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 terrorist attacks respectively.
In a briefing Thursday afternoon, Eqecat employees explained that the estimate had gone up due to the prolonged effects that the storm will have on the densely populated and commercially vibrant New York and New Jersey coasts.
One specific factor that helps explain the wide range of the cost estimates is the potential payouts by insurers for business interruption. These types of policies can cover losses incurred due to the long-term effects of a storm—blackouts, disrupted transportation for employers and customers, and civil evacuations.
The loss estimates due to business interruption and lost income have risen for several reasons. There is considerable uncertainty about how long it will take for business owners and residents to come back to evacuated areas. It is unclear when power will be completely restored in many towns. And while some subways and trains have resumed running, the region’s vital public transit system could remain seriously degraded for at least another week.
The low end of the insured loss estimate would make Sandy the most expensive storm for insurers since Hurricane Ike in 2008. If estimates come in at the higher end of the range, it could be the costliest since Hurricane Katrina. David Smith, one of the lead modelers for Eqecat, said that the midpoint of the storm’s insured loss estimate, $15 billion, reflects the high cost of a “1-7 or 1-10 event that’s very significant in terms of impact.”
Another Eqecat employee specifically described the regional power losses as “unprecedented.” While he expects a full-on and successful restoration effort on the scale of Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 storm which caused some $54.5 billion in combined cost due to property destruction and loss of output, the restoration would will be massive and prolonged. Con Edison, the utility that serves New York, has said that power may not be fully restored until Nov. 10. The length of the expected restoration, combined with the disruption to transportation infrastructure, is another factor in the high potential cost of the storm.
A sobbing kid tired of ‘Bronco Bama’ and Mitt Romney captures a larger sentiment among many Americans this campaign season: Where was the passion and pathos last seen in 2008?
@Elizabeth Evans / Youtube
Abigael Evans became a viral sensation this week when her mom posted a video clip of the strawberry-blond cherub sobbing piteously that she was “tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.”
“It will be over soon,” her mom soothes in the clip, providing some much-needed uplift not merely to the teary tot but to an entire nation weary of this electoral squabble.
It’s not just that the modern presidential season goes on and on. And on. It’s not even that both of this year’s nominees are running campaigns as bloodless and uninspiring as any in recent memory. More broadly, this cycle, almost from the very beginning, has been virtually devoid of both sex appeal and pathos—an absence made all the more glaring when compared to the embarrassment of riches enjoyed in 2008.
Ah, 2008. Back then Barack Obama could melt a room with a single speech. Women fantasized about that smile, those ears … Chills went dancing up Chris Matthews’s manly leg. The candidate’s supercoolness inspired a smokin’-hot Obama Girl video. Actress Scarlett Johansson struck up an email relationship with the aspiring POTUS that started tongues wagging. It was all so very, very seductive.
And Obama wasn’t even the Democratic contender caught with his fly open that year! That distinction went to John Edwards, who, in October 2007, in the thick of the primaries, found himself grappling with tabloid rumors that he’d managed to knock up some videographer working for his campaign. So desperate and deluded was Johnny that it took another two-plus months for him to leave the race. And, ultimately, his sexcapades proved to be so beyond the pale—even by the standards of high-level politics—that they crossed the border from lascivious into grotesque. But all that sneaking around and whispers about a love child certainly kept things interesting for a time.
The dangling crane. A Chelsea building with its front ripped away. Sightseers in New York City are forsaking the Statue of Liberty and Central Park in favor of the effects of Frankenstorm.
Forget the Statue of Liberty or Central Park. New York’s new most photographed sights are the remnants of damage wrought by the Sandy superstorm Monday night. With traditional attractions closed and others difficult to get to without full subway service, tourists have turned remaining evidence of the notorious Frankenstorm into photo ops.
Double-decker tour buses resumed operations in New York City, Thursday. (Beth J. Harpaz / AP)
Floodwaters have receded, but fallen trees, shuttered stores and locals huddled around improvised cellphone charging stations can still be found as evidence of the storm’s destructive wake throughout lower Manhattan days afterwards. And there are even bigger draws—the true disaster sites like the crane precariously dangling above 57th Street, and the exposed apartment building in Chelsea missing its entire façade.
Steven Johnson, a tour guide for Gray Line, which resumed service Thursday, was loading passengers into the open-air bus in Times Square. Passengers had asked about the nearby dangling crane earlier in the day, so he tweaked the bus route to stop there for people to take pictures. “It happens to be right around the corner from our route anyway,” he said. “So that was a nice little interesting thing for people to see.”
When the top of a massive, 90-story crane snapped in Midtown on Monday night, Edvin and Michael Paul, a father and son visiting from Sweden, were right below it. Michael screamed, and the two ran down the street with other frantic passersby. Thursday afternoon, at 57th Street and 6th Avenue, they stood alongside dozens gathered to get a few more photos of the building.
Police barricades kept onlookers off the street, but the distance didn’t prevent an endless stream of tourists from snapping pictures of themselves and the precariously hanging crane. Edvin already had a ton, which he’d posted on Facebook to show incredulous friends and family back home. The street was packed—in the course of a half hour, dozens of people stopped to stare and get a photo of the wreckage. “You’ve gotta be kidding me, people! Get a life,” one woman mumbled in typically gruff New Yorker fashion as she pushed through the crowd.
Posing for pictures a few feet away was a woman from Spain who said she had come to the area just for a picture with the crane behind her. Nearby, two journalists from Colombia documented the scene and said they planned to head downtown tomorrow just to see “the situation and behavior after the storm.” One, Alejandra Quintero, had been on 14th Street when the Con Edison transformer exploded, effectively cutting off power for thousands. She spent two days without electricity or running water, but “life goes on,” she said, shrugging.
A couple getting off the Gray Line tour bus had just flown in from Mexico City on Wednesday night, missing the stormy conditions. The wife shook her head about her husband’s enthusiasm for the storm. He was disappointed he’d missed the storm, and said he would have liked to have been downtown in the midst of it. “I was hoping we’d get here in time. I’m kind of a storm chaser.” The two were supposed to sing with a choir at Carnegie Hall that week, but their show was canceled because of the dangerous crane nearby.
But won't venture into NYC.
As New Jersey residents struggle without electricity and an ever-shrinking gas supply, this is a welcome piece of good news: New Jersey Transit will be back up and running with limited service on Friday morning, but won’t be making the trip in to New York City. The state is slated to receive $10 million in emergency aid to fix roads and bridges that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Governor Chris Christie said the state will be getting a quarter-million gallons of gasoline that Obama ordered, and that tomorrow will see 14,000 workers doing power restoration. Patience, patience, residents of the Garden State.
As fist fights break out at gas stations
Considering they live in the country’s most walkable city, New Yorkers sure seem to need a lot of gasoline. The fuel shortage resulting from Hurricane Sandy worsened Thursday, leading to fist fights and a mile-long line up the Garden State Parkway. The owner of an Exxon in Montclair told the New York Times disputes on the line got so heated he called the police and turned off the pumps for 45 minutes to restore calm. “My nose, my mouth is bleeding from the fumes. The fighting just makes it worse,” he said. Though city officials warned taxi cab supply will likely dwindle Friday, they announced an agreement with a major supplier will ensure emergency operations have enough fuel to operate.
As New Yorkers get restless without power.
Hurricane Sandy’s official death toll reached 90 on Thursday evening, as repair crews and government officials raced to restore power and basic services in the areas devastated by the superstorm. Thirty-eight were killed in New York City alone, where residents were getting restless after three days without electricity and a fully functioning mass-transit system. Bridges to the city were opened, but authorities imposed a carpooling rule that required at least three people in each vehicle. Gasoline shortages have forced many cab and car-service companies to pull vehicles off the roads, further complicating an already delicate transportation situation.
As state scrambles to keep voting on schedule.
The election must go on. Despite the widespread destruction Hurricane Sandy brought to New Jersey, state officials are working overtime to make sure voters get a chance to cast their ballots. New Jersey announced Thursday it will deploy military trucks to use as polling stations, and county clerks’ offices will stay open through the weekend to process mail-in ballots. New Jersey officials are also allowing registered voters to pick up mail-in ballots through the Nov. 6 election. The Garden State has 3,000 polling locations, and it’s not clear how many of them have power.
The deniers have been beaten by Sandy and other overwhelming evidence. The question now: what do we do?
Since I’ve spent the last 25 years writing about climate change, I have some sense of the ebb and flow of the issue, from the moment in 1988 when George H.W. Bush promised to ‘fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect’ to the 2006 debut of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s documentary on the subject. But I have the sense that today, in the grim wake of Sandy, we may have reached some kind of … sea change doesn’t seem quite the right image, given this week’s events. Watershed? Turn of the tide? Something important has happened.
Charlie DiBuono cleans mud and debris from his flooded garage in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Little Ferry, N.J. Surprise coastal surge floods caused by the storm battered Little Ferry, Moonachie and some other towns along the Hackensack River in Bergen County _ all areas unaccustomed to flooding. (Mike Groll / AP Photo)
There are two pieces of evidence. One is the cover of today’s issue of BusinessWeek, which says, in very large letters, above a picture of a flooded street, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” In a straightforward accompanying piece, Paul Barrett catalogues the arguments from both the scientific labs and the insurance companies about why Sandy comes as no surprise. Sure, he says, it’s all complex, but “clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Sandy demands it.”
Now, I confess that BusinessWeek may mean more to me than to most people—my dad wrote for it for the first 15 years of my life, serving as Canadian and then Boston bureau chief. It was always serious, a magazine for businesspeople. (In those days, for businessmen.) That it is telling the unvarnished truth on its cover says to me that Sandy has driven this message out of the environmental eddies and into the mainstream.
Second piece of evidence: the Fox newscast this morning, where a reporter tried to grapple with Andrew Cuomo’s forthright declaration that “anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality.” She says, sure, everyone agrees that the planet is warming, but the problem is “there’s no consensus on what’s causing it. Is it solar flares, is it the Mars wobbles, is it the earth’s axis tilting in a different way? I mean, that’s the issue.” (She’s soon joined by a colleague who adds his own reporting: “when the Eric the Red left Greenland, the only reason he had to leave was because of the little ice age.”)
I know that the point of Fox News is to provide fodder for The Daily Show.
But usually at least they try—they’ve been running specials for years featuring the same tiny band of climate deniers, gamely offering up their dog-eared and out-of-date studies in service to the fossil fuel industry. But “Mars wobbles?” It almost sounds like they’ve given up. It’s like they’re just doing Jon Stewart’s work for him without any need for Comedy Central.
No doubt the fossil-fuel industry—the richest industry on earth, and most politically powerful—will fight back. (Just last week Chevron gave the largest corporate political donation since Citizen’s United, $2.5 million to a rightwing Super-PAC). But this feels kind of like the day when all the tobacco executives trotted up to Capitol Hill and raised their hands to swear that they’d been doing the Lord’s work back at Philip Morris and RJR. It feels like the day when normal people—not just science-obsessed enviros—start shaking their heads at the mugs who stand up for the fossil-fuel industry.
‘This is about helping the city.’
The race will go on, and not everyone is happy about it. Mary Wittenburg, chief executive of race organizer New York Road Runners, defended the group’s decision not to cancel the five-borough race, scheduled to take place Sunday, despite the city-wide devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. “This isn’t about running, this is about helping the city,” she said. “We’re dedicating the race to the lives that were lost and helping the city recover.” Mayor Bloomberg, who sees the race as opportunity to reignite economic activity in the city and raise money for relief charities, supports the decision: “The city is a city where we have to go on.”
Says climate change spurred the decision.
The two biggest national news stories converged Thursday, when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a brief respite from ushering recovery to the Big Apple in order to endorse President Barack Obama in the presidential race. Bloomberg, a staunch independent who has been openly critical of Obama in the past, said that the president’s plans to combat climate change is what led to the surprise decision. “The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast—in lost lives, lost homes, and lost business—brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” he wrote in a column for Bloomberg View.
Slumber party or living hell? With power out in most of lower Manhattan, NYU students were forced to evacuate their dorms and bunk together. Inside the makeshift hurricane-relief center.
Budding doctors, actors, stock traders, lawyers, and writers all had a slumber party Wednesday night.
People play board games in an East Village restaurant on Wednesday in New York City. (Abby Haglage)
When Sandy ripped through Manhattan earlier this week, it left most of lower Manhattan ravaged, flooded, and, most lastingly, without power. Below 39th Street, most buildings remain dark, including many of those owned by New York University, the city’s largest academic institution. Approximately 12,000 NYU students live in 21 NYU residence halls spread across Manhattan. As of Wednesday afternoon, seven of those buildings were running with emergency lighting and water, but the majority of the other buildings were completely without power, leaving university administrators scrambling to provide safe shelter for approximately 6,000 of its charges.
The solution: forced sleepovers and a veritable university refugee camp.
Beginning Tuesday night, hundreds of students flocked to the Kimmel Center, NYU’s student life building on Washington Square Park, to receive hot meals, charge their phones, contact worried relatives, and claim prime location on various floors of the nine-story building for their sleeping bags. By Wednesday afternoon, after administrators ordered the evacuation of 12 residence halls, that number was closer to—if not above, according to estimates—a thousand. Blankets, overnight bags, sleeping bags, pillows, iPads, books, and students were splayed throughout the building.
“It looked like the Superdome did during Katrina,” said John Surico, an NYU senior who writes for the university’s news blog, NYU Local.
While NYU, impressively, sustained “virtually no” damage, NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman tells The Daily Beast that how to accommodate students going on 48 hours without power became a pressing issue. Beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday, occupants of seven residence halls who couldn’t find housing with friends or family elsewhere in the city were ordered to evacuate for the night and sent to Kimmel, where power from NYU’s co-generation plant kept the lights on, wifi working, water running, and the building heated. Five additional buildings were paired with five dorms that still had power—or at least emergency lights and electricity. Students in those buildings have been forced to open their doors to strangers.
“People are staying in our rooms on the floor,” says freshman Cameron Noble, who lives at Goddard Hall, NYU’s smallest dorm, forced to host stranded students because it was one of the only buildings with power. “Some might have to stay in the hallways.”
Now that business is slowly getting back to normal, commuters are ready to get back on the roads—but they’re going to have to wait on some mighty long lines for gas first. Areas hit hard by Sandy in the New York metropolitan area were seeing gas shortages already on Thursday, leading to concerns that prices for gas could spike. “The price spike will last several days, probably as long as a week, and then it will depend on whether or not some of the key facilities get back on line,” said John Kilduff of Again Capital. Currently it’s impossible to make deliveries to many stations in the region.
Will deliver one million hot meals and bottled water.
There's relief in sight for stranded New York City residents: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday the National Guard and FEMA will deliver one million hot meals and bottled water to areas most affected by the hurricane. While the city's electrical company, Con Edison, said power should be restored to Manhattan by this weekend, other parts of the city could remain without power for longer and be stranded. Staten Island in particular took a particularly harsh hit from the storm: roughly 113,000 residents are without power and are not expected to get it back for 10 days, while the city's main transport to Manhattan, the ferry, is closed.
New Yorkers faced long lines Thursday morning as many attempted to get to Manhattan by bus or ferry. See photos shared on Twitter.
Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.
As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.