Sandy was created by some extraordinary meteorological circumstances. we must plan ahead for the “Next Big One”. However, the silver lining to all the misery the superstorm brought upon Long Island and beyond is that it made pause, and take stock of where we are as a region.
Sandy showed us that our Island’s electrical system became antiquated, mismanaged and most importantly, vulnerable to Mother Nature. Tropical Storm Irene taught us about crisis communications, and Sandy allowed us to apply the lessons in real time. Both storms have moved us to take action, and ideally right the wrongs exposed by Sandy.
The storm exposed the coastal vulnerability that years of mismanaged developmental practices created. Further, Sandy hopefully taught us to respect Long Island’s floodplains and wetlands. Recently, Dr. Koppelman told Newsday that “Builders were able to get land as relative gifts. We lost more than two-thirds of the natural wetlands that existed at the beginning of the 20th century.” These past practices now must be corrected, because Sandy showed us the consequences of poor coastal management.
Sadly, too many homeowners and their neighbors on the South Shore became aware of the quagmire and red tape that comes with flood and homeowners insurance. Government must take action to advocate for the public, streamline the process, and let those who were hit hardest get the relief and support they need.
In school, we were taught of so-called “focusing events”, which according to Thomas Birkland are “…sudden calamities that cause both citizens and policymakers to pay more attention to a public problem and often to press for solutions.”
Sandy was Long Island’s focusing event. It highlighted regional weaknesses poor policies created, lack of oversight perpetuated and general malaise exacerbated.
The storm didn’t only highlight our regional weakness. It showed the world Long Island’s greatest asset- Long Islanders. Communities from Montauk to Elmont banded together, and helped one another rebuild not only the brick and mortar of their hometowns, but their spirit as well. Neighbors came together, and took those in who lost everything. From the hardest hit areas of Island Park, Long Beach, Lindenhurst, and Mastic Beach, the strength of residents showed the world the same strength and stubbornness that New Yorkers are known for.
Now, knowing the lessons from Gloria, Irene and Sandy, we can rebuild wiser, and brace ourselves for the Next Big One to come rumbling up our shores. The storm is coming. When it does, Long Islanders will be ready.