What happened, the aftermath, a photo gallery, how to help and how to prepare for future superstorms
WHAT HAPPENED: Frankenstorm Sandy
Hurricane Sandy started in Jamaica on Monday, October 22nd and became a post-tropical cyclone. It whirled up the East Coast and made landfall on October 29th at 8 pm near Atlantic City, NJ.
Hurricane Sandy struck with winds of 80 mph. A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and magnified the storm surge. The storm's incredibly wide swirl of winds and rain produced record surges of water up the Jersey Shore, New York City, Connecticut and Long Island.
New York Harbor's surf also reached a record level when a buoy measured a 32.5-foot wave that day.
Seawater surged over Lower Manhattan's seawalls and roadways and into low-lying streets. The water flooded tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street. Even some hospital patients and stranded tourists had to scramble for safety. Skyscrapers swayed in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown. A tanker ship ran aground on the city's Staten Island.
AFTER THE FRANKENSTORM: Extensive blackouts, floods, fires and shutdowns throughout the NYC metropolitan area
Hurricane Sandy left thousands of people homeless and millions of people without power.
Streets were flooded, trees and power lines knocked down and people in many low-lying areas were stranded in their homes and had to wait for rescue boats for help. Shorefront stretches of NJ, Long Island, Staten Island and Queens were demolished with roads completely washed out and cars scattered across the beach. More than 100 homes were destroyed in one fire in Breezy Point, Queens. Several other fires were started throughout the New York metro area.
The death toll from Sandy as of Nov. 1 was at least 149. The confirmed deaths include residents from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina and the Caribbean.
As a result of the Hurricane hitting the most densely populated area in the country, Superstorm Sandy is estimated to be the second most expensive storm in U.S. History (forecasting firm Eqecat). It will rank right behind Hurricane Katrina.
The subway shutdowns and blocked roadways pushed the cost of the storm higher than expected. New York City's subway system is one of the most efficient in the world; over 4.3 million people ride the NYC subways every day. Sandy caused the worst damage in the NY subway's 108-year history. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority started limited subway service on Thursday (three days after the storm hit), but large sections of the largest mass-transit system in the U.S. are still disabled.
More than 12,000 flights were canceled due to the hurricane and the three main airports which serve New York City were shut down for two days.
There was no trading for two days on Wall Street as a result of the storm damage. The last time the New York Stock Exchange closed for two consecutive days for weather-related reasons was 1888.
The Greenwich Village Halloween parade was postponed for the first time in the parade’s 39-year-history.
The New York City Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 42-year history.
According to the Department of Energy, Sandy knocked out electricity for more homes and businesses than any other storm in history.
Time reported that the day after the storm, 8.4 million people were without power (7% of the U.S. population). Three days after the storm (Thursday, Oct. 25th), about 4.7 million people in 15 states were still without electricity. The worst affected states were New Jersey (almost 2 million customers) and New York (1.5 million customers). Five days after the storm (Saturday, Oct. 27th), about 600,000 New Jersey residents and 900,000 New York residents were still without power. Overnight temperatures were in the 30s.
Utility crews came from all over the country to help restore the battered power network. The task was daunting- workers had to work nonstop cutting back trees and untangling wires and cables. After Sandy, New York utilities restored power to at least 95 percent of customers 13 days after the peak number of outages was reported. New Jersey reached that same level in 11 days and West Virginia in 10 days.
Some places were without power for longer than 15 days.
Most gas stations in New York City and New Jersey were closed because of power outages and low fuel supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and motorists waited in line for hours to refill. Frustrated people drove to Pennsylvania or other locations more than 60 miles away (if they had enough gas in their tanks) to refuel.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie imposed gasoline rationing, and New York City and Long Island quickly followed suit. Residents with license plates ending in an even number were able to buy gas on even-numbered days and residents with plates ending in an odd number could purchase gas on odd-numbered days.
The Department of Defense also set up free emergency mobile fuel stations in the New York City area.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter played a key role in Sandy's aftermath, distributing news, connecting people and families, and organizing volunteer efforst and donations.
HOW TO HELP
There are still many ways to help people affected by the hurricane, even weeks after the storm. If you live by affected areas, check out town and local organizations for to help in person or to donate food, money or supplies.
Occupy Sandy is collecting supplies and donations and leading a series of grassroots on-the-scene effots in New York and New Jersey. The group is also running a registry of needed supplies through Amazon.
New York Cares has a frequently-updated list of volunteer opportunities around New York City abd Jersey Cares has a list for volunteer efforts for communities in New Jersey.
If you aren't able to personally volunteer to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, it doesn't mean you can't help at all.
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit organization established in 1994 to aid City programs, has created a place to donate specifically for Hurricane Sandy relief.
To donate to the American Red Cross for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, go to redcross.org, call (800) RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to place a $10 donation which will be applied to your telephone bill. To volunteer, go to redcross.org.
To contribute to the United Way, visit UWSandyRecovery.org.
The Salvation Army has dozens of mobile feeding units and shelters along the East Coast that are working to serve thousands in the most heavily hit areas. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org to donate.
FOR DISASTER SURVIVORS
Register for Assistance: survivors in declared counties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island can register for assistance. Learn more: information and FAQs before you apply for assistance.
Disaster Recovery Centers: a Disaster Recovery Center is a readily accessible facility or mobile office survivors may go for information about FEMA or other disaster assistance programs, or for questions related to your case.
LOOKING FORWARD: Protective planning for future superstorms
Hurricane Sandy will cost an estimated $60 billion in property damages and lost business. But optimists are hoping that the rebuilding will create jobs, revive the local econoy and rebuild the NYC metropolitan area in a smarter way to protect against future storms.
Organizations like Architecture for Humanity and Global Green are proposing to rebuild devastated areas with smarter designs, and The New York Times covered three innovative ideas by design and engineering firms for rebuilding after Sandy. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after the storm hit: "I'm hopeful that not only will we rebuild this city and metropolitan area, but we use this as an opportunity to build it back smarter."
Proposed plans include: a smart grid, a plan that would save energy and reduce the chance of extensive power outages; permeable paving and ecological drainage to reduce flooding; and rebuilding using new green architecture, including well-insulated homes and buildings that don't just rely on electricity and fossil fuels for heat and power.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREPARE
Cellphone reception was spotty for days along coasts and in many areas hit by the storm. In some areas, the lack of electricity and washed-out roads cut off communities from information, help and supplies for days.
Be prepared for future emergencies and superstorms: besides having an emergency supply of non-perishables and water, make sure that you have at least one old-fashioned (non digital, non cordless) phone since the phone line carries its own power, a crank radio and a hand-crank flashlight. There are multi-fuction devices that combine hand-crank or solar powered flashlight, radio, and phone charger for emergencies..
Prepare GOOD bags and put them in your home and your car. Have a disaster plan with your family in place, including reunion points and evacuation routes.