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Scientists Have Warned Of Sandy-Like Floods In New York For Years

Hurricane Sandy flooding in New York

A year ago this month, we published a post on the importance of New York preparing for potentially devastating climate change effects. Last year, a government report predicted a third of New York City streets could be put under water from intense storms over the next couple of decades, and tunnels would be flooded in less than an hour due to the lack of preparation done by the city.

Shockingly, the report from last year is pretty spot-on with the damage done by Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have actually been warning the city for years that intense hurricanes and more frequent, severe flooding in low-lying areas could become a reality. New York City’s flood zone will gradually expand as sea levels rise to projected levels of 6 inches higher per decade. This means if Sandy is any indication of what’s to come, serious changes must be made in order to withstand the power of these coming storms.

The business districts are in the lowest areas of the city, putting them at the highest risk. LaGuardia and Kennedy airports are also sitting at sea level. Scientists have warned of the subway tunnels flooding, and Sandy is another example of climate science predictions being correct.

In the wake of Sandy, New York officials will be meeting with federal leaders to discuss projects that will help the city better handle severe storm surges, including barriers or a levee system. “Three of the top 10 highest floods at the Battery since 1900 have happened in the last two and a half years,” said Ben Strauss, director of the sea rise program at Climate Central. “If that’s not a wake up call to take this seriously, I don’t know what is.”

The fact that climate change is still a low priority, or even non–issue with many Americans, including politicians, is not going to stop sea levels rising and more intense storms arriving. Can we really afford any more instances like this where scientists get to say “hey, we told you so”? If we’re lucky, maybe the next presidential candidates will actually dare to even talk about it! What do you think?

Image CC licensed by David Shankbone: Hurricane Sandy flooding on Avenue C at East 6th Street.

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