People living along the Gulf Coast have long accepted hurricanes as a fact of life—one that brings with it torrential rain, howling winds, and devastating hailstorms. The Mid-Atlantic has been hit with a few big storms over the past two centuries—some of which caused major damage and even death—but historically, most of us here in New York haven't considered ourselves to be residents of 'hurricane country.' That nonchalance changed in 2012 with the impact of Superstorm Sandy. With billions of dollars in damaged and destroyed property, thousands of displaced residents, power outages affecting hundreds of thousands for days on end, and loss of human life, that epic weather event was unlike anything most New York natives had ever experienced.
“Forty-three New Yorkers lost their lives” to Sandy, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in the 2013 State of the City address, “and it's up to us to do all we can to prevent that from happening again. After the storm passed, it was clear that the houses and businesses most damaged by Hurricane Sandy were built decades ago, while those that were built in the last few years, or are now being built, held up pretty well. That was no accident.”
With all indicators pointing to the likelihood of more and bigger storms in the coming years, it's crucial for managers, boards, and residents of the city's multifamily buildings to take steps to keep both people and property as safe as possible when the inevitable strikes. Property managers and boards must develop and implement intelligent, workable storm preparation and evacuation strategies, and residents must be aware of those strategies. It’s easier said than done.
Big Apple, Big Weather
While the geography of cities like New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco make them susceptible to natural disasters and catastrophic weather events, New York’s historical dark days have generally had man-made origins: fires, gas explosions, blackouts, and of course, terrorist attacks. But there is “weather” in the Big Apple, too.
In 1821, the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane, now thought to be a Category 3 storm, made landfall at Jamaica Bay. The storm surged 13 feet in just one hour, and much of Manhattan south of Canal Street was flooded. Despite being the only hurricane to make a direct hit in the nation’s largest city, few deaths were reported.