Nearly 5 years ago, Hurricane Sandy gained momentum across the Atlantic and eventually devastated many coastal cities, including my hometown Oceanside, NY. Governor Cuomo estimated New York State damages at $41.9 Billion. Hurricane Sandy was later deemed the largest and most powerful hurricane to have ever formed in the Atlantic Basin. The World Resources Institute reports that “evidence is mounting that human-induced warming is contributing to increased frequency and intensity of several types of extreme weather events, including heat waves, torrential downpours, and coastal flooding. These trends are expected to continue – with associated damages worsening – in an increasingly warmer world.” The increased frequency and intensity of weather events comes as a result of rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and increased precipitation- all resulting from a changing climate.
The record breaking magnitude of Hurricane Sandy exemplifies the potential for climate change to increase the intensity of weather events. New York Harbor wave heights were as high as 32.5 ft. Two cities- Dulles, VA and Baltimore, MD recorded the wettest day ever in October the day of Hurricane Sandy (October 29th). Additionally, numerous cities recorded an all-time low pressure.
The night the storm hit, I was a freshman in High School, racing to finish an essay for my first Model United Nations Conference that was due at midnight. At the time the laptop I had needed to be plugged in at all times. The lights began flickering as I proofread my completed paper. Before I could submit however, the whole house went black. Thankfully, my house is relatively far away from the ocean and the flooding, but a majority of my town was devastated. My Model United Nations trip got cancelled shortly after, due to the fact that my advisor’s house experienced flooding almost reaching the second floor of his house in Long Beach, NY. Neighbors reported colorful explosions in the sky the night of the storm, which was later confirmed as the exploding transformers. A whole block in a nearby neighborhood was burned down allegedly as a result of the exploding transformers, but it was rumored to be caused by an arsonist looking to ensure funds to repair houses after the storm damages. The days following the storm were surreal. Boats from nearby docks were carried blocks inland by the flooding waters, and nearly every seaside residence suffered basement or first floor flooding. The only places open were a pizza shop giving out free slices and water, and a firehouse that was receiving clothing and food donations. The storm disproportionately hurt low income families, who could not afford to pay for repairs to their homes and were given no other option but to move out of town.
After the wake of the storm, most houses did not regain electricity for several weeks. Public schools were even cancelled for a week and a half. It was a cold fall so many looked towards generators to heat their homes- I personally stayed over a friends house in the following days because my family did not have a generator. I also took advantage of the generator to charge my cell phone and keep updated about the aftermath of the storm. This shift towards generator use magnified gas dependence in the community. Each gas station had lines curling around the block. People were either looking to fill up their cars to get away from the flooded area or use the gas for generators. A movement towards more renewable energy sources such as Solar Power or Wind Power could minimize this reliance in the future. Additionally, it would limit the amount of greenhouse gas added to the atmosphere, further heating the planet.
Under Trump’s presidency, The United States is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. On November 7th 2017, Syria signed on to the agreement, making the United States the only Country in the United Nations who has not agreed to work collaboratively to prevent climate change. Considering the United States is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative for the U.S. to be fully involved in any international efforts to fight against it. I am currently majoring in Urban Studies with a concentration in Environmental Science and Sustainable Development with a Minor in Political Science at Barnard College. My hope is that my studies will enable me to implement policies in the United States that will prevent further anthropogenic climate change by corporations while also researching sustainable development plans for future city projects. Although my state New York has joined the U.S. Climate Alliance (a sub national coalition of states independently pledging to follow the goals of the Paris Agreement), cooperation must occur on the federal level to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to ongoing climate change.