Paper No. 73-5
Presentation Time: 9:10 AM
GEOMORPHIC IMPACT OF HURRICANE SANDY ON STATEN ISLAND, NY
Whereas hurricane Irene was primarily a rain event for Staten Island, Sandy was a storm surge event. In both cases the wind damage was small compared to most hurricanes. Hurricane Sandy is responsible for 43 deaths in NYC of which 53 % came from Staten Island. It is also responsible for massive destruction in the coastal region of Staten Island, NY. In natural settings, tidal marshes, bays, estuaries, coastal dune fields, and barrier islands dissipate the storm’s energy. In the New York area, marshes and bays, like Jamaica Bay, act as a natural “sponge” to absorb the energy of the wind and storm surge. Unfortunately, in New York, and on the eastern shore of Staten Island, like many urban areas, we have “hardscaped” the sponge with roads, parking lots, housing developments, stores, hospitals, schools, bridges, trains and all elements of urbanization. This comes at a cost when these structures absorb the energy. There is a place for seawalls, barriers, storm doors and other engineering marvels. However, often the best way is to preserve as many natural sponges - wetlands, barrier islands, and dune fields -- as possible. Particularly devastated are the South Beach, Midland Beach and Oakwood areas of Staten Island. Benimoff (2010) studied the urbanization of Hurricane SLOSH zones in Staten Island, NY. According to the 1900 topographic maps these areas were once wetlands. Our GIS analysis shows that the storm surge (approximately 12-14 feet) from Sandy exceeded the boundaries of SLOSH Zone 1 and NYC Hurricane Evacuation Zone A. Certain creeks in this low-lying mid-island bluebelt area served as “storm surge waterways" bringing the surge into areas a mile from the shoreline. As we rebuild following Sandy, we need to be mindful of natural processes.