Years of poor land-use decisions and neglect of emergency preparedness probably made the losses of life and property from superstorm Sandy significantly worse. Similar situations exist in other U.S. coastal areas.
"With historic ferocity, Sandy pounded the shorelines ... , leaving a trail of destruction without parallel in New York and New Jersey, two states that bore the brunt of the impact. The storm's most destructive feature was a wind-driven wall of water that swept in at high tide and engulfed low-lying coastal areas with an unrelenting fury.
The surge flattened whole communities on New Jersey's barrier islands, causing untold billions in damage, and topped seawalls in lower Manhattan and throughout the metropolitan area, plunging millions into darkness. It also claimed lives, especially on Staten Island, where 21 people drowned during the storm.
Given the size and power of the storm, much of the damage from the surge was inevitable. But perhaps not all. Some of the damage along low-lying coastal areas was the result of years of poor land-use decisions and the more immediate neglect of emergency preparations as Sandy gathered force, according to experts and a review of government data and independent studies.
Authorities in New York and New Jersey simply allowed heavy development of at-risk coastal areas to continue largely unabated in recent decades, even as the potential for a massive storm surge in the region became increasingly clear."