This October, Brooklyn residents will mark the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy whose high winds and surf wrought incredible devastation across the borough, in neighborhoods from Canarsie to Gerritsen Beach, Bensonhurst and Coney Island.
It took homeowners months, if not years, to rebuild; even as this milestone approaches, there are some who have yet to rebuild and recover fully. Even so, the climate is changing (though some may deny that), and the risk that we’ll be hit with another storm of Sandy’s caliber remains.
June 1 marked the start of the Atlantic hurricane season — prime time for tropical storms that could endanger the East Coast. Except for Sandy, a major hurricane (defined as a storm with winds in excess of 110 mph) hasn’t hit our shores in 12 years.
All streaks eventually break. America’s eventually getting another big hurricane; our area will eventually face another hurricane or superstorm comparable to Sandy. It’s critical for the federal government not only to respond to such an eventuality after it happens, but also to be prepared to deal with a big storm before it strikes.
As of June 1, there’s still no one in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which played a major role in responding to Sandy. There’s also no one in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, both of which monitor all kinds of coastal storms.
The president appoints the heads of FEMA and NOAA; as of now, his nominee for FEMA director is awaiting a confirmation hearing and a vote in the Senate. The president has not nominated anyone to head up NOAA.
It’s unconscionable that neither of these agencies has an appointed leader at the start of what could be a very active hurricane season.
What will the reaction be if Brooklyn gets hammered by another superstorm, and the federal government doesn’t respond quickly and appropriately? This city and state are ill-equipped to respond to such an emergency on their own; the people affected cannot rebuild their lives on charity alone.
We urge elected officials in Washington to step up their efforts to have new leadership in place as soon as possible at FEMA and NOAA. Brooklyn cannot afford a failure in leadership in Washington when the next big emergency hits.