Sandy Devastates U.S East Coast

Nov 4, 2012 By Deepa Gopal
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She claimed 59 lives in the Caribbean, swept across Cuba, and then instead of veering east into the Atlantic -- Sandy, a category 1 hurricane, headed toward the U.S North-east.

Evacuation orders were given. New York city's subways, buses and trains were suspended. President Barack Obama cut short his campaign trip to return to the capital to monitor the situation. Sandy had developed into a storm of epic proportions. And when she hit the shores of New York and New Jersey, nothing could escape her fury.

A Superstorm

We had written here about how hurricanes form. Any hurricane which take a similar path to Sandy usually gets weaker as it runs into cool ocean water and unfavorable winds. However, record temperatures and drought-like conditions in the U.S over summer have resulted in more moisture than usual over the seas.

As Sandy built-up strength from this moisture, she collided with a cold weather system from Canada and turned into a superstorm. This type of storm -- which builds on the pressure difference between a warm and cold front, is quite rare. Sandy had grown into a 'Frankenstorm' and was nearly 1,000 miles wide when it hit land. To make matters worse, the storm coincided with the full moon, when ocean tides are 20% higher than normal. This caused the winds to push more water into low-lying areas. 

The Recovery

With 100 people dead, 8.5 million left without power, 20,000 flights stranded and $20 billion in damage -- Sandy is ranked among the worst storm disasters to hit the U.S. One of the most visible signs of struggle in the aftermath of Sandy is fuel shortage and long lines snaking at gas stations.

While water has started receding, many homes are uninhabitable leading to one of the worst housing crisis in many cities. The local governments have been doing their best to clean up neighborhoods, provide food assistance, and restore electricity. However nearly 2 million are still without power -- and a cold front is expected later this week. 

Under pressure from the public, Michael Bloomberg, New York City's mayor called off the New York marathon that was to be held last Sunday. For the runners gathered in the city, it was disappointing for some had come from countries such as Germany and Italy. Everyone instead pitched in to help the storm victims. 

With election a day away, voters in New Jersey can now cast their ballot via email or fax instead of driving to polling places. Hurricane Sandy has also put the issue of climate change and global warming back in the spotlight. How will Sandy shape the elections? We will know on Tuesday, November 6.