Hurricane Sandy, the second largest Atlantic storm in 24 years on record continues to hammer the outer banks of the Carolinas. On Sunday evening, Sandy was approximately 250 miles east of the North Carolina coast. Twelve states are expected to be affected by the massive storm, expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the southern New Jersey coast.
A statement issued by the National Hurricane Center on Sunday read:
“Sandy is currently moving past North Carolina is currently moving northeast at 15 mph with 75 mph winds, and is expected to make landfall somewhere over New Jersey.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in the state of New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. President Obama’s actions authorize the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the disaster in order to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.
Millions of Americans in cities and small towns along the East Coast are in the path of the nearly 500 nautical mile, category one hurricane. New York City and New Jersey officials are preparing for massive power outages and severe flooding. Subways, buses, trains and flights along the U.S. East Coast were halted on Sunday as the storm approaches.
During a press briefing on Sunday, FEMA’s administrator Craig Fugate warned:
“[Hurricane Sandy] is going to produce very high, potentially life-threatening storm surge … that may require additional evacuations today,”
Fugate emphasized that “the time for preparing and talking is about over” and that “the time to act is now.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incident management teams are already assisting emergency managers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont ahead of the storm. FEMA liaison officers have been deployed to emergency operations centers (EOC) in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
The height of water from the storm surge combined with the high tide is expected to range from 4 to 8 feet above ground level along a stretch of coast running from Maryland to Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Sunday.
Coastal “hot spots” including Long Island Sound, New York Harbor, and Raritan Bay could see surges of from six to 11 feet.
Emergency Management decision-makers around the world at some point are tasked with making the call to evacuate, and if so, when? Sometimes, it’s a question of life or death, many times it’s the billion dollar question, and decisions have political consequences. With less than two weeks until the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, politics are certain to play a significant role in the decision making process of Hurricane Sandy.
The correct “call” depends on the circumstances surrounding the disaster. In the United States, the decision to evacuate vs. sheltering in place is often debated, without any established best way. Seasoned veterans in disaster management are often biased, and over a span of decades a preference for one or the other tends to develop.
On Sunday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christi was the first to order mandatory evacuations. Evacuations have since been ordered across the Eastern seaboard. Additionally, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo announced the mobilization of the New York Army and Air National Guard to assist in the response efforts to Hurricane Sandy.