1 Reflections on Sandy: Understanding What Happened & Where Do We Go From Here? NCEM-ECU Annual Hurricane Workshop May 22, 2013 Gary Szatkowski Philadelphia/Mount Holly, NJ Office x222
2 Mount Holly NJ The area we serve is shaded in green 34 counties in four states Over 11 million people We issue weather, water & climate forecasts & warnings for the protection of life & property, and to enhance the national economy.
3 Sandy what happened
4 Performance NWS Mount Holly began issuing briefing packages on Tuesday, October 23 rd Weather watches were issued +/- 55 hours before event. Weather warnings issued +/- 40 hours before event
5 Winds Strong winds will develop along coastal sections today and spread inland. Strong damaging winds will continue from late Sunday night through Monday into Tuesday morning. Winds gusts over 75 mph are possible over coastal sections. Inland locations will see peak wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph at the height of the storm.
6 Coastal flooding tools Major coastal flooding is expected based on the current track forecast. Record coastal flooding is likely. A 12 to 15 foot storm tide (surge + astronomical tide) is possible in the Raritan Bay. This would produce record coastal flooding. A 10 to 12 foot storm tide is possible along the Atlantic Coast & the Delaware Bay. This would result in record coastal flooding in many locations. A 3 to 5 foot storm tide (surge + astronomical tide) is possible in the Chesapeake Bay based on where the storm center comes ashore. This would produce moderate coastal flooding.
7 Personal plea If you are being asked to evacuate a coastal location by state and local officials, please do so. If you are reluctant to evacuate, and you know someone who rode out the 62 storm on the barrier islands, ask them if they would do it again. If you are still reluctant, think about your loved ones, think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued, think about the rescue/recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive. Sandy is an extremely dangerous storm. There will be major property damage, injuries are probably unavoidable, but the goal is zero fatalities. If you think the storm is over-hyped and exaggerated, please err on the side of caution. You can call me up on Friday (contact information is at the end of this briefing) and yell at me all you want. I will listen to your concerns and comments, but I will tell you in advance, I will be very happy that you are alive & well, no matter how much you yell at me. Thanks for listening. Gary Szatkowski Mount Holly
8 Partner performance Excellent leadership by Governors of New Jersey & Delaware They called evacuations when they needed to Excellent communication by state, county & local emergency managers They said and did the right things. Messaging was consistent all through the run-up to the event. Partner performance excellent media coverage
9 How were the results? Let s look briefly at the physical results Then spend some time talking about the other results.
12 Mantoloking Barrier Island Breach!
13 Hurricane Sandy
14 Sandy Where do we go from here Photo on previous page was a nighttime image that looks as clear as our old visible satellite imagery Our technical tools are outstripping our ability to get people to understand what they need to do
15 Analysis of fatalities in the United States
16 Decisions made Saturday before Sandy landfall on Monday NJ Governor quotes Saturday morning declares State of Emergency and mandatory evacuations: We are looking at hurricane force winds. It is simply unsafe for people to be there [evacuation zones]. NYC Mayor quotes Saturday afternoon press conference explaining why no evacuations are being ordered: "We're making that decision based on the nature of this storm. Although we're expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or a hurricane-type surge," he said. "With this storm we'll likely see a slow pileup of water, rather than a sudden surge, which is what you would expect from a hurricane and which we saw with Irene 14 months ago.
17 In extreme events, experience fails. NJ Transit put equipment valued $385 million in a location that did not flood during Hurricane Floyd & Hurricane Irene
18 Light gray shading floods with Category I storm surge 6 to 9 feet. Forecast 6 to 11 feet of surge. Observed 8 to 10 feet of surge USACE map 2010
19 Port Authority NY/NJ No one believed there could be a 13-foot storm surge ever in this port and there was, said retired Rear Admiral Rick Larrabee, director of Port Commerce for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I talked to people who have worked here for 30 years who said they never feared for their lives but they did that night. What they actually got was about an 8 to 10 foot storm surge. Forecast surge on Saturday 4 to 8 feet for Mon Forecast surge on Sunday 6 to 11 feet on Mon The consequences: Larrabee said the storm surge enveloped 14,000 new cars on the docks on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, incapacitated 40 percent of the 50 gargantuan cargo cranes that stand several stories high and took out 2,500 trucks critical to moving freight off the docks.
20 Light gray shading floods with Category I storm surge 6 to 10 feet. USACE map 2010
22 Wall Street Journal article Fearing a flood, Mr. Bediner drove his family out of Midland Beach at about noon on Monday. Many of his neighbors stayed. As wind and rain intensified on Monday afternoon, the mood in the neighborhood was still upbeat. "We were out there joking, saying, 'They hyped Irene so much, and what'd we get? A little water,' " recalled Laura Gatti. About three-quarters of her immediate neighbors decided to weather the storm in their homes. Many recalled that Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 had turned out to be less fierce than predicted, and some worried about looting if they left.
23 Sandy Where do we go from here These are not hard science issues These are not labeling issues Was it a hurricane when it made landfall? Or not? Should hurricane warnings have been in place? NJ Transit made decisions based on previous hurricane experience So did the people who died in Staten Island (WSJ report) These are social science issues Because we have gotten so good at the hard science
24 Problems with risk assessment Wharton survey conducted in the days prior to Sandy landfall coastal residents from NC to NJ Even residents who lived within a block of the water where flooding would have been the greatest threat posed by the storm saw the greatest threat posed by Sandy as coming from winds, not water. How can this be? And how do we correct this?
25 Problems with risk assessment 76% of survey had experienced living through a hurricane Of those who experienced Irene, only 37% reported suffering any damage from the storm. My observation if you haven t experienced major damage or other significant problems (prolonged power outage), you haven t experienced a hurricane
26 Problems with actions taken based on perceived risk If you can t envision it, you probably aren t prepared to deal with it. If you don t see storm surge as a big risk (even if you can see the ocean), you are at substantial risk to not make a good decision. In the absence of the ability to envision, we substitute experience (e.g., the railyard hasn t flooded during previous hurricanes )
27 Factoring In Climate Change Did climate change make Sandy worse? Sure it did. Sea level is rising, and coastal flooding was worse as a result. Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy? No, of course not. We have a long history of Hurricanes Will climate change cause more storms like Sandy? Possibly.
30 Sea level continues to rise & the trend is accelerating
31 Greenland will contribute more to sea level rise in the future
32 Atlantic City rising 1.3+ feet per 100 years
33 Sandy Hook rising 1.3+ feet per 100 years
34 Sea level rise A Range of Possibilities Recommendation: Expect 3 rise in 21 st century with an accelerating trend; 1 foot rise in first half of 21 st century; 2 feet in the second half
35 The problem When we lack vision, or exceed our ability to envision an extreme possibility, we fall back on experience This tendency to favor experience limits us to things which can be seen and understood over an average human s adult life span roughly 50 years. Bad news if you re facing a 100 year or 500 year storm This problem is exacerbated when climate changes extreme weather e.g., sea level is higher, or heavy rainfall more likely.
36 The problem long term In the long term, we as a species will have to discuss/decide what kind of world we want 100 years from now. Climate change is driven primarily by greenhouse gas emissions. We have to decide what tradeoffs we want to make. And that is all I m going to say about that, for that is a political leadership challenge.
37 The problem short term The problem in the short term (5 to 50 years) is that we have already built into the system the changes we are going to see The planet is NOT in equilibrium. If we ceased emitting greenhouse gases right this minute, the planet would still get warmer, seas would continue to rise. Why? Because we are NOT in equilibrium. Automobile analogy Press harder on accelerator, you go faster, Press less on the accelerator, you go slower. Take foot off the gas, you will keep rolling for awhile before coming to a stop. In all scenarios, you are not where you started. Climate will change, the only question is how much?
38 The problem short term So, no matter what we do, climate will change over the next 50 years. Warmer temperatures, rising sea level, etc. The ability for our experience to mislead us will continue to grow.
39 Sandy Where do we go from here A ray of hope our ability to forecast the weather in the next 7 to 10 day time range will continue to improve, enhancing our potential ability to respond to all weather threats. It is clear to me that the value of our weather forecasts has improved to such a degree that the bigger problem has become getting people to understand the impacts of a weather forecast. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us in getting people to understand and fully leverage the information available to them when dealing with very low frequency, very high impact natural hazard events. Perhaps a model children & crossing a street Most importantly, we have been reminded by Mother Nature that the world is a dangerous place. During Hurricane Sandy, some paid a terrible price for us to re-learn this truth. For their sake & ours, let s not ever forget it.
40 Questions? Comments?
41 Extra slides
42 The issue of Truth Only 3 types of people tell the truth: Kids, the drunk and the angry. Perhaps there is a fourth possibility.
43 Our approach the movie Hook Maggie: That's not true, Jack! [to Hook] Maggie: You're a liar! Captain Hook: [laughs] Lie? Me? Never. [inhales deeply again] Captain Hook: The TRUTH is far too much fun.
44 NJ Transit WNYC news story
48 Confusion over Confusion Hurricane Irene service assessment word confusion is used 22 times. Hurricane Sandy service assessment word confusion is used 11 times. If one were inclined to make a comparison, obviously the use of the word confusion declined from one report to the next. One might even be tempted to conclude that there was less confusion with Sandy than there was with Irene. You, obviously, are not the AP news organization.
49 Wait, what did you just say? How do you take 11 uses of the word confusing & turn that into a word count of 88? Seth is not responding to me on Twitter.
50 How can experience make us less knowledgeable? XXXXX Service assessment YYYYY Service assessment Number of times confusion was associated with NYC OEM activities & comments Zero. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
51 How can we fail basic math? = 14 5 ft + 9 ft = 14 ft 5 ft (normal high tide) + 9 ft (storm surge) = 14 ft Except in NYC, where apparently high tide doesn t exist, & because of this, NWS forecast was wrong! According to NYC Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs & Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway in Sandy after action report 6 months after the storm.
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