Hurricane Sandy caused nearly $18.8 billion in property losses from Maryland to Massachusetts, affecting an area that produces 10 percent of U.S. economic output.
A year later, a report based on Guy Carpenter’s on-site surveying shows the brunt of Sandy’s damage fell on Mantaloking, NJ; Breezy Point, Queens; Long Beach Island, NJ; and Staten Island.
Sandy affected New Jersey and New York the most—at $9.6 and $6.3 billion in losses, respectively, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)—because the infrastructure was not built to withstand a historic mix of water and wind.
“Sandy was a unique storm with an estimated 700-year return period track, historically low barometric pressures, record wave heights and a historic storm surge. The storm barreled into an area of the country where those types of impacts are rare” said James Waller, research meteorologist for GC Analytics.
GC assessors spent nearly a month studying the most severely-affected areas in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey from December 2012 to January 2013—areas that were inaccessible immediately following the storm. Here is the worst of what they found.
Guy Carpenter said “damage in this area is consistent with classical storm surge signature”, which affected 75 percent of all homes in the area. Catastrophic structural damage was observed over 50 percent to 75 percent of beach-facing homes, and to 30 percent of houses away from the immediate coast. About half of all homes facing the Atlantic—mostly single-family summer residences with wood frame construction—were entirely missing, or found across the street where they had collapsed onto other structures.
Breezy Point, Queens, NY
Breezy Point, especially the zone along Rockaway Point Blvd. between Breezy Point Park and Fort Tilden, sustained the most concentrated damage in the Long Island area. 20 percent of homes sustained structural disruption, and one out of 10 homes were severely damaged; some were completely dislodged from their foundations. Many of the wood-framed properties were found burned or burned to the ground—possibly from blown/burning transformers or tipped candles whose flames were spread by Sandy’s winds, made “worse still without heavy rainfall”. All utilities were disrupted.
Long Beach Island, NJ
Evidence of interior home damage due to water inundation spanned the island, including Long Beach, Beach Haven Heights, Holgate, Ship Bottom, Surf City, and Bamegat Light. The Forsy National Wildlife Reserve was also affected. Maximum wind gusts in these location reached 60 to 80 mph during the storm. One home was left floating 42 feet from its foundation and toppled onto its side. Other homes exhibited watermarks all the way to their ceilings. The beach along Highway 72 on the Jersey Shore was severely eroded, exhibiting a drop of three to five feet beyond the sand dunes, making the coast more vulnerable to future surges.
Staten Island, NY
Guy Carpenter couldn’t send its staff into Staten Island, where storm tides reportedly reached up to 16 feet and inundation spanned nearly a mile onshore, until early January 2013. When they entered, they photographed properties that were not only broken, but completely disintegrated. The island is mostly a clay bed, consisting of low, flood-prone marshland, which amplifies flood effects due to its tendency to hold water. The moisture had caused two sinkholes two open along a road, buckling adjacent roadways, sidewalks, traffic lights, streetlights and utility lines.
New York City was not left unscathed—residents in the island’s lower area were unable to heat homes due to damaged gas lines. Basements, where diesel or oil tanks are often stored, were flooded in every structure along Water St. Mold and mildew grew and many of the structures were inaccessible due to health and safety concerns resulting from compromised water and sanitary infrastructure.