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Sandy destruction didn't have to happen

November 2nd, 2012
12:36 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

The American East Coast has yet to fully asses Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, but people are already asking how they can rebuild to be better prepared in the future.

“Certainly there are things we could do to avoid what we saw happening this week,” says Kate Ascher, an urban planning expert who understands how all the pieces of this complicated jigsaw fit together.

Ascher says when the coastal areas begin to rebuild, they’ll need to construct various types of sea walls to break the surf that have various parts of the East Coast surrounded by water in Sandy’s aftermath.

In New York City, much of the infrastructure is located in the lower part of the city, Ascher says it’s unlikely those will be moved, so the structures must be updated to protect against the tides and storm surges. 

Ascher believes the lower parts of Manhattan need breakwaters, levees and barriers that actually would stop the sea coming in certain targeted places, like they do in England.

“London years ago built the Thames barrier, which is a huge structure that can be raised and lowered. So for navigation, it allows ships to pass except when it's raised. And it has been raised over 100 times since it's been constructed, when times seem like they're going to be dangerous to the city.”

This type of major infrastructure investment has a big price tag Ascher says.

“But this is so serious and so acute that my guess is it will be a clarion call to action. In 1888, the great blizzard knocked down every cable that was in New York City as it was industrializing. And as a result, everything went underground. And ever since then, New York's infrastructure has been incredibly reliable because of that incident. And I think one can only hope that this does exactly the same thing and prompts some kind of radical action that'll set the stage for improvements in the future.”

CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Climate • Latest Episode
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. TREX

    I would like to fully........"asses"...........this story................

    November 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  2. eric

    How about this: Tear down the city and stop building next to a stinking ocean!!! people are so stupid, they build a house a half mile from a massive ocean and wonder why their house gets flooded. Stupid can't be fixed.

    November 2, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  3. eric

    Our tax dollars better not go to helping the dumb people who build on an ocean shore. It's horrible enough that we are helping the brainless who built on that staton island. They are in the middle of the ocean only a few feet above sea level. They should pay us just for their stupidity. I have no sorrow for any of these people. They made their bed, now them must sleep in it. I moved far inland and will never be touched by a hurricaine. Same with the tards down in New Orleans living below sea level. PLEASE!

    November 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Reply
  4. Reinaldo

    Well, why people of the so called first world start to build their houses out of bricks, concrete and iron as we do in the third world? Don't you read the story of the 3 pigs and the wolf? Duh!

    November 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  5. Daniel

    The idea of a sea barrier to protect NY harbor is one of the most preposterous ideas yet. The Thames at the barrier is 500 meters wide and less than 8 meters deep. To protect New York harbor you would need a barrier 9 kilometers long in a passage 20 meters deep.

    November 2, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  6. aloysius okereke

    well chris in as much as i think there are elements of stupidity in the decision to in places very close to the ocean, i completely disagree with any comment that tends to be overcritical of the helplesness of those victims. this i think is time to allow the human in us to take control rather than playing the hero where there is no villain.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:37 am | Reply
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