On YouTube: Reuters TV - Superstorm Sandy (April 2013)
Coastal Processes & Hazards - News

Reuters TV: Stopping the next superstorm (April 2013)

Duration: 3 mins and 51 secs
SBU investigator Malcolm Bowman is featured for the entire segment

Six months ago Hurricane Sandy killed 132 people and caused $60 billion in damage. Storm surge expert Malcolm Bowman explains how methods used in European cities could protect the New York area from the next deadly storm.

Full Transcript from Bowman:

I think Superstorm Sandy was a wake up call nobody expected the severity of the flooding myself included that actually happen. The real question is can we as a community, as a city, as a region allow this to happen again.

My Storm Surge Group at Stony Brook University has been looking at various options of how the city, in the long term, can protect itself against storm surges in an era of climate change and rising sea level.

I've recently returned from trip to the Netherlands where I studied there regional protection systems. The Dutch have built up most of the sand dunes along much of the coast on the North Sea. Some places 30 feet high. These sand dunes are several hundred feet wide. They're not walls. They're not really levees. That protects much of the country, but we have to look to Russia - Saint Petersburg, the beautiful city, the Venice of the north. They built a ring of protection around this city, it's an elevated highway that surrounds the low-lying city that's built on the delta of Neva River. And in addition, this highway extends into the ocean. And so cars and trucks travel along the top.

There are large gates that are normally open to allow the ships in and out. But, if a storm surge is coming down the Baltic Sea, they shut these gates for a few hours, hold back sea surge and the city is protected.

We can learn from the technology of the Europeans what would be best for New York City. The best solution that I have been promoting is two barriers - one would stretch the five mile gap between Sandy Hook, New Jersey and Far Rockaway on the western tip of Long Island. That would protect the city against surges coming up from the ocean from the south. But, there would need to be a second barrier in the Upper East River near the Throgs Neck Bridge. And that would protect a second source of surges that are really quite dangerous. And these surges are coming down from Long Island Sound from the east.

People ask me, 'Well five miles. that's it was a very wide sort of barrier. But it's worth remembering that in fact the water out there in the ocean is very shallow. It's only 20 feet deep. So, it would be relatively easy engineering-wise to build an elevated highway that could serve multiple duties as a storm surge barrier, as an interstate toll road, bike pass from New Jersey to Long Island. It could have light rail across it, between the major airports - Newark and Kennedy. So, this may make it attractive in terms of finding a revenue stream that would pay for it.

Away from the entrance to New York Harbor, where storm surge barriers would be appropriate, that line of protection would need to be extended down the Jersey shore to the south and to the east on the South Shore of Long Island with enhanced sand dunes. We're talking about building sand dunes maybe 25-30 feet. This is what the Dutch do. They [the dunes] would need to extend as far as can be afforded.

This would have a major impact, in some respects, on those communities that are protected, as they would lose their view of the ocean. The Dutch have had to face this. I've visited beautiful little coastal towns that were safe and secure. And they've traded the view for security. So communities are going to have to make those kind of decisions about what they want for the future of their homes, their communities.

But the engineering is is not rocket science. It's already been proven in Europe. It could be easily done. It's really a matter of having political will to take the bold step to do it.

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