ELIZABETH – Today, local government, business and community leaders gathered for a press conference at the Elizabeth Marina to highlight the devastating impacts of extreme weather and climate change. They’re calling for action to mitigate the worst impacts of destructive, climate-fueled incidents and to plan for the future.
“With Hurricane Sandy, the City of Elizabeth witnessed the destruction that can result from a storm of this magnitude,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “In addition to the loss of power for more than a week, the storm surge had a tremendous negative impact on our waterfront. Using the knowledge and experience we have now to prepare for future events will greatly assist communities as they incorporate safeguarding efforts.”
As a port community, Elizabeth sustained considerable damage at the waterfront – which can still be seen and felt one year later. Sandy’s unparalleled surge from the Arthur Kill caused flooding – forcing water throughout the property, uplifting the boardwalk and breaking it into pieces. The pier was washed away and debris covered the area where today’s press conference took place.
Today’s event follows President Barack Obama’s historic national climate change plan announcement on June 25 – which includes America’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It also calls for new clean energy and energy efficiency investments, along with other strategies to prepare for the effects of climate change. On September 20th, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new proposal for carbon pollution from new power plants – which is the first step in the implementation of President Obama’s climate action plan.
“Sandy caused Atalanta to lose over $20 million in property damage, inventory and business interruption,” said Joe DeNicholas, VP of Operations and Logistics of Atalanta Corporation. “Our weekly sales revenue across the country declined 90% in the weeks immediately following the storm. Sandy had far-reaching effects not only on our companies and our employees – but also on the local economy, restaurant chains, schools, hospitals, and on retail consumers of our food products throughout America. While we now have invaluable experience dealing with an extreme weather event, it’s certainly not something any of us ever want to go through again. We need more planning at all levels of government to alleviate the impact of future events.”
“In the end, it’s up to us,” said Michelle Doran McBean, CEO of Future City, Inc. “We need to support polices and initiatives – like President Obama’s plan to combat climate change – that create and sustain a resilient country and world. And we must set a local civic and communal standard that links us nationally and globally.”
“In an era of billion dollar disasters nationwide, Sandy brought home to everyone, up close and very personally, the ferocity of environmental hazards in an ever-changing climate,” said Dr. Paul Croft, Executive Director of Kean University School of Environmental & Sustainability Sciences. “President Obama unveiled a climate change plan in June to address our nation’s response to such catastrophes and provide some guiding principles for action. Greater frequencies and intensities of storms in a changing climate are of concern to everyone such that we must ask ‘What are we willing to do?’ before, during, and after the next storm.”
“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New Jersey – in lost lives, lost homes and lost businesses, was not something that was anticipated,” said Councilman-At-Large Manny Grova, Jr. “If we all do our part on both a local and national level, we may be able to prevent such occurrences in the years to come.”
In October 2012, New Jersey was devastated by deadly Superstorm Sandy – the 2nd costliest hurricane in U.S. history – which left 131 dead and destroyed approximately 380,000 homes. The hurricane first made landfall in the United States in New Jersey – with winds of 80 m.p.h. It created a storm surge that broke the all-time record in New York Harbor.
Much as was the case in other municipalities throughout New Jersey, Elizabeth had to deal with trees uprooted by high winds, utility lines that were brought down, gas shortages, and traffic lights that went out. Out of 51,000 PSE&G accounts in Elizabeth, 49,000 were initially without power. Nearly ten days following the storm thousands were still left in the dark and cold, causing significant amount of food to be lost due to the inability to refrigerate or freeze goods.
Superstorm Sandy also disrupted civic events. It’s waterfront damage caused Elizabeth’s annual 4th of July fireworks to be cancelled for the first time in fifteen years, along with the cancellation of the annual Elizabeth Waterfront Latin Festival.
With each passing year, as storms get stronger, more violent and cause more damage – the costs of recovery continue to climb. According to a recent DEP Report, 8 of the 10 worst storms in New Jersey history have occurred since 1999, and more events are likely to occur in the coming years. Moreover, 2011 was the wettest year on record. According to research from Rutgers University, the rise in sea level will approach 16 inches by 2050 and 44 inches by the turn of the century in 2100.
Over 2011-2012, Sandy and 24 other extreme weather events caused damage in excess of $1 billion each — $188 billion total – and left more than 1,100 people dead. In 2011, both Hurricane Irene and a wind-driven thunderstorm “derecho” pummeled the region. Just this summer, a horrendous heatwave gripped New Jersey – the latest in a series of extreme weather events in recent years that have included hurricanes, droughts, nor’easters and even a blizzard before Halloween. As a result of these and other events, 14 New Jersey counties have received natural disaster designations in recent years.
President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants comes as industrial carbon pollution was just measured at the highest levels in human history. Obama’s plan also calls for infrastructure improvements to deal with the effects of climate change, and new investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.
Climate change is a major force in exacerbating extreme weather events. And poll after poll shows a majority of Americans want climate action now. 65% of voters support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now,” according to a February poll for the League of Conservation Voters.
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