John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
There sure is a lot of new empty space in these depressing images from NOAA.
Scientists have had a couple days now to study Monday's mega-storm that, when it made landfall in New Jersey, was packing more energy than Hurricane Katrina. One of the things they're doing is flying over the East Coast to examine the extent of Sandy's destruction. Using a special remote camera, they're compiling a cartography of misery that illustrates why this storm could wind up costing America an incredible $50 billion.
These before-and-after shots are similar to the photos of tidal carnage that surfaced last March after Japan's tremendous Tōhoku tsunami. Charming beach communities are replaced with badlands of timber and sand, lots and lots of fusty sand that once sheltered crabs and sea lice. It's like a vengeful deity wiped a colossal paw through entire neighborhoods, removing whole blocks of houses and thousands of happy futures.
The folks at NOAA's National Geodetic Survey have assembled these photos in such a way that you can scroll through time periods to see how Sandy rearranged the landscape; view them here or a much larger quilt of aerial images here. Why are they doing this? NOAA explains:
Aerial imagery is a crucial tool used by federal, state, and local officials as well as the public when responding to natural disasters because many areas may be inaccessible due to the volume of debris. Snapshots of the damage help emergency managers conduct search and rescue operations, route personnel and machinery, coordinate recovery efforts and provide a cost-effective way to better understand the damage sustained to both property and the environment.
"Before" shots were taken by Google, "after" by the National Geodetic Survey. Here's the borough of Seaside Heights, in New Jersey, before it suffered an almost direct hit from Sandy:
And here it is after the disaster. As of yesterday, Seaside Heights still had no electricity or water and was plagued by gas leaks:
Another area of Seaside Heights is trashed as well. Before:
This is Sea Bright, New Jersey, a little more than 30 miles north. It sustained the worst storm damage in its recorded history:
Here's nearby Mantoloking, New Jersey, now closed to all but emergency workers:
Look at that brand-new river cutting straight through the middle of town!
Finally, this is Normandy Beach, New Jersey:
After the storm, boats bobbed in chaotic clumps in the inner marina: