With Hurricane Earl forming in the Atlantic Ocean, we are reminded that we are in the middle of hurricane season; it is also a reminder that New York City, which could be in the cross hairs off Earl, is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes.
It is too early to precisely predict Hurricane Earl’s path. As of Monday evening, it could stay safely out to sea, particularly if it meets with a cold front currently traveling eastward across the United States, or it could head directly to the eastern seaboard of the United States, landing anywhere between the Carolinas and Maine.
While New York City has only been brushed by hurricanes for many decades, eventually one will hit directly. While it is still too early to determine how likely it is that Hurricane Earl will hit the New York City metro area directly, the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project says there is a 90% probability of a major (Category 3 or higher) hurricane hitting the New York City area within the next fifty years.
New York City is vulnerable to major damage from a hurricane on a number of fronts and based on several factors. One is the value of the property in and around the New York metropolitan area. According to a 2007 study, the area has over $3.8 trillion worth of property that would be vulnerable during a direct hit to the city. The other dynamic at play in New York is the infrequency of major hurricanes making a direct hit. The last major hurricane to hit New York City directly occurred in 1938; few today remember it and as a result have no experience to draw upon. This leads to a certain complacency and lack of awareness of the dangers and threat.
Another important factor in considering the potential damage done to New York City is the area’s reliance on bridges and tunnels. Damage to the infrastructure could make escape and rescue efforts incredibly difficult and dangerous.
Manhattan, after all, is surrounded by rivers and New York Bay. Widespread flooding, particularly in lower Manhattan and the financial district would cripple the city’s economy and would certainly have a worldwide economic impact as well.
Over the next one to two days, we should have a much clearer picture of both the strength and most likely path for Hurricane Earl. While often New York City and its residents treat developing Atlantic hurricanes as a remote threat, sooner or later a storm such as Hurricane Earl is likely to make a very powerful impact on the region and its citizens.
What’s In Store for New York’s Future?, sunnysuffolk.edu
New York City in Hurricane Earl’s cone? Weird , sun-sentinel.com