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Hurricane Ian’s destruction makes Long Island reevaluate storm season

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Office of Senator Chuck Schumer
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As footage of a flooded Florida continues to grab attention, New Yorkers are left wondering if they are prepared for extreme weather.

Hurricane Ian made landfall last Wednesday on the southwest coast of Florida. The Category 4 storm swept through the Sunshine State, bringing record flooding, uprooting homes, and disrupting power lines and water supply. Fort Myers Beach was of the most seriously impacted areas, and looks nearly unrecognizable.

“Hurricane Ian sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, which ranks among — in recorded history over the past 100 plus years — one of the strongest storms to hit the U.S. mainland,” said Jase Burnhardt, a meteorologist at Hofstra University in New York.

Studies have shown that warming water temperatures due to climate change can intensify and extend the lives of storms.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Monday that Ian is a warning for New York. While the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act includes $2.6 billion, which “local governments and other entities can tap to conserve, restore, and protect marine and coastal habitats,” he said in a statement that more funding needs to be steered toward bolstering vulnerable coastline in New York City and Long Island.

Just over a year ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ida touched down in New York City, bringing record rainfall, submerging cars, and even entire subway stations. Storm surge from Ida killed 13 New Yorkers, many of which were living in illegal, flood-prone basement apartments. Since Ida, the city has launched multiple projects, including the installation of curbside rain gardens to mitigate flood conditions.

“There’s still a lot more that can and should be done to continue improving our readiness for the next strong tropical cyclone that impacts us here,” Bernhardt said.

He said while it is unlikely a storm of Ian’s intensity would hit New York, it is possible that a storm of similar magnitude of Superstorm Sandy — a Category 3 storm — can reach its shores.

“How horrible and painful it's been to see the devastation of Florida,” Schumer said. “For many of us here, we think of Sandy, and the devastation there.”

While hurricane season is typically in the months of August and September, Ian struck Florida at the tail end of September. Sandy struck New York and New Jersey exactly 10 years ago on Oct. 29. According to Bernhardt, it’s important to follow evacuation protocols, because often the precise landfall location of these storms cannot be confirmed until hours before it touches down.

“Sometimes people evacuate and maybe they didn’t have to, but it's better than that chance that they don’t evacuate, and then they do end up being in the absolute worst positions,” he said.

Schumer said Long Island’s marshes, particularly those in Nassau County bays, will be key in fighting flooding. The barrier islands and the marshes it forms work as sponges to absorb storm surge.

On Monday, he called for the federal funding to be directed to support the South Shore Estuary, a section of wetlands that protects the Long Island coastline from storm surge. Around 1 million people and thousands of businesses, which employ roughly 30,000 workers, are estimated to live there. He targeted four projects in Bellport, Mastic Beach, Oyster Bay and North Hempstead for beach restoration and resiliency.

“We do not want to be sitting ducks for monster storms. We want to be prepared, because we love it here, and this is our home. Our coast. Our wetlands. Our fisheries,” Schumer said.

Lauren is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2022.