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11 Most Disturbing Facts About Hurricane Sandy

The naked eye may not be able to see it yet, but Hurricane Sandy is having a destructive impact in many different ways.
 
 
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If you’re on the East Coast, things outside look pretty grey as Hurricane Sandy comes barreling towards New York and other states. The trees are blowing, the rain’s starting to come down, and reports are coming in of flooding in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Here's a round-up of 11 alarming developments.

1. Sandy is Worse Because of Climate Change

Watch out, climate change deniers: your narrative is about to be washed away. Hurricane Sandy’s massive impact may be made worse by the fact of climate change, brought on by man-made carbon emissions. While scientists have cautioned against linking individual weather events to climate change, NPR notes that researchers have begun to take the issue seriously and “are attempting to quantify the role human-driven climate change plays in particular events.”

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained how climate change was impacting Hurricane Sandy in an article re-posted on Think Progress. “Sandy is predicted to turn left and move ashore on the Atlantic coast somewhat south of New York...The sea surface temperatures along the Atlantic coast have been running at over 3C above normal for a region extending 800km off shore all the way from Florida to Canada,” writes Trenberth. “Global warming contributes 0.6C to this. With every degree C, the water holding of the atmosphere goes up 7%, and the moisture provides fuel for the tropical storm, increases its intensity, and magnifies the rainfall by double that amount compared with normal conditions.”

2. Sandy is the Worst Storm Ever, Say Meteorologists

Meteorologists have taken to pronouncing the super-storm the largest to hit the Atlantic Ocean. Bloomberg News reports that “drenching rains are soaking the mid-Atlantic states, 3 feet of snow may fall in the Appalachians and an 11.7-foot (3.5- meter) record-breaking storm surge may slosh over Manhattan’s Battery Park if Sandy’s most powerful punch arrives at the same time as the high tide.”

The news outlet quotes Rob Carolan, a New Hampshire-based meteorologist, as saying that “The storm is the largest tropical storm in the Atlantic. It’s about 900 miles across.” Carolan added that “I have never seen a storm this large in regards to wind flow...So many bad things had to come together all at once.”

 

3. Parts of New York Flooded Before the Full Impact

Gawker posts a set of photos that show how "West Manhattan's Battery Park Esplanade was pretty much under water" this morning. And this is before the worst part of the storm is set to hit.

4. Homeless People in Peril

With New York City’s shelter system already strained and bursting at the seams, Hurricane Sandy is not going to help. And inevitably, homeless people will be forced to stay outside and weather the storm somehow. One homeless man told a freelance reporter that he would not seek out emergency shelter because he did not receive help during Hurricane Irene. “They don't want us there. These shelters are for the good folks, the families that get evacuated. There is no room in there for me,” said 43-year-old James, a homeless man currently staying in Harlem. “I couldn't get help during Irene...So, I'm not gonna bother this time. I can't get into the trains and seek shelter there, because the subways are shut down."

The Coalition for the Homeless has also posted some tips for homeless people on their website.


5. Rikers Island Prisoners Forced to Hunker Down

During Hurricane Irene, inmates at Rikers Island were not evacuated by the Bloomberg administration. The same thing is happening again with Hurricane Sandy.

At a press conference on Sunday, Bloomberg was asked by a reporter about the prisoners on Rikers Island. His response? “Don't worry about anybody getting out.” It was confirmation that, again, prisoners will be left to their own devices as a historic storm barrels towards them.

The potential consequences of such a decision are disturbing. During Hurricane Katrina, prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison were left behind “in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chest,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. “Prisoners went days without food, water and ventilation, and deputies admit that they received no emergency training and were entirely unaware of any evacuation plan. Even some prison guards were left locked in at their posts to fend for themselves, unable to provide assistance to prisoners in need.”

6. Election Impact

Hurricane Sandy is already having a substantial impact on the presidential race. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have had to cancel events, according to ABC News. “Obama...cancelled his appearance at a planned morning rally here with former President Bill Clinton to return home to monitor the federal government’s response to the storm. He has also cancelled an event planned for Tuesday in Wisconsin to stay in Washington and monitor response to the storm,” the news outlet reported.

As for Romney, ABC News reported that “the campaign has cancelled events in Virginia and New Hampshire, states expected to be affected by the storm.” In total, “the Obama and Romney campaigns have cancelled or changed 20 events between them due to the storm and safety concerns, sacrificing critical face-time with voters in the home stretch.”

The storm also has the potential to affect early voter turnout. CNN reports that in the battleground state of North Carolina, “early voting efforts are already being affected in two coastal counties” due to Hurricane Sandy.

“The early voting stations in Ocracoke and Dare County have been ordered closed today by the State Board of Elections. One additional early voting station in Pamlico County is scheduled to be shuttered tomorrow,” CNN reports. “With the emphasis the competing campaigns have placed on early voting, the closing of any early voting stations - especially in a tightly contested battleground state like North Carolina - could have significant unintended consequences and put a dent in their carefully calibrated get-out-the-vote efforts.”


7. Hurricane Sandy’s Death Toll

The worst of the storm hasn’t hit the East Coast yet, but there is some all-too-scary loss of human life to report already.

The Associated Press reports that 51 people have already died as a result of the storm in Haiti, with 65 dead in total across the Caribbean. The physical damage in Haiti has also been pretty bad.

“As the rains stopped and rivers began to recede, authorities were getting a fuller idea of how much damage Sandy brought on Haiti. Bridges collapsed. Banana crops were ruined. Homes were underwater. Officials said the death toll might still rise,” the AP reports.

8. Mitt Romney's disturbing stance on disaster relief 

Mitt Romney's campaign wants you to believe that a Romney presidency would act with gusto against a natural disaster. But his past statements indicate that under a Romney-Ryan presidency, the scale of federal help would be radically different. Romney has implied he would privatize disaster relief or leave it up to the states, while Paul Ryan's budget would impede "FEMA's ability to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters," according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

9. Economic Damage Guaranteed

The large storm could cause up to $1 billion in damages, according to CBS News. But other analysts are intepreting an even worse economic fall out to occur.

"It seems likely that Sandy will impose greater destruction of property, and add to that the loss of about two days commercial activity, spread over a week across 25 percent of the economy, an initial estimate of the economic losses imposed by Sandy is about $35 to 45 billion," writes business professor Peter Morici at CNBC

 

10. A Full Moon

The full moon will make sure that the storm's impact is even worse. According to CBS, "when the moon waxes to its full phase Monday afternoon, high tides along the Eastern Seaboard will rise about 20 percent higher than normal, even without the help of Sandy's storm surge, said Joe Rao, a meteorologist for News 12 in Westchester, N.Y."

11. Sandy Blamed on Gays

The religious right always tries to exploit natural disasters to blame whatever it is their twisted theology doesn't like. Many times the blame comes down on gay and lesbian people. Hurricane Sandy, unfortunately, is no different.

The Huffington Post reports that anti-gay preacher John McTernan has already taken to his blog to point the finger at LGBT people. "John McTernan seems to link Hurricane Sandy (and a number of other recent weather-related trends and natural disasters) on LGBT people and President Barack Obama's recent backing of marriage equality," the Post reports.

McTernan wrote that Hurricane Sandy is "the most powerful hurricane on record" and could do "catastrophic damage to the entire Northeast." What's more, McTernan adds that "Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem. Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!"


 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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