Post–Hurricane Katrina rules meant to combat waste and fraud in government relief efforts have ensnared 1,200 New Jersey residents in an effort to recoup $8 million, the state’s share of $23 million that the Federal Emergency Management Agency claims was wrongly paid, the Asbury Park Press reports:
I took the day off yesterday, putting up an out-of-office message so I could pop the windows out of my Jeep Wrangler and cruise down the shore. I stopped at the Ocean View Wawa for a sandwich and a bag of chips, then parked myself in a chair on the beach in Strathmere.
I spent most of the day reading a book, but I also did a lot of staring at the ocean. I told friends I hit the beach because I’m tapering for a marathon, and I’m full of edgy energy that has no outlet. But really, I was there because today is the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New Jersey, and I wanted to both pay my respects and thanks to the beach that survived, and deliver a giant middle finger to a storm that destroyed large parts of our Jersey Shore.
I’ve had a harder time with the two-year anniversary than the first. When a preview copy of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy came in the mail, I took it right to my library’s donation bin. It’s more difficult now because we have a clearer picture of how bad things really are, not just in the immediate days after the storm where we could not stop looking at pictures of roads torn apart and houses shattered into splinters, but the inevitable mess that came after.
Released just last week, Miles’s narrative dives into the human aspect of the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, following the hurricane/cyclone hybrid from its birth in the Caribbean to when it hit land in New Jersey.
Rather than just laying out the meteorological effects of the storm, Miles explores how the nine days of freak weather affected emergency responders, weather forecasters, victims, and survivors. Local residents who experienced the storm firsthand are sure to be entertained—and just may pick up a few tips about what to expect from our next disaster.
Somewhat overlooked this week was the Wednesday testimony of FEMA chief Craig Fugate, who told Congress that feds had probably been too stingy paying off damage claims to Jersey homeowners in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The reason? Officials didn’t want a repeat of the fraud claims that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
According to a new report published by the World Meteorological Organization, the $50 billion in economic damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy ranks second only to Hurricane Katrina’s nearly $147 billion among the costliest weather events since 1970. Storms in the U.S. took five of the top 10 slots (above), while the events with the most fatalities tended to occur in less-developed countries.
In the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, even as millions of dollars in donations poured in for her victims, I said that things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got better.
The Ocean Grove boardwalk is an example of that.
Ocean Grove is a small town in New Jersey’s northern beaches between Asbury Park and Avon by the Sea. Ocean Grove calls itself “God’s Square Mile at the Jersey Shore.” The town can get away with putting church and state together because the town is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. If you buy a home in Ocean Grove, you don’t own the land. You’re signing a lease with OGCMA, most of which have terms of “99 years in perpetuity.” They own the beaches, too, which is why they’re closed on Sunday morning. (Side note: Despite their religious bent, you can still BYOB in Ocean Grove while the practice is still banned in Ocean City.)
During Superstorm Sandy, Ocean Grove lost a chunk of its fishing pier, and its boardwalk was destroyed.
Ocean Grove, like many distressed Jersey Shore towns, applied for $1 million in aid from FEMA to rebuild its boardwalk.
Newsworks reports: “A new poll finds that two-thirds of New Jersey residents believe the state is not back to normal 18 months after Superstorm Sandy. Just one in 12 of those who say the recovery isn’t complete are optimistic that it will be in the next year, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll out Wednesday. And 13 percent don’t think the state will ever return to normal.”
The Star-Ledger reports: “Calling Hurricane Sandy-damaged homes that have not yet been torn down an “ongoing emergency,” Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order aimed at speeding up the process of razing unsafe properties. … The order gives the Community Affairs commissioner the authority to “commandeer Sandy-impacted eligible structures,” as well as take possession of rights of way on any property needed to facilitate demolition. According to the governor’s office, state code enforcement officials have been surveying private properties to identify homes that need to be razed. Property owners will be notified when that determination is made and then will have the opportunity to challenge it.” The demolition program will be focused in Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties.
According to a bunch of tourism industry poobahs testifying in front of a New Jersey state assembly committee, Chris Christie’s much-ballyhooed “Stronger than the Storm” campaign didn’t really help the Shore rebound in time for summer. The main issue, they said, was that the $25 million campaign launched in May, too late for most summer visitors to be convinced to make bookings.