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Hurricane Sandy Study Calls For More Disaster Preparation


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

It's been nearly 10 months since Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars of damage to wide swaths of the East Coast. Today, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a study full of recommendations. It looks ahead to future disasters but also tries to ensure that current relief money for Sandy isn't squandered. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan presented the findings this morning, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Scott Gurian of New Jersey Public Radio reports.

SCOTT GURIAN, BYLINE: The press conference was held on a rooftop in Brooklyn, overlooking the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant stayed online in the days after Sandy, while many others failed because they didn't have power to operate. Part of today's report, said HUD Secretary Donovan, includes recommendations for hardening the power grid, as well as the transportation and communication networks, to make them more resilient in future storms.

SECRETARY SHAUN DONOVAN: As we saw tragically after Sandy, the breakdown of our infrastructure is not only potentially deadly to families, but it crippled the entire region and its economy.

GURIAN: President Obama created the task force with representatives of nearly two dozen federal departments and agencies, as well as input from state and local officials. Their task was to come up with guidelines to ensure that the $50 billion of emergency Sandy money is well-spent and to help safeguard the nation against the future threat of climate change.

In addition to infrastructure upgrades, the report calls for streamlining the process to get aid quickly to people who need it and more coordination between various levels of government, so rebuilding decisions are made on a more regional level.

Mayor Bloomberg applauded the report. He said that while it's challenging for a city like New York to make some of these changes, action is needed to prevent a repeat of what happened during Sandy.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We've always lived on the coast. And so we're always going to have people, I think, that want to live in areas that are problematic from an environmental point of view. And the question is finding a balance.

GURIAN: Secretary Donovan agreed that any rebuilding needs to happen in a way that makes the coast better able to withstand future storms.

Environmental and planning advocacy groups generally praised today's report. Jeff Tittel at the Sierra Club of New Jersey - the state that was hit hardest by Sandy - issued a press release calling it a national model and calling on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to adopt all the recommendations. Christie has, in the past, denied that climate change was a factor in Sandy's destruction.

Chris Sturm, of the group New Jersey Future, said the key now is ensuring this isn't just another study that sits on a shelf.

CHRIS STURM: Implementation is key. And keeping sort of a high level of visibility on how progress is being made is going to be essential. You know, the report needs to be more than a set of recommendations. It needs to be something that's acted on.

GURIAN: Sweeping recommendations came out after Hurricane Katrina. The levy system was rebuilt in response to those recommendations and other changes were to improve disaster preparedness. But other proposals to protect the Gulf Coast have yet to yield results.

For NPR News, I'm Scott Gurian in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Gurian

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