Could It Happen Here?

Aaron Naparstek had a scary treatment of New York’s hurricane risk in New York Press a few months ago.

The meteorologists he talked to think the risk is very real, and that New York is, historically speaking, overdue.

His imagined scenario: “The [Office of Emergency Management’s] emergency operations center, meanwhile, is buzzing, while the mayor and his chiefs are hunkered down in the situation room. They have an incredibly difficult decision to make, a decision that has never before been made in New York City. They are preparing to order the evacuation of 900,000 New Yorkers whose homes are in the path of catastrophic flooding in the event of a category-4 hurricane. They will provide shelter for nearly a quarter million. And while the storm is still far enough away that it could drift off course and miss New York City completely, a full evacuation may take up to 18 hours. They need to decide now. The fact that a mayoral election is only two months away doesn’t make the decision any less complicated. An unnecessary evacuation could be a political catastrophe.

“‘Try to tell someone in Sheepshead Bay that they have to evacuate immediately because within the next 24 hours they’ll have 30 feet of storm surge on their neighborhood,’ says [OEM official] Mike Lee, before pausing to let you think about three stories of ocean water roiling through your own neighborhood. ‘They’ll laugh at you—absolutely laugh at you,’ he says. ‘I mean, I barely even believe it.'” Could It Happen Here?