Hurricane Sandy Response has been Big

I just got off the phone with my friend Duff, a contractor from the Los Angeles area who says he is moving back home to Brooklyn, New York to help his family after they suffered major property damage from Hurricane Sandy. This is yet another example of how the deadly storm has affected so many, and how so many are helping out.

Just last week the Sacramento district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent five civilian employees to assist in the federal government’s Sandy response and recovery efforts. The Sacramento District’s mobile command center – the Deployable Tactical Operations System, or DTOS – is also on stand-by to support.

The Sacramento District is sending a wastewater treatment expert and four debris removal specialists. The debris specialists – who make up a management cell for debris removal missions – headed straight to Albany, N.Y. The Sacramento district’s infrastructure assessment team is on alert to support, as well.

More than 500 Corps employees are currently supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Sandy response. The Corps’ priority mission is de-watering New York City, but Corps Sandy missions also include providing emergency power and water throughout the disaster area. Additional Corps teams for infrastructure assessment, temporary roofing, commodities distribution and temporary housing are on alert to assist at FEMA’s request.

Under a federal emergency response, the Corps serves as the lead agency to respond with public works and engineering support and to coordinate long-term infrastructure recovery. When disasters occur, Corps teams and other resources are mobilized from across the country to assist local Corps districts and offices in their response missions.

Besides the tragic loss of life, residents in the hard hit areas have been dealing with hunger and cold, flooding, wreckage, and loss of power. In fact, as of November 9, roughly 750,000 customers remained powerless, down from 8.66 million when the storm hit on Oct. 29.

In New Jersey, the Energy Information Administration says the state saw the biggest power loss in its history thanks to Sandy. On November 12, PSE&G, the state's largest utility, said that 19 outages remain from Hurricane Sandy and that power has now been restored to 99.9 percent of the 1.7 million customers impacted.

In New York, as of November 11, Con Edison crews and thousands of utility workers from around the country were continuing to restore power to more than 1 million storm-affected customers.

Con Edison of New York estimates its response and restoration costs for Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter storms are $350 million to $450 million. Orange and Rockland Utilities, a subsidiary of Con Edison, estimates its costs are $75 million to $100 million for both storms. The primary basis for these preliminary estimates is the utilities' experience with Hurricane Irene.

These estimates do not include the costs that will continue to be incurred to inspect and assess the condition of our energy systems, and to repair them to their normal operating condition. Nor do the estimates include costs that may result from changes in operating criteria or design standards.

Sandy caused five times as many outages as the next largest storm in Con Edison history, Hurricane Irene, which hit in August 2011. The company has gone through a year's worth of some materials since Hurricane Sandy struck. Con Edison and thousands of mutual aid and contractor personnel replaced 60 miles of electric cable and responded to tens of thousands of locations.

As of November 11, FEMA continues an aggressive power restoration effort in New York and New Jersey, with the extension of the 100 percent cost share for emergency work performed by state, tribal and local governments through Nov. 14, 2012. The 100 percent funding was set originally for 10 days, beginning Oct. 31.

This funding applies to the costs of restoring power and public transportation, including direct federal assistance for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in counties designated for FEMA Public Assistance.

 “More than $455 million has already been approved for individuals to assist with housing and other disaster-related needs,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a press release. “Impacted residents and business owners in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York should apply for assistance today.”

A senior economist for IHS Global Insight, recently told the National Association for Business Economics that the total cost of Sandy could be between $30 billion to $50 billion.