In light of Hurricane Sandy, which crippled several East Coast cities and destroyed thousands of homes, coastal communities should be more prepared to face stronger and more frequent storms, according to a report from a presidential task force.
The October 2012 storm spurred a $50 billion federal relief package, as well as the creation of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. It released 69 policy recommendations on Monday to serve as a model for other communities that are at a greater risk of severe storms and flooding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that since 1992, high temperatures and melting ice sheets have caused sea levels to rise by an average of 3 millimeters per year, which is a "significantly" higher rate than thousands of years before.
"More than ever, it is critical that when we build for the future, we do so in a way that makes communities more resilient to emerging challenges such as rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more frequent and intense storms," writes Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, in the report.
Some of the report's recommendations are already being implemented in the cleanup of the New York and New Jersey shores, including different planning tools and flood-protection standards.
While it is unclear if storms of the same intensity as Sandy will become more common, evidence points to possible changes in the frequency, intensity and duration of "future extreme meteorological events, which may lead to unprecedented extreme weather events."
Last year, 11 different disastrous storms caused losses of more than $1 billion each, the report says.
"Sandy and other recent disasters underscore the nation's vulnerability to extreme weather events under current climate conditions," the report says.
Task force members shaped their recommendations around different policy priorities, such as basing rebuilding efforts on future risk assessments and investing more in certain infrastructures.
They recommend creating, for example, a widely available sea level rise projection tool and strengthening data and wireless communications networks so cellular towers and other infrastructures can keep working "regardless of the status of the electrical grid."
"Going forward, we must build systems that are less likely to go down during a disaster and will come back more quickly if they do go down," said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, an organization which focuses on building resilience, in a statement. "We cannot prevent all future disasters from occurring, but we can prevent failing catastrophically by embracing, practicing, and improving comprehensive resilience strategies."