After Sandy: Are We Ready for the Next Big Storm?

NEW YORK (AP) -
These photos, taken Dec. 4, 2012, Oct. 21, 2013, and Oct. 15, 2014, show the progress of home repair in Breezy Point, Queens, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
These photos, taken Dec. 4, 2012, Oct. 21, 2013, and Oct. 15, 2014, show the progress of home repair in Breezy Point, Queens, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

After Superstorm Sandy, officials in New York and New Jersey vowed to make sure the unprecedented destruction wouldn’t happen again.

Two years later, would it?

There are some concrete signs of tougher protections, from a nearly-finished sea wall protecting two devastated New Jersey towns to a Long Island boardwalk rebuilt to serve as a retaining wall. New floodgates protect a power plant where Sandy plunged miles of Manhattan into darkness and some homes sit higher, while other buildings boast new flood barriers.

Enhanced preparedness has hardened backup power systems at hospitals, forged new systems to flood-proof subway vents, installed generators at dozens of gas stations to run pumps in a power outage, redrawn evacuation-zone maps and reshaped emergency plans for managing problems from debris to traffic.

But many planned projects are still years off, and some ideas are still under study. Thousands of homeowners await repair aid, some of it coupled with steps to make homes safer. Some efforts to buy out flood-prone homes haven’t gotten takers in the worst-hit areas. And across the coast, a patchwork of protections leaves some areas more vulnerable than others.

Still, officials and disaster-preparedness experts see meaningful movement on a complicated problem that could take decades to remedy.

“The region is better prepared for a storm like Sandy,” said Rockefeller Foundation president and resilience expert Judith Rodin. “I could never say that everyone is or should be satisfied with the rate of progress, but things are progressing.”