Hurricane: Atmospheric Hazard

Atmospheric hazards are produced in or by the earth’s atmosphere. An example of an atmospheric hazard is a hurricane, which are colossal atmospheric hazards in which winds move in a counterclockwise direction at high velocities. Hurricanes develop in warm ocean waters and move inland, wreaking destruction on the built and natural environment. These storms can range from a Category 1, with 74 to 95 mph wind speed, to a massive Category 5, with wind speeds reaching 157 mph or higher. Category 5 hurricanes produce catastrophic damage.

The majority of houses will be demolished, with roofs and walls collapsing. Power outages, due to fallen power lines, can lasts for months (McEntire, 2015, p. 9). Hurricane Katrina reached a Category 5, and while Hurricane Sandy, often referred to as Superstorm Sandy, did not reach the highest magnitude on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, being a Category 3 at it’s peak.

Regardless, Sandy was the most destructive of the 2012 hurricane season. While mitigation and preparedness decreases the damage on the environmental and built environment, many jurisdictions remain vulnerable to the hazard.

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Neither New Orleans in 2005 nor New York City in 2012 was prepared for the disastrous hurricanes that would strike the two cities. This essay will define the similarities and differences the context of the two cities prior to Katrina and Sandy’s landfall.Both New Orleans and New York City were environmentally vulnerable prior to the hurricanes. New Orleans is presently eight feet below sea level. To make matters worse, New Orleans was constructed on soil composed of silt, sand, and clay. This mixture is compact and dense, causing the city to sink.

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Sediments brought in from the surrounding water can slow the sinking of the soil, however, the numerous levees prohibit the sediments from entering. The levees are inadequate at keeping flooding at bay because the levees remain without proper maintenance due to budget cuts.

In addition, the surrounding wetlands are decreasing, which act to reduce flooding. New Orleans has lost 1,900 square miles of wetland since 1960. Three miles of wetland absorbs a foot of a storm surge. Another environmental vulnerability New Orleans possesses is the bodies of water that borders the city on all sides. To the south of New Orleans is the Gulf of Mexico, through which Hurricane Katrina traveled to reach Louisiana. Lake Pontchartrain borders New Orleans to the north while the Mississippi River runs through the city. New York City was just as environmentally vulnerable. It is located on the coast, and, despite the fallacious notion that northern waters are too cold for hurricanes to travel through, puts the city at a very high risk. While it is rare for hurricanes to travel as far north as New York City, it makes the hurricanes that do dangerous. Their speed increases to two or three times the average hurricane speed and expand. Secondly, New York City is located on the New York Bite, a right angle where the state of New Jersey meets the state of New York. Water pushes in to the angle but inland, which increases wave height. This is detrimental during hurricanes.

New York City, despite being composed of tall skyscrapers made of steel, has a highly vulnerable built environment. Metropolitan areas are dangerous in the event of a hazard. The city is home to millions of people, with countless others visiting, making the city incredibly dense, already a recipe for a high death toll. New York City does not have many exit points, trapping many within the city and slowing evacuation. However, elevation levels rise quickly in New York City, so one would only have to walk to higher grounds rather than travel via vehicle. New Orleans, despite heavy tourism, is poor with a poverty rate of twenty percent, which is double the national average. The ramshackle housing of the Ninth Ward experienced the greatest amount of damage. Despite the vulnerabilities of the built and natural environment, the people of New Orleans and New York City shared similar attitudes before the hurricanes struck. The New Yorkers were complacent as the common belief that hurricanes do not travel north. This is false. Regardless, many did not want to evacuate, underestimating the damage Hurricane Sandy would inflict. In New Orleans, citizens were barhopping the night before Hurricane Katrina made contact. The citizens did not fear hurricanes, but rather had a respect for the natural disaster.

The general mindset appeared to be they has survived hurricanes in the past and Katrina would be no different. Tens of thousands of people did not evacuate, which the city was unprepared for the hurricane’s landfall. While many chose to stay, 100,000 citizens were unable to evacuate because they did not have means of transportation or money for a hotel. The context of New Orleans in 2005 and New York City in 2012 shared many similarities and differences prior to Katrina and Sandy’s landfall. The two cities were vastly unprepared for the hurricane’s destruction as both lack proper mitigation in the natural and built environment. As a result, the structural damage cost billions and many lives were taken.

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Hurricane: Atmospheric Hazard. (2020, Sep 12). Retrieved from

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