One Clip of Superstorm Sandy

Mar 28, 2013 BY Administrator

“…For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

--President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, February 12, 2013

Following President Obama’s first State of the Union address as a re-elected President, Environmental Defense Fund launched a multi-state TV-ad campaign urging viewers to support the President’s plan to reduce climate change pollution. The ad featured authentic and iconic footage of Hurricane Sandy that communicated EDF’s message that costly and devastating storms are increasing.

There were many iconic images of devastation produced from Sandy’s impact to consider: the river of sunken New York City taxi cabs, the sea-swept Seaside Heights roller coaster ride, the charred landscape that was Breezy Point, boats strewn like toys in unusual places, drowned subway stops, and flooded streets with survivors huddled in boats clutching emergency blankets, or perhaps even the blizzard that swept through West Virginia. Rather than these powerful images, or a montage of them, EDF selected a single video clip showing a wave flooding a residential street.

Shot by Trevor Moran, a surfer photographer and CNN iReport contributor, the handheld clip captures the frantic moment when the storm surge rushes into the Ocean City neighborhood where Moran’s parents live. The clip eerily combines the power of a big ocean wave with incongruous imagery of houses with porches and shrubbery, an open garage with its light on, a car parked in a driveway. Sandy produced record 15-foot storm surges and a 10-foot tide in Ocean City, even greater than the last epic storm to hit Ocean City in March of 1962.

Planet Vox had the privilege to ask Trevor about his experience.

Where were you when Hurricane Sandy hit?
I was in Ocean City, New Jersey on the south end of the island where my parents live and have a few rental homes.

Were you with anyone at the time? I was with my two brothers during the storm. Jamie, 29, and Brad 22.

What made you stay in the area despite the warnings/evacuations?
I'm an avid surfer, and my brothers are professional surfers. A large part of my focus is surfing photography which includes the stories of chasing storms up and down the East Coast and internationally. With one coming directly to us, we made the decision to stay put. Our choice wasn't without preparation however - plenty of non-perishable food, generator, fueled up jet skis, life jackets, cold water wetsuits. Having experience in extremely large and rough seas, we felt confident in our ability to ride out the storm, and relocate if necessary. Knowing the possibility of the roads being washed out and island not begin passable for quite some time, we made the decision to stay and tell the story rather than get locked out.

Could you please describe the scene as the storm surge washed into your neighborhood?
The video I shot was during the eye passover. After hours of rain and wind, conditions went calm for about 30 minutes at dusk and I wanted to go out and get some last-minute photos and footage before nightfall. By this time, there was about two feet of standing water in the streets, and much of the beach and dunes had been fully eroded, so the waves were beginning to crash right onto the first line of beachfront houses. I was taking a photo in the middle of the street when I heard a wave crash into the front of the houses with a 6-foot surge. I immediately pressed record on my camera and sprinted for higher ground, knowing that if the water got to me first I'd surely be washed out. Eventually the surge pushed over the bulkhead enough to allow the ocean to flow freely into the streets and we decided to head back to our home base which was one block further inland.

What were your thoughts when you saw that water rushing towards your home?
Through out the entire storm, the first thought was always for our safety and knowing when we would make the call if we had to move locations. As the water began to surge higher, we knew that the homes would suffer and there was nothing we could do. While we did cut the power to our houses to avoid electrical fires, aside from the pre-storm boarding up, we knew that we couldn't stop the water and that there would be damage, suffering, and eventually rebuilding.

What was it like riding out the storm?
It was definitely an adventure, but more than anything it was an emotional roller coaster. Anticipation, excitement, fear, doubt, helplessness and sadness all swirling during a 24 hour period is a lot to handle. In the end, I don't regret the decision to stay and would do it again.

What kind of damage did you see in your neighborhood after the storm?
Many of the beach front properties had the front of the houses ripped off which amounts to a total loss for them. The entire island was under a few feet of water, so even the houses that were structurally intact still have a massive amount of flood damage - mold, wall rip outs, weakened foundations, electrical and plumbing issues. The damage is a bit hidden, but still devastating and far from being all cleaned up. Ocean City for the most part managed to dodge the bullet compared to our northern neighbors - towns like Seaside Heights and Mantoloking received far more damage and it's clearly visible to the eye. Even still Mantoloking is completely closed as emergency crews attempt to make it passable for the recovery to even begin.

Do you feel that Hurricane Sandy is a product of climate change? Why?
I'm a firm believer that there a shift in the climates tendencies is occurring and there needs to be changes to our post-industrial habits and lack of consideration for the environment in our long term plans. However, I'm not in a position to say Sandy was a product of climate change. I think climate change is something that is a significant, yet gradual process and I don't believe in pointing to individual storm events as being a direct product. While Sandy had a massive footprint and extremely low pressure, it was still had relatively low wind speeds - the devastation was aided by full moon high tide and massive storm surge due to the unusual track of the storm. I feel more comfortable pointing to Sandy as an extreme set of unlikely circumstances rather than a super storm created by climate change.

View the EDF ad featuring Trevor’s clips here:

View a EDF web video that Planet Vox produced titled “Sandy Broke the Silence on Climate Change” here: