The historic cyclone resulted in more than 150 deaths, caused up to $70 billion in losses, destroyed homes, ruptured power plants, and damaged critical infrastructure. It became one more item on a troubling list of compounding crises for America—and the world.
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More than 150 people died as Hurricane Sandy carved a path through the Caribbean and made landfall in the United States. The so-called “Frankenstorm” combined a number of elements, including a hurricane, two cold fronts from the north and west, and high tide conditions, resulting in an unprecedented weather event. Although it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it came ashore, its destructive effects were not lessened.
Warnings included 75-mile-per-hour winds, several feet of snow in higher altitude areas such as West Virginia (at a time when leaves were not fully fallen, increasing the danger of downed trees), eight-foot-tall storm surges (when tides were already higher than usual due to a full moon), and severe flash flooding.
“Normally, when hurricanes approach the East Coast from Sandy’s angle, they are pulled safely out to sea by a semi-permanent low-pressure center near Iceland,” MarketWatch reported ahead of the storm. “This time around, that low pressure isn’t there. In fact, it’s been replaced by a high pressure so intense it only occurs approximately 0.2% of the time on average.
“The coincidence of that strong of a high pressure ‘block’ being in place just when a hurricane is passing by—in and of itself a very rare occurrence—is just mind bogglingly rare. It’s the kind of stuff that’s important enough to rewrite meteorological textbooks. The result: Instead of heading out to sea Sandy’s full force will be turned back against the grain and directed squarely at the East Coast.”
A grave weather report on Fox News before the storm’s landfall used phrases such as “rewriting the coastline,” and “major event that we have not seen in this lifetime,” stressing that Sandy was the biggest storm ever seen in the Atlantic basin, and held the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded so far north.
A somber meteorologist predicted that waves could reach as much as 30 feet above storm surge water levels. She concluded by warning those on the New York/New Jersey coast, “If you’re not already in your safe place…you’re in trouble.”
Authorities were convinced Hurricane Sandy would be one of the largest systems to roll through the area—a storm on steroids. NBC News reported that “the cleanup and power outage restoration” could easily continue until November 6, the day of U.S. elections.
In that regard, Sandy did not disappoint.
As Hurricane Sandy neared landfall, the northeastern U.S. was virtually shut down. Millions were ordered to evacuate as government officials eyed satellite images of a swirling behemoth, its extending cloud bands drenching a quarter of the country.
With a record 14-foot storm surge, Sandy crashed onto the shores of New Jersey and New York with unprecedented force, demolishing more than half of the boardwalk in Atlantic City and sweeping away dozens of homes. More than 30 were killed in New York City alone.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the morning following the cyclone’s arrival, “Floods and fires, seawater surges and electrical outages, fierce rains and lashing winds continued to pummel parts of the Northeast as Sandy continued its destructive march…
“From Chicago to the Atlantic Ocean, through major cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, the impact of the storm continued to grow.”
“Sandy continued to generate wind gusts up to 80 mph and dump up to a foot of rain and as much as 2 feet of snow in some areas. Many residents in coastal areas woke to both nasty winds and flash flooding from record surges pushed by the winds, high tides and a full moon.”
“Roughly six million people, including many in a large swath of Manhattan, were without electricity,” The New York Times stated. “Streets were littered with debris and buildings damaged. Seven subway tunnels under the East River were flooded. While several bridges over the East River were set to reopen, other mass transit service, including commuter rails, was still suspended.”
Referring to the flooded tunnels under the East River, The Associated Press reported that “Joseph Lhota, chairman of the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway.”
“Lower Manhattan, the financial center of the U.S., was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets” (ibid.).
“Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather in more than a century.”
By Tuesday, October 30, over 19,000 airline flights had been canceled, including those flying out of Chicago, as the city faced high wind and flood warnings. In West Virginia, communities were buried under three feet of snow. Up to a foot had fallen in western North Carolina.
Complicating the situation, Sandy slowed early voting for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, with some calling for it to be postponed.
“Region-wide, the economic costs of the storm could total $50 billion to $70 billion, according to IHS Global Insight,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
This includes some of the financial losses incurred as a result of looters, who took advantage of the situation and proudly boasted about what they stole via social media.
The New York Daily News reported that Coney Island, a popular recreational area, was targeted. One witness said: “‘People were running in and out of Rent-A-Center carrying these big flat screens…I couldn’t understand how someone could steal a big TV in broad daylight, but no one cared.’
“‘Look, they’ve been looting our wallets for too long,’ said a young male who claimed he helped himself to a TV at the Rent-A-Center.”
An angry store owner told the media outlet that “between the flooding and the plundering, his losses were too high to easily calculate. He said he’s not sure when he’ll reopen.
“‘We are supposed to come together as a community during times of crisis, not pick at each other like vultures,’ he said. ‘Next time I’m getting a gun.’”
Another shop employee who watched the looting of her own store stated, “They were literally walking out with shopping carts full of merchandise. They didn’t even look worried…I saw an elderly lady walking away with batteries and a bag of Kit Kats” (ibid.).
Consider: the largest-ever Atlantic storm—arriving with the full moon’s high tide—in one of the most populous regions of the leading Western superpower—and hammering a quarter of its citizens right before the most bitterly contested election in generations—and the resulting lawlessness that has occurred.
Yet for the world, the storm was just one more item on a sprawling list of compounding disasters that seem never-ending.
Think about what such a situation signifies for a heavily populated coast with an already-struggling economy: flights cancelled mean tourism dollars lost, trains stopped result in people not being able to work, businesses shuttered and then looted hit the pocketbooks of local entrepreneurs, flooded homes result in high insurance payouts, and on and on it goes.
On top of this is the frustration that results from such a large-scale disaster. This leads to an increased level of desperation among those affected, sometimes causing increased crime (as with New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck).
Reuters reported that gas ran out in more than half of all service stations in the New York/New Jersey area: “Tempers flared as a queue of at least 30 cars spilled down the street, with drivers blaring horns, shouting and getting out of their cars. Pump attendant Nadim Amid said the station had already run out of regular gasoline and only had a tiny amount of super unleaded and diesel left.”
Storms also leave a trail of environmental destruction. Floodwater contaminated with harmful pathogens can result in more instances of disease in a given area. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, scientists have discovered that the water contains a noxious mix of gasoline, bacteria and sewage: “Public health officials caution that stagnant water from floods can pose significant health risks, many of which can worsen with time,” National Geographic reported.
The magazine later stated, “Even without directly drinking the brackish water, contaminants can make their way into human bodies, through the air, or even through the faucet. Just walking through open water can infect people with open cuts. Rubbing eyes after touching water can increase one’s risk of infection as well.”
Another concern is New York City’s rat population: “No one knows exactly how many rats live in New York City, but [Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies] suspects that there are at least as many rats as humans…The displacement of rats caused by Hurricane Sandy—a dispersal of rats that is likely unprecedented for the city in terms of numbers—has Ostfeld concerned about a possible increased spread of rat-borne diseases. ‘You get infected individuals mixing with uninfected individuals and that’s a recipe for an outbreak,’ says Ostfeld.”
Such storms force Washington to pay a hefty bill—usually in the tens of billions of dollars in damages—and cost local, state and federal economies billions more. Yet the damage that was incurred from the so-called “Frankenstorm” does not take into account that the country is still reeling from a series of disasters—at least 10 “billion-dollar” ones to be exact—that occurred in 2011.
The state of Vermont, which suffered some of the worst damage during Hurricane Irene, was still struggling to recover when Hurricane Sandy bore down on it.
“The fact that people are still hurting [from Irene] is obvious at businesses such as the White River Valley Campground in Stockbridge, where owners Rebecca and Drew Smith say they’re still overwhelmed by all the work needed to get the place back open,” The Associated Press reported.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks region also continued to cope with Irene’s destruction—all while preparing for Hurricane Sandy, another AP article showed: “Gov. Beverly Purdue declared a state of emergency for some coastal areas, and a steady stream of campers and other vehicles hauling boats left the low-lying islands for the mainland. Residents feared a temporary bridge built after Irene last year poked a new inlet through the island could be washed out again, severing the only road off Hatteras Island.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 22 states are confronting active disasters, including wildfires, flooding, mudslides, severe storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Just this year, 88 areas declared some sort of emergency. In 2011, 242 did.
Many effects from previous disasters are long reaching. For example, several southern states are still cleaning up from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which was followed by Rita, Tropical Storm Lee, and then Isaac, which hit in August 2012.
In Louisiana, Isaac’s “tidal surge and waves hit the Mandeville-area park where it hurt the most: tearing up the beach, sending water into the 12 hugely popular vacation cabins perched above the lake, and flooding the visitors’ center,” The Times-Picayune reported. “The damage estimate: $3.6 million.”
And this was just one park after one storm! Think of the other areas affected in the past few years that have been affected by the nation’s wild weather, which has been some of the worst on record.
All too often, residents do not finish cleaning up one storm before another one plows through.
With storm after storm and disaster upon disaster, it seems impossible to keep up. Each impending catastrophe wipes a previous one from society’s collective memory. In the very least, it is not viable to keep every calamity in mind.
Remember the Western wildfires last summer? The drought across a third of the country? What about the last few years that hosted a slew of 500-plus tornadoes, an earthquake in Washington, D.C., a devastating oil spill, and many more such events? On the economic front, Americans lost 40 percent of their wealth from 2007-2010.
And this is all just in the United States!
Elsewhere, Mexico remains vexed by its never-ending drug-war nightmare. Europe is at the brink of collapse—with 40 percent unemployment in Spain and discontent everywhere. According to BBC News, scientists are calling the United Kingdom’s summer of both severe rain and drought the “weirdest” weather on record. The word to define the Middle East is uncertainty: Iran and Israel may soon come to blows, and there is no easy solution to Syria’s civil war.
Keeping in mind all these current events seems to crowd out previous calamities. Remember Japan’s 2011 tsunami and nuclear meltdown aftermath? Remember the 1,200 dead from a typhoon in the Philippines that same year? Remember the more than 250,000 dead from Haiti’s 2010 quake?
What about as far back as 2004? Over 230,000 died as a result of the Indonesian tsunami. Relief efforts are still ongoing.
Then there are the numbers silently ticking up across the globe. Millions dead from infectious disease. Thousands more from resurfacing maladies such as measles, whooping cough, and bubonic plague—now all drug resistant.
With all these things in mind, the global forecast seems bleak—a perfect storm of horrendous disasters.
This ghastly worldwide picture can seem overwhelming. Each new calamity only compounds the situation. How many more natural disasters, disease pandemics, and international conflicts can mankind sustain?
Seeing such things understandably elicits the question: why? Yet this query is often shoved out of mind for those grappling with real crises in their own lives. When one is unemployed, starving, gravely ill—or struggling to recover from a storm surge that destroyed a family home—the question of why the world is in turmoil is understandably forgotten. Even attempting to keep up with piling bills pushes “why” out of the way. Due to this, those beset with problems instead tend to ask, “What does my future hold?”
Most naturally desire to know what is coming. They look to meteorologists for weather forecasts, seismologists for an idea of when an earthquake will happen, and economists for their financial futures. They turn to newscasters to make sense of current events and historians to understand what has already happened. Yet there is one source that recorded what would occur before it happened—in effect, history written in advance.
Notice: “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.”
Rumors of wars. Nation against nation. Famine. Pestilence. Earthquakes across the globe. All these words could be ripped from today’s headlines. Yet this is a quote from the Bible recorded 2,000 years ago in Matthew 24:6-7.
This passage is part of what is known as Jesus Christ’s Olivet prophecy. It is an extended answer to His disciples asking what world conditions would be like at the end of the age.
The original Greek word for troubles is tarache, which Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines as “disturbance, that is, (of water) roiling, or of (a mob) sedition.”
Violent mobs and riots have certainly reappeared over the last decade, but so too has “roiling” water—hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding and violent thunderstorms.
All of these conditions have always been here, but it is clear they are worsening. Yet because such weather events have been occurring for thousands of years, the only thing that Christ could have meant was that they would worsen in the end times. He foretold that they would create a compounding series of disasters.
While these passages seem to support the common viewpoint that the Bible is a book of “doom and gloom,” alongside them is supreme good news that most overlook.
Mark 13 continues, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations” (vs. 10). This gospel, meaning “good news,” tells of a coming time when the world will experience a complete change in governance that will bring peace, prosperity, protection, health and abundance—even good weather.
Unknown to most, this is the overall message of the Bible!
But if this is the case, why does God’s Word foretell the current tumultuous outlook? Most do not realize that these conditions are designed to get people’s attention. They set the table for events outlined in the Bible that will come to pass in coming years and provide powerful proof of the Book’s validity.