Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy—counting the costs

One of the many scandals of this fall's Presidential election is that the two major candidates had three debates lasting 270 minutes and the subject of climate change was not mentioned once.  Not even superficially.  Candy Crowley, one of the debate moderators, was asked how such a thing could happen and she claimed that she wanted to focus on the economy.  Candy baby, in 2012 we burned up 8.8 million acres from wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes while the corn belt was scorched by an unprecedented drought.  And now New York is being slapped around by the second "storm of the century" in two years.  Kind of hard to imagine anything more relevant to the economy than climate change.

Well, at least they were forced to close the New York stock exchange so even the fools who think economics is only about markets are being forced to admit the new crazy climate reality.  But as you can see from these articles, the thinking is not exactly deep.  I mean, Bill McKibben is one of my favorite writers and he focuses on the damage that has been caused to the subway system.  But when he compares New York to an old growth forest, it becomes pretty clear that he doesn't really understand the function of design and maintenance of infrastructure.  And when insurance companies can only focus on the losses that will accrue to underwriters, it's really clear that no one of "importance" can even imagine the damage that has been done.

But hey, they will put a number on it.  Perhaps it will even be large enough to attract the attention of a dullard like Crowley.

Hurricane Sandy has drowned the New York I love

The subway is more than mass transit – it's the city's very roots. The idea of the metro swamped by cold, salt water is unbearable
Bill McKibben, Tuesday 30 October 2012

New York is the city I love best, and I'm trying to imagine it from a distance tonight. The lurid, flash-lit instagram images of floating cars in Alphabet City or water pouring out of the East River into Dumbo, the reports of bridges to the Howard Beach submerging and facades falling off apartment houses – it all stings. It's as horrible in its very different way as watching 9/11.

But it's the subways I keep coming back to, trying to see in my mind's eye what must be a dark, scary struggle to keep them from filling with water. The tide at the Battery has surged feet beyond the old record; water must be pouring into every entrance and vent – I hope some brave reporter is chronicling this fight, and will someday name its heroes.

For me, the subways are New York, or at least they're the most crucial element of that magnificent ecosystem. When I was a young Talk of the Town reporter at the New Yorker, I spent five years exploring the city, always by subway. This was in the 1980s, at the city's nadir – the graffiti-covered trains would pause for half an hour in mid-flight; the tinny speakers would reduce the explanation of the trouble to gibberish.

It was how I traveled, though – I didn't even know how to hail a cab. For a dollar, you could go anywhere. And my boast was that I'd gotten out at every station in the system for some story or another. It may not have been quite true: the Bronx is a big and forgotten place, and Queens stretches out forever – but it was my aspiration.

The subways were kind of dangerous, but also deeply democratic. Writing about homelessness, I slept with hundreds of other men on the endless A train to the Rockaways. I convinced motormen to let me ride as they turned trains around through the City Hall station abandoned decades earlier. I hung out in the control room under Grand Central with its Hollywood array of levers and lights.

Imagining all that filled with cold salt water is too much.

I'm an environmentalist: New York is as beautiful and diverse and glorious as an old-growth forest. It's as grand, in its unplanned tumble, as anything ever devised by man or nature. And now, I fear its roots are being severed. more
Here it is one more time—the price of everything and the value of nothing.  In fact, since they are only counting insured losses, we are not even discussing the the cost of "everything."

New York stock markets close as insurers calculate hurricane damage

Financial analysts prepare for significant disruption to business and infrastructure and billions of insured loss

Dominic Rushe and Heidi Moore in New, Monday 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy has closed New York's stock markets as the city prepares for the worst – but although finance chiefs may be sitting it out at home they are already trying to calculate the costs.

The storm is sweeping across a densely populated areas of the country, an area that accounts for 20% of the US population, some of its largest business hubs and much of its most expensive real estate.

Dr Tom Jeffery, chief hazard scientist for analyst CoreLogic, said the storm was likely to cause massive disruption to business and infrastructure and threatened nearly 284,000 residential properties valued at almost $88bn.

"The obvious comparison is with Irene last year, but the impact of Sandy is likely to be much, much greater," he said. Expected storm surges of 6-11ft in Long Island Sound and 4-8ft in the city of New York would hit transport systems and some of the world's most expensive properties. "There's likely to be a lot more damage this time," he said.

As the storm approaches, no one really knows how bad the damage will be but massive disruption has already begun, Randy Frederick, managing director of Active Trading and Derivatives at Charles Schwab, wrote in a note to clients. "For now we wait and hope that everyone stays safe."

The hurricane – or rather, the threat of the hurricane – has caused a shutdown in most of the financial markets, including the New York Stock Exchange and the NYMEX Commodities Exchange, although the bond markets were open for half a day. Morgan Stanley's chief operating officer, Jim Rosenthal, told Bloomberg TV that the firm had certain essential employees at its headquarters in midtown Manhattan and was prepared for an "indefinite period" of storm disruption. more 

1 comment:

  1. When preparing for the Hurricane my business was pretty much guaranteed to get some sort of damage but we really had no idea it would be as bad as it was. The cost of bringing our business back to life has been much more than we expected so I'm sure everyone affected is hurting in the same way. Between fixing the exterior of the building, the flooding and the money we spent on disaster recovery services it was definitely hard on us. Luckily we are back up and running and hopefully everyone else is on their way back to normal as well.