Visualizing The Damage From Superstorm Sandy

Three months later, this powerful infographic shows just how much destruction the storm brought, in graphics and pictures.

It has been months now since the devastation from Superstorm Sandy abated. Some spots in the New York tri-state area got away relatively unscathed; others emerged with battle wounds that will take years to heal. The Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University recently put together an interactive map that reveals the hardest hit areas on the Long Island, Staten Island, and New Jersey coasts (New York City is coming soon). And in case the menacing red circles that indicate damage aren’t powerful enough, hovering over individual areas also shows aerial images of destruction post-Sandy.


The map is easy to decipher: Just zoom in on different areas to see the size of the storm surge (denoted by light gray patches) and the amount of damaged buildings as determined by FEMA (the red circles). If you want to see employment and income levels in various areas, there are layers you can toggle for that too (see this post for more on the demographics of Sandy).

We can see, for example, that Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, was hit extremely hard, with 327 damaged structures. The accompanying aerial images don’t really do that statistic justice. The area is demographically split, with some parts having just 2.1% unemployment and others having 7.3%. The income levels are also divided–the area with lower unemployment has a medium income of $82,188 and the section with higher unemployment has a median of $63,974.

One of the most interesting parts of the interactive map is the comparison of storm surge to damaged buildings. In many areas with big storm surges, damage to buildings was minimal. Now that we know where the most vulnerable areas are, scientists and government officials can start to have serious conversations about mitigation methods like storm-surge barriers.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.