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Storm surge threatens nearly 450K N.J. homes with $134B in reconstruction costs, new study finds

Star-Ledger July 10, 2014

A new study released today found that nearly 450,000 properties in New Jersey are at risk of being damaged by hurricane-driven storm surge. Here, an aerial view of the Ortley Beach section of Toms River is pictured after Hurricane Sandy battered the community. (Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)
Nearly 450,000 homes in New Jersey stand at risk of damage from hurricane-fueled storm surge, a new report released today found, representing more than $134 billion in potential reconstruction costs.
Only Florida, Louisiana and New York have more exposed homes than New Jersey, according to the analysis from CoreLogic, a California-based analytic and research firm.
Despite damages caused by massive storms like Hurricane Sandy, Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions, said he expects people to continue to build in the nation’s coastal communities, putting more properties at risk.
“People build there because they really want to have that aesthetic quality,” he said. “People are willing to pay more for that. I don’t think you are going to see a big deterrent from Sandy.”
Though New Jersey has a less-expansive coastline than states such as Florida and Texas, it still ranks among the top five for its number of exposed homes. The report said that’s because New Jersey’s low elevation allows storm surge to push water further inland and impact more properties. The density of development along the coast is another contributing factor.
Sandy set record storm surges, causing tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. At Sandy Hook, the storm surge pushed the water level to more than 13 feet before the gauge stopped reporting. That broke a previous record of 10.1 feet.
Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, more than 6.5 million homes are vulnerable to storm surge, the report found. That represents $1.5 trillion in total potential reconstruction costs, the majority of which is concentrated in 15 major metropolitan areas.
The New York metro area, which includes northern New Jersey and Long Island, is most at risk for both the number of vulnerable homes and the costs associated with rebuilding those homes, followed by Miami.
Nearly 690,000 homes are at risk in the New York area, the report found, representing reconstruction costs of $251 billion.
Though this year’s hurricane season is expected to be slightly below normal, Jeffrey said, “the early arrival of Hurricane Arthur on July 3 is an important reminder that even a low-category hurricane or strong tropical storm can create powerful riptides, modest flooding and cause significant destruction of property.”
Because of changes CoreLogic made to its methodology , such as including other categories of single-family homes, the company said the data from this year’s report should not be compared with data from previous years.

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