Between October 29 and 30, much of New Jersey, and some areas of Pennsylvania and New York, bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy as a unique combination of weather patterns steered the path of the storm inland. As New Jersey residents took shelter in their homes or evacuation centers, hurricane force winds uprooted trees and downed power lines, leaving much of the state in darkness. The much celebrated Jersey shore was ravaged, as record storm surges flooded homes and swept some off their foundations, while also inflicting significant damage to beaches, boardwalks, and other infrastructure. By all measures, most of the residents of New Jersey were directly affected by the hurricane, in some way.
Although it's true that New Jersey residents have weathered severe storms before, the physical, economic, and emotional impact of Hurricane Sandy is without equal, at least in recent memory. For some, life has been permanently altered. Yet, New Jerseyans have shown great resilience, beginning the difficult process of rebuilding their own lives and property, performing extraordinary acts of kindness towards others in need: assisting with storm clean-up, pet rescue, aid donations, providing temporary refuge to displaced neighbors, sharing power generation, and more.
While a lot has been lost—property, prized possessions, and the ultimate sacrifice, life—as a state, we've gained a newfound respect for our neighbors, far and wide. We've also gained greater understanding, and perhaps a greater sense of urgency about our vulnerability to a warming climate.
The Rutgers community has come to the aid of many across the state and has created a website that offers an organized way for the university community to continue to offer its help as well as ways to access help.
The Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) played key roles before, during, and after the hurricane. This webpage is devoted to documenting some key ways in which students, faculty, and staff from the school and Rutgers Cooperative Extension helped before, during, and after the hurricane. Collectively, these efforts underscore our commitment, as New Jersey's land-grant university, to serving the needs of the people, communities, and businesses of our state.
Robert M. Goodman
Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Executive Dean, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Executive Director, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
How We Served New Jersey
As the storm approached New Jersey, Ph.D. students Travis Miles and Greg Seroka launched the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory's underwater glider off the coast of Belmar, NJ, to gather readings that will further reveal the ocean's role in ocean-driven hurricanes.
Miles and Seroka believe that the real value of the data gathered by the glider will be in helping scientists forecast storm behavior in the oceans.
Marine and Coastal Sciences faculty member Jennifer Francis has been communicating with the media on an ongoing basis about the relationship between melting Arctic ice caps and its potential impact on global weather patterns. Francis' explanations and predictions present a clearer picture of the role of global warming in producing a superstorm such as Sandy.
David Robinson, the New Jersey State Climatologist—a position that resides within and is supported in part by the NJAES—provided up-to-date weather summaries as well as interpretation of how weather patterns may be amplified by global warming, potentially resulting in storms of increased severity.
Hurricane Sandy has left major destruction and monumental rebuilding efforts in its wake as well as serious questions about a warming climate, prompting many, including marine sciences professor Kenneth Miller, to urge deep examination about where we build and recommending robust action to protect our planet.
Right after the hurricane, Rutgers Cooperative Extension agricultural and resource management agents worked with farmers and the New Jersey office of the USDA Farm Services Agency to assess damage to crops, facilitating a unified multi-county disaster declaration. In addition, extension faculty helped identify those farmers with critical generator needs and assisted in getting generators to them.
RCE faculty and staff also participated in a statewide program to rescue and care for pets and livestock that were marooned or otherwise threatened due to evacuation or storm damage to barns, stables, and homes. Rutgers 4-H agents helped displaced homeowners deal with the difficult task of relocating with pets.
When ResponseForce1, the organization commissioned to build and operate two large base camps and a mass care shelter in New Jersey, found itself stranded without a propane contractor to provide fuel for its operations, Bill Sciarappa stepped right in. As the agricultural and resource management agent in Monmouth County, he secured a local propane distributor to supply critical fuel to power the two base camps that housed masses of emergency responders who poured into New Jersey as well as the Monmouth Park shelter for residents displaced by the hurricane.
The 4-H Arts Club of Somerset County used a portion of the proceeds of their bake sale on Election Day to support Lavallette School and Frog Pond Elementary School in Little Egg Harbor Township, a community devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
The Department of Family and Community Health Sciences distributed timely information on food safety to reduce the potential risk for foodborne diseases, following widespread loss of electricity in several New Jersey counties.
SEBS and NJAES staff support of recovery efforts through donations, clean-up, and other assistance are too numerous to document. One such effort was the collection and delivery of cleaning supplies for families faced with flooded homes in the Highlands and Union Beach, NJ. Organized by Rachel Weissenburger of The Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers and assisted by her cousin Bonnie Wasielewski of SEBS and NJAES Office of Communications, employees donated clothes, buckets, bleach, heavy duty trash bags, sponges, gloves, and other cleaning supplies that were delivered during the crucial clean-up phase immediately following the storm. The widespread and immediate response by school and experiment station personnel to this gathering of donations was made possible through the personals email listserv developed by SEBS and NJAES Information Technology Services.
Visit our website for important resources on hurricane and flood preparedness and follow the links on the right to view more news on the ways in which our faculty and research have served the state during and after Hurricane Sandy.