The Blog Aquatic » katrina News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:48:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cleanup Volunteers Join a Wave of Action to Support Sandy Recovery Mon, 10 Dec 2012 20:52:02 +0000 Nick Mallos

A powerful reminder of what was lost during Sandy; no words necessary. Photo by Nick Mallos

Superstorm Sandy was an unpreventable and unavoidable natural disaster that left in her wake a trail of devastation both physical and emotional that will require not months, but likely years to repair. The total cost of Sandy’s destruction may exceed $50 billion. Beach Cleanups alone certainly will not repair the damage that was done by Sandy; in fact, it’s likely that it will barely scratch the surface. However, each of these small actions taken collectively has major implications for the recovery of New Jersey and New York shores.

So there we were—Ocean Conservancy—at a desolate Jones Beach State Park on Long Island, NY equipped to do what we’ve been doing for over 25 years—clean up the beach. The cleanup was just one of many going on throughout the day along devastated beaches in New York and New Jersey as part of an effort called “Waves of Action,” which aims to help with coastal recovery efforts. Conditions were less than ideal:  cloudy with light drizzle, 45 degrees, and an ocean breeze that had it feeling much colder We were nervous—would our list of attendees brave the weather and make it out? But just as volunteers do each September during the International Coastal Cleanup, on this chilly December morning more than 70 volunteers—most of whom were Long Island residents—put aside their Christmas shopping to lend a hand for a beach and community they love. In fact, many New Yorkers changed their plans that morning as they heard of the event via WCBS 880’s live radio coverage from Jones Beach.

Together, volunteers scoured the sand and dunes for three hours removing a total of 2,000 pounds of debris scattered over 420,000 square meters of beach. Much of the debris found was entangled in dune grasses or deposited along a soundside wrackline created by Sandy’s receding waters. The windswept beach was mostly barren with the exception of a few items synonymous with summertime:  boat docking, a soft pretzel stand’s signage, a Sirius XM radio and thousands of plastic straws and stirrers that stuck out of the sand like sprouting dune grass. At the base of the dunes, thousands of plastic bottle caps and tampon applicators created a disheartening plastic puzzle and in all directions plastic bags snagged on dune grass or shrubs flapped in the wind. The exact source of these items will never be known, but the proximity of New York Harbor and an up-beach sewer outfall suggests much of the debris was compliments of the Big Apple; yet another reminder that the ocean is always downstream.

Sandy was unpreventable. But we can and should learn from storms like Sandy as well as Hurricane Katrina and last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The threat of natural disasters is not new and we must critically examine our daily activities that make us more susceptible to damage inflicted by these events. This ranges from beachfront development to restoring our natural defenses like oyster reefs and dunes to reevaluating our daily consumption of one-time use disposable plastics.

The ocean is incredible. But we continue to take too much out while concurrently putting too much in. Its limits are not infinite and it’s time we give the big blue a little help to make certain the ocean retains its resiliency in the face of a future Katrina, Sandy, or the next vixen who remains TBD.

In addition to the inspiring efforts of the volunteers and Jones Beach Park Service, Ocean Conservancy would like to thank the sponsors of the cleanup, LandShark Lager and Altria, who stepped in on short notice to help provide funding for the event.

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Rebuilding The Places We Love After The Storms That Change Our Lives Thu, 01 Nov 2012 20:15:43 +0000 Bethany Kraft I live in a world where time is marked by the storms that alter the face of the landscape and change people’s lives: Betsy, Camille, Frederick, Opal, Ivan, Katrina, Isaac. Hurricanes are a fact of life in the Gulf, and I feel confident in saying that folks on the Gulf Coast are sending their thoughts and prayers to those most severely affected by Hurricane Sandy because we understand the extent of the work and time it will take to recover.  We will nod our heads in understanding when you start a sentence five years from now with “Before Hurricane Sandy” because that’s how we speak, too.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was a lot of talk about the city of New Orleans and its vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding. Some people even said that the city shouldn’t be rebuilt, that it would be a waste of resources to build back in a place hanging on by a fingernail to the last fringes of marsh that are losing ground every day to a hungry and unforgiving sea.

Perhaps people will say the same of the coastal communities devastated by Sandy. Then again, in a year marked by devastating droughts, wildfires and other disasters, it seems like there is no place left to run. We may as well stand our ground and fight for the places we love. And so, when the shock has worn off, when the debris has been cleared away, when the news cameras are gone, people will begin the long task of rebuilding in the wide swath of destruction Sandy left behind. And we will continue with the task of rebuilding here along the Gulf, creating a kinship and solidarity across geographic divides and thousands of miles. We are all in this together.

If there is anything that living along the coast has taught me, it is that we are tiny and powerless in the face of something as untamed as Nature, and that despite our best efforts to engineer her into submission over the last 100 years, we can never fully engineer the wild out of wildness. Levees, seawalls, jetties and bulkheads–these engineered structures may provide some measure of protection and help us to feel safe and secure, but we would do well to remember that sometimes Nature has already figured out the solution, and we just have to let it work.

Rebuilding will happen. It has to happen. But we need to rebuild more than our homes and schools and roads. We need to rebuild the wetlands and the oyster reefs, and protect the dunes that protect us when the waters rise and the winds howl. I don’t believe in restoration of our natural resources because it’s nice to have trees and beaches. I do it because

I do it because restoring our natural resources is a life or death proposition. Without them, we are building castles in the sand. And we’ll have to keep building them over and over. Out of the tragedy of storms like Katrina and Isaac and Sandy comes an opportunity to rebuild the very things that make life on the fringes so beautiful and precious.

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Preparing for Hurricane Season in the Gulf of Mexico Thu, 31 May 2012 23:07:40 +0000 Bethany Kraft

For most folks, June 1st passes much like any other day (although it is Oscar the Grouch’s birthday and official “flip a coin” day), but for people who call the Gulf coast home, it’s a significant day on the calendar. It marks the start of hurricane season, which runs until November 30.

Like many people, I find myself equally fearful of and fascinated by these intense weather events. Talk to anyone who’s lived on the coast for more than 5 years and I bet they have a hurricane story for you. I personally learned about latitude and longitude by tracking Hurricane Gilbert as it marched towards Texas in September of 1988. I spent a long night and morning in Mobile, Alabama listening to Katrina howl her way into history as one of the nation’s most devastating disasters.

Friends who live in other parts of the country always have the same question for me this time of year, “Why do you live on the coast? If you don’t want to get hit by a hurricane, don’t live there.” My answer is always the same: This is my home. I carry this place so deep inside me that there is no force strong enough to untether me from the Gulf. Not even a hurricane.

Here’s the thing. People have lived on the Gulf coast for thousands of years. What’s different now is that we’ve forgotten how to live with water, forgotten that no matter how much we try to engineer it into submission, nature will always be wild and unpredictable. The Gulf ecosystem is capable of weathering hurricanes and providing some protection to communities, but only if we recognize the vital role our resources play in protecting us.

Consider wetlands. Wetlands act as buffers when a storm hurtles toward shore. Marshes and wetlands reduce the height of waves and storm surge and slows the movement of water toward our communities. Yet we are losing them at alarming rates due to erosion, development and sea level rise. In Louisiana alone, we lose the equivalent of 32 football fields of wetlands every single day.

Restoring vital resources like wetlands not only helps support our wildlife, it makes our communities stronger and more resilient. So next time you see The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore coming to you live from the Gulf, remember that it’s not just the critters who live here who need our resources to thrive, it’s every person who makes a home here.

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