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5 Surprising Effects of Hurricane Sandy: Business Continuity Planning

Most of the impact of Hurricane Sandy will be obvious—flooding, fires, buildings destroyed, lives lost. There are some effects, though, that may surprise you and might affect business continuity planning.

In the photo above, an Atlantic City, New Jersey resident inspects the area around her apartment building. Image credit: Getty Images

1. Blizzards? From a hurricane?

Sandy is one of the widest hurricanes on record—more than twice as wide as Katrina—and its westerly winds spawned a blizzard in West Virginia, according to the Weather Channel. The snowfall was as deep as 2-3 feet, and  so heavy that snow plows weren’t working; earthmovers were needed to clear roads.

2. Disrupting the Presidential election?

Hundreds of early voting locations are unable to operate because of damage, loss of electricity or lack of manpower. By the time of the election on November 6, there may still be displaced voters and polling places affected by the hurricane. Election officials are scrambling to figure out how to accommodate voters and make up for the lost time in early voting.

Since the Presidential election is a very close race, if a significant number of voters are unable to cast their ballot, their votes could be the deciding factor.

3. Disrupting the Internet

Power outages knocked out major data centers in New York and Virginia, disrupting websites that include Pinterest, Netflix and Instagram. Hundreds of major U.S. sites have been offline as a result of Sandy.

At one data center, employees reportedly hauled 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel up 17 flights of stairs to keep generators running until electricity was restored.

4. Disrupting the U.S. Economy

The areas in New York and New Jersey that were hit hardest account for around one-fourth of total U.S. economic output, according to CNBC. Around 20 percent of U.S. airline traffic flows through airports grounded by the storm.

Business losses could amount to as much as 30 billion dollars, according to early estimates. Insurance losses could run as high as 10 billion dollars. Supply chains will obviously be impacted, but the economic ripples from business losses will reach across the U.S.

5. Katrina’s Rival?

Some have hyped Sandy as a storm rivaling Katrina, but there’s no comparison in terms of human lives and property damage. More than 1,800 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, whereas Sandy has claimed the lives of around 100.

In some respects, though, Sandy comes close to Katrina’s fury, and in one case, exceeds Katrina.

Statistics upon U.S. landfall (Scientific American)

Top Wind Speed – Katrina: 125 mph | Sandy: 90 mph

Diameter (extent of high winds) – Katrina:  400 miles | Sandy: 940 miles

Storm Surge – Katrina: 14 feet | Sandy: 13 feet

Maximum Rainfall – Katrina: 15 inches | Sandy: 12 inches

Property Damage – Katrina: $81 billion | Sandy: $20 billion, early estimate

In addition, Sandy’s center was the lowest altitude of any hurricane ever seen in the western hemisphere, according to the Weather Channel. This contributed greatly to the force of the storm surges. With the increase of major disaster weather systems, business continuity planning will be even more important.

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