As New Yorkers continue to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, a nagging question persists. Are we prepared for another storm? Many experts say the answer, unfortunately, is no and that has officials examining ways to prevent another disaster. They are looking for guidance, including at a country with deep roots in our own city. Our Josh Robin begins his series Fighting the Tide: What Can we Learn from the Netherlands After Sandy. Here's his first report.
NETHERLANDS -- Winter dusk at the North Sea. Frigid water flows under the gates of the Oosterscheldekering. A funny Dutch name with a serious mission. Preventing another flood like the one that killed almost two thousand people 60 years ago.
After Hurricane Sandy, experts are studying similar barriers here. But officials’ opinions are mixed.
"I've never been convinced that is possible, number two that is worthwhile," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on January 29th.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is more open to the idea, which professors say is worth studying.
"Do we want New York City to exist the way that we know it and love it today? Or are we willing to have catastrophic storms like we experienced with Sandy?" asked Malcolm Bowman of Stony Brook University.
It's a question many anxiously are asking in New York. Fifty billion dollars in federal aid is starting to arrive in the region to help recover from Sandy and prevent damage from another storm. The answer to how to best spend it may lie across the Atlantic.
People have been fighting floods for generations. The Netherlands actually means the Lower Countries. About a third of the nation is below sea level, including much of its biggest cities.
After its devastating flood, the Netherlands spent billions. Officials say it hasn't had a death in a flood since. It literally changed the coastline, with big projects like barriers and dams and smaller methods, too, like levees and artificial beaches, even homes that bob on the water, keeping pace with climate change and the perpetually rising tide.
"We are the first country in the world that now we want to be prepared for the next disaster, actually to avoid the next disaster. Knowing what's going to change in the circumstances. And that's urgent. It’s not cute. But it's urgent," said Wim Kuijken, Dutch Delta Commissioner.
Transporting the Dutch projects here would require sacrifice. But time may be running out: A state panel finds sea levels could surge ten inches by 2020.
It's a bleak statistic Dutch planners know well. Flood protection standards in the Netherlands are 100 times stricter than in the U.S.