In Hurricane Sandy's Wake: Nature

October 29, 2014

Marsh grass creeps over abandoned cars, plants sprout through pavement, and reeds poke out of forgotten swimming pools. This is the seaside hamlet of Fox Beach, New York. Two years ago today Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, bringing an 11-foot storm surge that flooded many coastal communities. Fox Beach was among the hardest hit.

Sandy devastated this stretch of Staten Island, killing 24 residents. With hundreds of homes damaged beyond repair and flood insurance costs, many homeowners agreed to sell their properties to the state and move to higher ground. Now, nature is taking over.

Marshland can provide natural drainage and help buffer against storm surges and sea-level rise, and marshland is what Fox Beach is slowly becoming. More deer, hawks, and herons have already started to move in. “When I first saw all of the homes boarded up like that, I thought, ‘My God, what have we done?’” says one lifetime resident who lost a family member in the storm. “But it was the right choice. When we found my brother, I knew that I would never go back. No one should live out there.”

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein for Al Jazeera America

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