NYC to bear the brunt of worsening storms: study

Batten down the hatches — the Big Apple faces a greater rise in the risk of catastrophic hurricane damage over the next 30 years than any other city in the nation.

By 2053, New York City will see a 302% increase in average annual losses as climate change intensifies the power of tropical storms, the nonprofit First Street Foundation predicts in a hyper-local analysis of more than 50,000 likely storm tracks.

“We’re more likely to see storms that actually hold together and maintain hurricane-strength winds by the time they reach New York City,” said Dr. Jeremy Porter, First Street’s head of climate implications research.

A severe 2053 hurricane would inundate Manhattan’s historic South Street Seaport with a 5-foot-high storm surge and buffet it with 86-mph winds, Porter predicts.

BELOW: South Street Seaport would drown in a 5-foot storm surge if hit by a 2053 hurricane. CREDIT: First Street Foundation

The beloved downtown landmark and other waterfront spots throughout the city will see flooding increase by about a foot and winds intensify by up to 20 mph over the next three decades, the study found.

If a 1-in-100-year hurricane hits this year, for example, Coney Island’s iconic boardwalk would be slammed by a 5.4-foot storm surge and whipped by 106-mph winds.

But by 2053, such a gale would bring wind speeds of 123 mph, drowning the deck in 6.6 feet of water.

BELOW: By 2053, a hurricane could cover JFK Airport’s runways with more than 2 feet of water. CREDIT: First Street Foundation

Critical infrastructure such as JFK International Airport and the Queens Midtown Tunnel are under similar threat, the study found.

A 2053 hurricane could buffet the airport with 104-mph winds and would cover the tunnel’s Queens’ side with 6.4 feet of salt water.

Average annual losses due to tropical storm damage in the five boroughs will skyrocket from a predicted $2.1 million this year to more than $8 million in three decades, the report found.

Brooklyn will account for much of that cost: densely populated Kings County leads the nation with an expected 296% increase in average annual losses 30 years from now.

BELOW: The Coney Island Boardwalk would be swept by 123-mph winds in a 2053 hurricane. CREDIT: First Street Foundation

“We’re not anticipating more tropical cyclones, but a stronger intensification of the ones that do exist because of warmer sea surface temperatures and the warmer atmosphere,” Porter said.

That means slower-moving storms dumping more precipitation on New York, and stronger winds pushing higher storm surges, toppling larger trees, and damaging more homes.

The path of 2021’s Hurricane Ida — whose shocking flash floods drowned a dozen New Yorkers in their basement apartments — is an ominous sign, Porter said.

BELOW: The Queens approach to the Midtown Tunnel could be filled with 6.4 feet of water in a 2053 storm. CREDIT: First Street Foundation

“In the past, that tropical cyclone would have hit the Gulf Coast and then died out,” he explained.

“But because of the warming atmosphere and warming sea surface temperatures, it carried forward. We saw record amounts of rainfall in Central Park and flooding in areas where we almost never see it.”

The foundation has plotted the disaster potential for every address in the continental US — including private homes — on its Risk Factor website.

Flood in 2012
Future hurricanes will be even more catastrophic than 2012’s superstorm Sandy, which inundated the entire New York City region, including this Long Island neighborhood.
AFP/Getty Images

“We’re already starting to see home buyers using our information,” Porter said. “A bunch of the big banks are using it in mortgage evaluation, to price climate exposure into their risk metrics.”

Chris Reno, who lives in a storm-hardened home he built on the site of a Staten Island bungalow ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, called the research “vital and essential.”

“As a homeowner, you adapt and prepare,” Reno said.