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William Solecki, Robin Leichenko and David Eisenhauer


It is five years since Hurricane Sandy heavily damaged the New York- New Jersey Metropolitan region, and the fuller character of the long-term response can be better understood. The long-term response to Hurricane Sandy and the flooding risks it illustrated are set in myriad of individual and collective decisions taken during the time following the event. While the physical vulnerability of this region to storm surge flooding and climate change risks including sea level rise has been well-documented within the scholarly literature, Sandy’s impact placed decision-makingpost extreme events into the forefront of public and private discussions about the appropriate response. Some of the most fundamental choices were made by individual homeowners who houses were damaged and in some cases made uninhabitable following the storm. These individuals were forced to make decisions regarding where they would live and whether Sandy’s impact would result in their moving. In the disaster recovery and rebuilding context, these early household struggles about whether to leave or stay are often lost in the wider and longer narrative of recovery. To examine this early phase, this paper presents results of a research study that documented the ephemeral evidence of the initial phase of recovery in coastal communities that were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge and flooding. Hurricane Sandy and the immediate response to the storm created conditions for a potential large-scale transformation with respect to settlement of the coastal zone. In the paper, we examine and analyze survey and interview results of sixty-one residents and two dozen local stakeholders and practitioners to understand the stresses and transitions experienced by flooded households and the implications for the longer term resiliency of the communities in which they are located.