Sea Walls

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York looks at sea walls. So will we.

Waves crash onto the sea wall protecting homes in Longport, N.J., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the area. (AP)

Waves crash onto the sea wall protecting homes in Longport, N.J., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the area. (AP)

Hurricane Sandy whacked New York so hard, in many quarters it’s still reeling.  That superstorm surge of water, roaring over Staten Island and the Rockaways, into New York Harbor, over Lower Manhattan, over Wall Street, into subways and power stations.  Into the heart of the biggest city in America.  It’s already cost billions.

It will cost billions more.  Now, some are saying it’s time to build a wall.  Not little old-fashioned sea walls, but super storm barriers.  Mighty barricades and huge harbor gates to hold out the sea.

This hour, On Point:  barricading New York against a rising sea.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jim Dwyer, reporter for the New York Times.

Radley Horton, research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research, Earth Institute at Columbia University

Malcolm Bowman, head of the Storm Surge Research Group at SUNY Stony Brook.

Piet Dircke, director, Global Water Management at Arcadis, a consulting firm focused on infrastructure, water and the environment.

From Tom’s Reading List

ABC News “In the wake of superstorm Sandy’s massive destruction to coastlines in the East Coast, many experts suggest that a sea wall barrier could have minimized the deadly storm surge that swept away homes and knocked out power to millions.”

Time “It was called the Watersnoodramp, which in Dutch means “flood disaster”—and it certainly was. The North Sea flood of 1953 was the result of a high spring tide that met a strong storm, resulting in a storm surge that inundated the countries around the sea. Lives were lost in England, Scotland and Belgium, but the worst of the surge was felt in the Netherlands. The dikes and other sea defense built around the coast of the Netherlands were unable to defend against the surge, and nearly 2,000 people died in the ensuring flood. (Just to put that in perspective, the equivalent loss of life in the U.S. today would be over 60,000 people.) In a below sea-level nation that had always warred with the tides, the 1953 flood proved one of the worst in the history of the Netherlands.”

New York Times “After the enormous storm last week, which genuinely panicked New York with its staggering and often fatal violence, residents here could certainly identify with the first line of Benchley’s note. But what about the second?”


Here’s a National Geographic video on the North Sea Wall.


Check out this video from Arcadis on a concept barrier for New York City.

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