Cortney O'Brien
‘Before and After’ pictures were common at Thursday’s Senate hearing entitled “Hurricane Sandy and its Effects: A Local Perspective.” The Environment and Public Works Committee met to discuss the storm’s path of destruction – a topic close to home for the senators who call the Northeast their home.

“We have a long road ahead to rebuild lives,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

In her introduction, Boxer detailed the extent of Sandy’s devastation, citing staggering statistics such as 120 deaths, eight million people who lost power and 12,000 flights cancelled, just to name a few. To place the destruction in more perspective, Boxer’s fellow senators shared personal stories about how Sandy ravaged their communities.

Sen. Carper (D-DE), a native of Delaware, could not hide his concern.

“Sandy didn’t spare Delaware by any measure,” he said.

Carper showed attendees pictures of a Delaware Bay wildlife refuge prior to and after the storm, revealing an unnerving contrast.

“It was a wildlife refuge, but it turned into a saltwater marsh.”

Sen. Cardin (D-MD) had a similar report for his home state of Maryland. Although he said Maryland “fared better than most states,” he revealed how many citizens were “extremely vulnerable to public safety.” In Garrett County alone, he explained, with a population of roughly 30,000 people, 15,000 homes lost power. In other words, the storm impacted nearly every resident.

Sens. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Whitehouse (D-RI), too, shared gloomy reports about how their home states of New Jersey and Rhode Island were ravaged.

The majority agreed, however, that climate change could explain the sheer size of the storm, citing a shift in global temperature.

In any case, and, after sharing information about the sheer devastation faced in their respective states, each senator suggested ways to move forward – in regards to both cleanup and prevention. Most praised Obama’s and FEMA’s response to the tragedy, suggesting the federal government should be highly involved and they discussed the need to improve their states’ highways and other forms of transportation.

“Infrastructure has to be in concert with what we now know, in order to prevent tragedy,” said Lautenberg.

The colleagues also stressed the need to pursue Sen. Boxer’s Water Resources Development bill, an act which would fund water supplies, restoration and flood control projects.

Boxer expressed hopes of bringing the bill forward within the first 30 days of the new administration. The participants seemed to agree the topic at hand was difficult, but necessary.

“It’s hard to imagine what life is like when your home is gone,” said Lautenberg. “These things…are reduced to rubble. Coming home to find nothing there.”

But, the senators were confident in each of their states and in the American people and shared optimism for the future.

“There were extreme efforts by first responders and ordinary citizens,” explained Carper.

“We’ll rebuild stronger than ever,” said Lautenberg.

Cortney O'Brien

Cortney O'Brien is a Townhall web editor. Follow her on Twitter @obrienc2.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography