The Unseen Remnants of Sandy

November 1, 2012

Repair trucks on standby post Superstorm Sandy

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Superstorm Sandy finally dissipated and has left in her wake over 70 deaths (two in Maryland) and billions of dollars of damage. She certainly lived up to her name and her aftermath is quite visible via local and national media-or just a walk around the neighborhood.  Now comes the time for the assessment, clean-up, and repair.   Heartfelt condolences to all who have, and are, suffering as a result of the storm.

Standing water in field post Superstorm Sandy

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography.. All rights reserved.

The Baltimore, Maryland area received about 6-7″ of rain, which was enough to leave standing water and loosen the soil so as to make it easier for the wind to knock down trees.   When compared to the snowfall in the western part of the state and West Virginia and the damage in New York and New Jersey, this area fared not too badly.  Amid all this devastation, one of the actual benefits of Sandy was the amount of rainfall that found its way into the local ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.  Below is a photograph of the Liberty Reservoir made the day before Sandy’s arrival:

Liberty Reservoir at pre Superstorm Sandy level

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Liberty Reservoir with higher water levels post Superstorm Sandy

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Above is the same section the day after Sandy departed the area.  Liberty Reservoir has had issues with low water levels of late as a result of the minimal snowfall last winter and the overall scarcity of rain throughout spring and summer.  Sandy certainly provided enough moisture to bring the water level back to respectability.  

 

Road view of Liberty Reservoir post Superstorm Sandy

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, while increasing the volume of water is certainly helpful, there are other worrisome effects, largely unseen, that can occur when so much water arrives in a relatively short period of time.  In January 2012, the Maryland Department of the Environment submitted the “Watershed Report for Biological Impairment of the Liberty Reservoir Watershed in Baltimore and Carroll Counties, Maryland Biological Stressor Identification Analysis Results and Interpretation”, which can be read here.  The “Water Chemistry” section (please see page 16) indicates that there are issues with the levels of nitrogen, ammonia, and chlorides within the Reservoir.  The report goes on to state that “During rain events, surface runoff transports water over the land surface and discharges to the stream system.” (page 17) As the Liberty Reservoir is crisscrossed by several roads and there is a combination of urban development and rural farming within the watershed, there is ample opportunity for pollutants to eventually gain access to the water.  It would be useful to know how much more pollution was carried into the Reservoir as a result of Sandy.

Runoff pollution is not just an issue for the Liberty Reservoir in particular or Maryland in general as many states are issuing warnings about water contamination from toxins washing into waterways as a result of Sandy-please see here and here and here.  This storm inundated such a large section of the east coast before moving inland and therefore moved through some of the most heavily populated and industrialized areas of the country.  As a result, many chemical pollutants are being carried into various waterways and they could pose health risks to many biological organisms.  Time will tell.

Superstorm Sandy took quite awhile to get here and did not leave soon enough.  For many, the effects will be much longer lasting.

Take care.

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