Christie estimates Sandy damages at $29.4 billion

Posted: November 24, 2012

Gov. Christie estimates Sandy cost New Jersey $29.4 billion in damages and economic losses, from washed-out roadways to waterlogged homes to manning storm shelters.

"This preliminary number is based on the best available data, field observations and geographical mapping," Christie said in a statement released Friday evening. "I will spare no effort and waste no time to rebuild and restore our tourism industry, our transportation and utilities infrastructure and the lives of our citizens for the long term."

The estimate is considered a crucial step for Christie, who recently consulted with governors from Louisiana and Mississippi about working with the federal government after Hurricane Katrina, as he makes his case for federal funds to aid in rebuilding New Jersey's storm-ravaged coastline and cover losses incurred during widespread power outages.

How much of those damages New Jersey will actually see is a hotly debated subject. Republican Rep. Chris Smith warned earlier this week that while the maximum federal assistance for an individual is $31,900, the average following last year's Hurricane Irene was $8,000.

Christie's office declined to answer questions about the estimate released Friday.

Two weeks ago New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a damage estimate for his state of $33 billion.

FEMA currently has $8.1 million available in disaster relief funding but how that money will be portioned out between the states and for what purpose has yet to be determined, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday.

"At this time, we are confident that this is sufficient funds to cover our immediate response and recovery," she e-mailed.

But New Jersey's congressional and Senate delegations already are pushing to increase funding.

"The people of New Jersey can rely on the congressional delegation to work with the Obama administration, Gov. Christie and our colleagues to deliver the funding necessary for New Jersey families, communities and businesses to recover and rebuild so that we're stronger than ever before," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The rebuilding in process in New Jersey is expected to be lengthy, with some officials already questioning whether some of the state's tourism-dependent shore towns will be restored by Memorial Day.

Cleaning up the debris is expected to run into the new year. Then there's the matter of rebuilding boardwalks, roads, power lines and other infrastructure that in places such as Seaside Heights and the southern end of Long Beach Island remain ravaged.

Just restoring dunes, along with other storm protection measures, is expected to cost $1 billion.

For municipalities already struggling with shrinking tax bases, coming up with the 25 percent match for federal funds could be impossible, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone said earlier this week.

"A lot of towns can't afford the local match," he said.

In his statement, the governor warned that in the weeks ahead the estimate could increase as state Treasury officials looked at factors including losses incurred by the tourism sector next summer and population shifts.


Contact James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com and follow on Twitter @osborneja.

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