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JAMA. Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics, Potential Aftermath, and Response

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  • JAMA. Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics, Potential Aftermath, and Response

    [Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association, full free text: (LINK). Extract, edited.]
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    Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics, Potential Aftermath, and Response


    Yuval Neria, PhD; James M. Shultz, PhD

    Author Affiliations: New York State Psychiatric Institute and Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York (Dr Neria); and Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida (Dr Shultz).

    JAMA. 2012;():1-2. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.110700.

    Published online November 16, 2012

    On October 22, 2012, a late-season tropical system was named Sandy by the US National Hurricane Center. The system meandered for several days in warm Caribbean waters, intensifying slowly, gaining forward momentum, and passing directly over Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas. Sandy's outer rain bands deluged Haiti's deforested terrain, triggering severe floods and mudslides. Although Sandy was a minimal hurricane, millions were affected across 5 Caribbean nations and Puerto Rico, 100 persons were killed or reported missing, and thousands of homes were damaged. Estimated economic losses ranged from $5 million in Jamaica to $2 billion in Cuba.<SUP>1 </SUP>What catapulted this system into a ?superstorm? was a rare climate event. At mid-latitudes, Sandy interacted with a polar jet stream that steered the system toward the mid-Atlantic coastline, transforming the system into a hybrid blend of posttropical cyclone and winter storm. The system's cloud canopy expanded to 1000 miles in diameter as circulating winds funneled ocean waves into the New Jersey shoreline, Long Island Sound, and New York Harbor, inundating portions of Staten Island and southern Manhattan. In the United States, an estimated 60 million people across 24 states experienced a range of storm effects at varying intensities, including wind, rain, flood, coastal surge, and blizzard. The effects of the storm on vulnerable and fragile infrastructure produced power outages for more than 8 million residents; flooded New York City's subway system and East River tunnels; set off a major fire that destroyed 111 housing units in the Breezy Point section of Queens; disrupted communications; and created acute shortages of gasoline, food, and commodities. Sandy was blamed for 113 US deaths and damaged 200 000 homes. Costs have been estimated at $50 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina as the nation's costliest natural disaster.<SUP>2 ? </SUP><SUP>3 </SUP>Over the past 2 decades, considerable research efforts have been focused on populations affected by natural disasters. A rapidly growing body of knowledge is now available to assist in estimating the potential mental health effects of Superstorm Sandy and the differential risks for specific populations and communities. The availability of data from randomized controlled trials on the efficacy of interventions for trauma-exposed populations may enable better planning and implementation of prevention strategies to mitigate the adverse mental health effects of the disaster.

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