There's a quick, one-word explanation for why the federal government started selling flood insurance: Betsy.
Hurricane Betsy, which struck the Gulf Coast in 1965, became known as billion-dollar Betsy. Homes were ruined. Water up to the roofs. People paddling around streets in boats. Massive damage.
This would be the time when you'd expect people to be pulling out their flood insurance policies. But flood insurance was hard to come by. You could get fire insurance, theft insurance, car insurance, life insurance. Not flood.
Better satellites, smarter computer models and faster computers helped government forecasters correctly predict the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, scientists say.
It's unlikely the forecast would have been nearly as accurate just a couple of decades ago, they say.
"The National Hurricane Center did a fantastic job, particularly with the track forecast and the intensity forecast as it was moving toward the Northeast," says Sharan Majumdar, an associate professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami.
People across the New York metropolitan area confronted scenes of devastation from Superstorm Sandy on Tuesday: widespread flooding, power and transportation outages and a wind-swept fire that tore through dozens of houses in the borough of Queens.