NYC after Sandy: Can city protect its shores?

(CBS News) Superstorm Sandy showed us how vulnerable New York can be to storm surge. With sea levels rising, there are fears that it could happen again.

Michio Kaku, professor of physics at the City University of New York, said on "CBS This Morning" the city can defend itself.

Kaku is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Physics of the Future."

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"The bad news is that New York City is a sitting duck for another hurricane from hell," Kaku said. "The good news is that there is a solution. These are called storm surge barriers. Now realize that Tokyo, St. Petersburg, Russia, London, the Netherlands -- all of them have some sort storm surge barriers, but they are pricey. We're talking about, however a $50 billion storm called Sandy."

Asked about how New York City could build these barriers, Kaku noted the city's is a "victim of geography."

"(New York City) is like a funnel," he said. "If you have a gigantic storm coming in from the Atlantic, its power is concentrated as it goes past Sandy Point where it can savage Staten Island, inundate Wall Street and a second surge can come in from the East River. So we need a barrier that gives us a comprehensive protection against this kind of storm surge."

As for cost, Kaku said each barrie could cost $1 bilion. A barrier system for New York city could cost $10 to $15 billion and would likely be placed at three choke points to stop the surge. He explained, "First is around Arthur Kills on Staten Island, next is around the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, third around the East River. ... (These) would protect most of New York City. However, if you want the Cadillac of storm surge barriers, you want to put one between Sandy Hook and the Rockaways. That would cost on the order of $6 billion."

"Think of it as an insurance policy because the whole package could go over $10 billion," he said. "But hey, that's chump change compared to the $80 billion that Katrina cost and the $50 billion that Sandy may cost."

However, there is a down side to the storm surge barriers, according to Kaku. "You're on the other side of the barrier, sorry about that. Reflective waves, waves that reflect actually have the same amount of energy and could savage the neighboring areas. Not to mention the fact that the shore fronts are not protected. Long Island, the Jersey shore, you might have to use sand replenishment there because the storm barrier cannot extend 100 miles. That's not possible."

Kaku suggests a study group be set up immediately to "seriously look at the implications of this."

"This is for real," he said. "We're talking about people's lives, businesses, the economy of the area. Look, New York City is dragging at the tail. Other cities have bit the bullet. Other cities already have storm surge barriers."

Other American cities have been protected with storm surge barriers, such as New Orleans, Providence, R. I., and Stamford, Conn. Kaku added, "Stamford, Conn., was shielded from the brunt of the storm because it invested in a storm surge barrier."

For more with Kaku, watch the video in the player above.

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