How One New York Town Is Preparing for the Next Hurricane Sandy

Darren McCollester, Stringer, Getty Images
Darren McCollester, Stringer, Getty Images

This past Sunday marked five years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall over the northeastern U.S. While the towns hit hardest by the storm are using the time as an opportunity to reflect on the lives, homes, and landscapes that were destroyed, they’re also continuing to prepare for the next mega-storm that will reach their shores. One beach town in Staten Island, New York is investing in a strategy that’s especially innovative: As Mother Jones reports, the surge barrier that’s being erected off the shores of Tottenville will repurpose nature to provide protection from natural disasters.

The government-funded project, called Living Breakwaters, is the brainchild of MacArthur Genius and landscape architect Kate Orff. Rather than building a conventional seawall, Orff and her firm envision a “living piece of infrastructure” containing an oyster reef that will continue to grow and respond to its environment even after construction ends. During a harsh storm, the breakwater would absorb the impact of dangerous waves barreling toward shore. It also has the potential to preserve the environment in the long term by decreasing erosion and wave activity.

Because Living Breakwaters is designed to act as part of its environment, it offers a few benefits in addition to flood protection. The creatures that make their homes on the reef will eventually purify the waters around them and make the shores of Tottenville cleaner and healthier. The reef will also be more discreet and pleasing to look at than a harsh concrete wall, meaning Tottenville residents can enjoy their clear ocean views without having to sacrifice safety.

The project is still in its preliminary stages, with construction scheduled to start in 2019 and wrap up in 2021. Rather than relying entirely on an experimental method, the community is integrating the breakwaters into a larger flood protection plan. Some tools, like wave-blocking sand dunes, will also take advantage of the area’s natural resources.

[h/t Mother Jones]

The Mental Floss Store Is Back!

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You've been asking about it for months, and today we can finally confirm that the Mental Floss Store is back up and running! Simply head here to find dozens of T-shirts with all sorts of unique designs to choose from, whether you’re in the market for a pi pun, a risqué grammar joke, or something only your fellow bookworms will appreciate. You can even use your new Mental Floss shirt to teach your friends all about scurvy.

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Order Mental Floss's Amazing Facts Desk Calendar to Learn Something New Every Day

Andrews McMeel Publishing
Andrews McMeel Publishing

Your commute, your weekend plans, and the weather are all tried-and-true topics for small talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t meander into uncharted territory and wow your friends, family, and coworkers with some more obscure facts from time to time.

To give you some (more than 300, actually) ideas, Mental Floss has teamed up with Andrews McMeel Publishing on a desk calendar with one amazing fact for each day of 2021. If you’ve spent time on the Mental Floss website, the phrase amazing fact might sound familiar—the calendar is an offshoot of the popular Amazing Fact Generator, which has been delivering offbeat, zany, thought-provoking trivia to readers for a good part of Mental Floss’s 20-year history.

The facts themselves cover everything from pop culture to history and beyond, giving you the opportunity to discover, for example, that the little plastic "table" on top of the pizza you get for takeout or delivery is called a pizza saver, and that it was patented in 1983 by a woman named Carmela Vitale.

Some of the facts relate to their corresponding dates. On Halloween, you can kick off your morning conference call with this endearing entertainment tidbit: Children in 1966 were so distraught that Charlie Brown only got rocks in his trick-or-treat bag during It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown that they mailed heaps of candy to Charles Schulz’s office in California.

By the end of next year, you’ll be the most interesting person in your company and everyone’s first choice for their pub trivia team. The calendar is available for purchase now, and you can get details on how to order it here.