When his wife fell in love with a clapboard house on a leafy street in the town of Piermont, New York, Klaus Jacob had no choice but to disappoint her. It made him sad to do it, but on the plus side he is well cut out for delivering bad news.
Genial and humorous, white of hair and beard, Klaus looks like a man who has settled very comfortably into the role of aging scientist, bearer of knowledge and hard truths. There’s a touch of Kris Kringle about him. He’s Santa Klaus. Sanity Claus. To all the good children, he brings the gift of informed risk assessment. He liked the house, too, but buying it was against all his professional principles. Only a stone’s throw from the Hudson River, the building was on a floodplain. If he agreed to live there, they would be risking a personal disaster that would, were it to occur, be more than a touch embarrassing given his line of work. Klaus is a geophysicist at Columbia University and an authority on the dangers the changing climate poses to the State of New York. He did not want to add the name of his wife, Isabella, or his own for that matter, to the list of people who have respectfully turned down his good advice.
If Klaus felt flooding was a high probability back then, almost a decade ago, the odds had hardened into certainty come the afternoon of October 29, 2012. As Hurricane Sandy shouldered her way toward the Eastern Seaboard, he and Isabella made their preparations in the house he had once staunchly refused to live in.