Can a little water really cripple the Big Apple?

Most of the press has been focused on New York, which by far was hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy, but this article gives you a state by state breakdown of the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s. Having to cancel my trip to New York this past weekend. I wanted to understand if I made the right decision …

New York’s Flooded Subways:
5.3 Million New Yorkers depend on the Subways. It is the fifth largest subway system in the world – by far the largest in the U.S. The system took a $1.1 billion budget cut in 2009 and responded by shutting many stations after hours, slashing the number of staffed dare booths and postponing or canceling planned repairs and maintenance. For all the pumps at the systems disposal, they still can’t handle rainfall of more than 1.75 in per hour without causing disruptions. The entire subway system contains 660 miles and 468 stations- most of which is shut down because of its inundated with corrosive salt water.

  • The age of the subway system is roughly 108 years old.
  • The tunnels and stations are situated adjacent to or underneath rivers and harbors, and water seepage is unavoidable.
  • The street level grates that provide light and air to the tunnels and stations act as natural drains during even an ordinary rain, making a mess of platforms and often halting service.

Even on days when there is no rain we pump 13 million gallons of water. (Using three pump trains, 300 pump rooms and dozens of portable pumps). Hurricane Sandy put a lot more strain on the system with storm surges in lower Manhattan rising to 14 feet, blowing the doors off the previous 10 Feet record set by Hurricane Donna in 1960.

  • Below 40th Street, the subway system has an unknown number of stations that are flooded to the ceiling
  • All seven under river tubes linking the boroughs are inundated.
  • What lines are most affected See here
  • Video of MA Walks through in Flooded NYC Subway.

Preventive investments always seem too expensive at first, but only until you’re suddenly faced with the infinitely higher repair bills New York is dealing with today. And as oceans continue to warm, and sea levels continue to rise as a result of climate change, the problem is only getting worse. In the past 20 years, Hurricanes Andrew, Floyd, Katrina, Rita, Dean, Irene, Isaac and others have tried to remind us of that simple truth. Now Hurricane Sandy is adding her voice. One of these days, we might listen. Seems to be something to take into consideration when these 100 year storms appear to be hitting every two years. Now New York is looking at $10 Billion in damage to the transportation infrastructure and $40 Billion in economic losses related to the storm.

The Army, Air National Guard, Pentagon, Navy and Army Corps of Engineers are all working on power restoration and water clearance. The Army Corps of Engineers is primarily focusing on the subway system with 35 large-scale projects focusing on New York alone. The clean up process is extensive since all the tunnels are filled with salt water. It will be a long, painstaking cleanup. Every single piece of equipment- Signals, contacts, everything- has to be disassembled cleaned and dried. Then it can finally be reinstalled, luckily the subway cars themselves were stored in the high ground. New methods being taken into consideration to assist with clearing the tunnels is the use of a balloon. Which would inflate blocking the tunnel allowing for the pumps to take a manageable load? However, these balloons are a current project of the Department of Homeland Security to protect subways from terrorist gas attacks. New York should take notes from Bangkok which in 2011 faced a monsoon and despite the extensive flooding the subway system remained fully operational.

New Jersey Water Supply:
Governor Christie signed a mandatory statewide water use restrictions declaring a State of Water Emergency for New Jersey. Department of Environmental Protection to implement water usage instructions across the state. To make sure everyone has access to clean water, therefore, everyone must use water within moderation in an attempt to conserve water while we restore power at our supply facilities. Securing availability of clean water for everyone who needs it. The use restrictions including:

  • all indoor water use (showers, baths, domestic cleaning)
  • Nonessential Outdoor watering is prohibited
  • Watering grass, lawns, and landscapes prohibited
  • Washing paved surfaces prohibited
  • Filling: fountains, artificial waterfalls, pools is prohibited
  • Municipal street sweeping heavily restricted
  • Car washing prohibited
  • Serving water in restaurants, clubs or other eating establishments is prohibited unless requested by patrons.

Crazy Random Facts:

  • Hurricane Irene, visited New York last year, cost the city alone $55 million according to the New York Daily News.
  • In 2007, a 3.5 inches of rainfall overwhelmed New York City’s Subways pumps shutting down 19 lines.
  • In 1983, a Hurricane struck New York and washed Hog Island, a geographical feature south of Rockaway Beach, right off the map.
  • The New England Hurricane of 1938 was a last minute Hurricane to directly take a swipe at New York. As a point of reference, a major hurricane hits the Big Apple about every 75 years.