back to article Hurricane Sandy smacks the Big Apple around

Extreme weather is something we are getting used to here in New York City, and what is clear as we all walk outside to assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy is that the aging infrastructure in the Big Apple was not designed to sustain this kind of hit. Thankfully, this was a Category 1 hurricane with limited amounts of rain, …


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  1. hugo tyson

    But at least the floating cars won't get tickets

    From the BBC:

    NYC Mayor's Office tweets: Alternate side parking and meter regulations are suspended citywide tomorrow. #Sandy

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: But at least the floating cars won't get tickets

      The first thing the police did the day after it snowed in March 2010 in Barcelona and the city ground to a halt meaning people had to abandon their cars was hand out parking fines. The mayor who in any case wasn't very popular u-turned but he didn't go on to win the next elections.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Hah! That looks like the shock & awe that the US likes to visit on faraway people. I hope these transformers weren't filled with PCB?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Is it too much to ask to keep the politics out of this, just for a little while? I'm sick to death of every event large and small being seen only through the lens of vicious partisanship...

      1. Jemma Silver badge

        HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

        Not so much fun when the boot is in the other groin is it? Hows about the US govt stops getting involved in things that dont concern it, that way you could afford decent flood defenses. And Im sorry but I have little sympathy for ppl who stand feet from multi KVA transformers which are on fire & video it. Oh and when the election candidates stop using this to their advantage (and they will), you can tell other people off for doing the same.

        1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

          Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle


          Hows about [sic] you keep your illiterate, sadistic jingoism to yourself?

          1. Nick Pettefar

            Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

            There's always something amusing about American natural disasters. The amount of money they spend on causing disasters around the world could be spent on easing the lives of their own population during natural disasters. Money not spent on proper housing, flood defences, sea walls, better infrastructuire, social health care, etc. It's almost as if they deserve what nature throws at them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

          To their credit, as far as I'm aware, neither Obama nor Romney have played politics with this, unless you think Obama is acting particularly presidential to curry favor, or you count as opportunism Romney's furious walkback on his primary statement that FEMA would best be privatised...

          1. Richard Altmann
            Thumb Down

            Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

            Well, check out this ...


          2. TraceyC

            Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

            "To their credit, as far as I'm aware, neither Obama nor Romney have played politics with this"

            Unfortunately, Romney has. I can't say for certain Obama hasn't, as I haven't seen any news about that. I did see this story this morning:


        3. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

          Jemma, ignoring for a second your sanctimonius and childish attitude, this isn't an issue of flood defences. You could not realistically defend against this level of storm. About 48 hours ago the island that I live on survived a tsunami. Luckily it came as a tidal surge and not a wave. Thanks to Gerard Fryer and his amazing team at the PTWC and NOAA we had ample warning to get to safety. We do have flood defences, we didn't deploy them. Why? Because for the most part they would simply become tidal debris that would cause more devastation. Flood defences are meant to prevent flooding and can only withstand a limited amount of force unless you make them unreasonably large. This is especially the case when dealing with '100 year storms' or major events like Tsunamis. The force involved is simply on another scale, something that is hard to comprehend until you have seen it. It is better to ensure you have solid evacuation plans to get people safe then deal with the cleanup. Japan had great defences around it's nuclear plants, just not great enough for a freak event.

          Being glib about scores of deaths is frankly pathetic, disgusting and contemptible. I hope you never find yourself in a similar situation, getting to see first hand the ocean recede 120ft then return with devastating results.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HMS Pot, meet SMS Kettle

            "Being glib about scores of deaths"

            I've read that there were 40 deaths. Population of New York is 8 million.

            8,000,000/(365*40)=548 years. So the "scores of deaths" is actually much lower than you'd expect on an average day.

          2. Jemma Silver badge

            "Well possibly....

            But the real reason was - it would just cost too much to learn from the mistakes of Katrina and put in countermeasures" (Apologies to the writers of Blackadder).

            The sheer idiocy of some of the people involved in this situation beggars belief. The "hey, I've got a bright idea, lets sail a barque that barely registers 200 tonnes into the middle of the most massive storm in decades" debacle beggars belief - the result 2 dead and 14 swimming - notwithstanding the fact that this level of storm has destroyed 20,000 ton dreadnought cruisers without even breaking a sweat. Thats not to mention putting at risk the poor sods who had to get out there 90 miles off the coast to pick them up.

            Then you have the 'at least 36 hours of warning' which appear to have been ignored entirely. Why on earth, when it was known that this'all was coming down like a wolf on the fold were the local powerplants not shut down and power re-routed from others outside the zone of risk. If that had been done, all you would have had was cooked local systems not powerstations doing a passable shoutout to the Enterprise over Genesis.

            As to 'flood defenses' you have a point that something such as a Tsunami is pretty much undefensible as regards building barriers and the like - and I wish that I had been in the area of the 2004 one because as a Geologist I would have known the signs and hopefully been able to help a few people (like the mouthbreathers who went to see if they could help the stranded fish, seriously) however a storm surge does not a tsunami make - a small scale one happened on Mersea and it was plugged by 5 blokes, a Fordson Major loader, a TE20 and alot of mud, straw bales and colloquialisms for 'bugger'. How do I know? because my dad was one of the people involved.

            As I understand it most of the New York underground system is flooded, with salt water no less, which means not only are the electrics buggered the electronics are too. How much would it have cost to have put in flood doors at each entrance to each tunnel & station. Answer: a damn sight less than it will cost to have the system put back together from square one.

            Then you have all the material damage to sort out - not to mention 2 tonne water borne projectiles formerly known as Escalades floating around the place at 10 knots bashing the crap out of anything in range - would it have been too hard to get all the (functioning) cars, SUVs and the like started and moved out of the city to higher ground? all you'd need are a few bloody big fields. I wonder how many of the people killed were squished by their neighbours Chrysler. What an ironic way to go for an American, squished by a (Jeep) Patriot.

            The politicians will use this to score political points, to be blunt because thats their damn job, their whole point of existence is to politick - which means by any way possible and necessary. Obama will use it to say 'lookee ma, I am being a good boy and helping all the people' and Romney will whine like tired Renault wheel bearings to the effect that 'I'd do a better job, pick me... oooh, pick me!'. I pray to all powerful atheismo that Romney ends up in the cupboard of presidential losers. Thats not to say they wont help people, but you'd be idiotic to assume they are doing it merely from their inherant personal snuggliness.

            Oh, and for the person confused by the meaning of SMS in this context - it refers to the Kaiserliche Marine and their designation SMS for fleet units - representing Seiner Majistat Shiff, an analog to the British HMS, Australian HMAS and slightly different USS (since in this case it doesnt represent a royal epithet but a governmental one). In reference to the replica HMS bounty (B - if you want to get all star treky about it) that got the short end of the argument with Sandy (and how!).

            Note: Iraq etc 2003. re: 9/11. 80% of the suicide bombers were Saudi nationals. Saudi nationals that would have probably been trained ace pilots to make the maneuvers they did in something that had about as much equivalent maneuverability as an African elephant with a JATO pack rammed up its ass. There is no way in Heaven, Hell, Paradise or Luton that Saudi nationals would have taken orders from Iraqis - they would be more likely to do so from a Welsh Lesbian Transsexual with a zoo fixation. Iraq was a secular Islamic state which the Saudis hated (to the point you could have powered the whole country from the people spinning in their graves). Ergo its highly unlikely that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 - other than being an easy target. Not to mention that inconvenient fact that the US funded both Iraq (Iran-Iraq war) and Afghanistan for DECADES before doing a heel face turn worthy of the Dolchstoßlegende (look it up). Thats what I meant for being in places they shouldnt be. Worst of all you dragged us (the UK) in.

            Where I inclined to believe in a Big Beard in the Sky - I would be tempted to call 'divine retribution' on this whole sorry mess of Sandy. I feel sorry for the people who are now in worlds of trouble (or the next one) as a result of this - but I have to say in all fairness that you had warning with Katrina and very little appears to have been done to mitigate the effects of such a storm. A case of beat me once, shame on you - beat me twice, shame on me if ever I saw one.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Well possibly....

              "would it have been too hard to get all the (functioning) cars, SUVs and the like started and moved out of the city to higher ground?"

              Uh, yeah, it would have been freaking impossible. Have you ever been to Manhattan? Have you ever been to the surrounding areas? And even if you could have, what would the people who drove all the things out of town do after they got to these 'big fields' you seem to think exist right outside the city center? And how would they get back to get their cars afterwords?

              ConEd did indeed shut down power to save substations, but there were a few situations where something unexpected happened. Cutting power to the whole island a day in advance would have been folly - not least because it would have made it impossible for anyone to move around or really do anything in the whole place, along with causing lots of damage itself.

              You assert that there would have been simple and inexpensive ways to prevent things like salt water ingress to the subway system. Have you -seen- the subway system? You can't just slap a few doors in there. For one thing, there's no way to easily mount them or power them. In a lot of places there flat out isn't any space to put anything. And how are they controlled? Who closes them, and when do you pull the trigger? How do you make sure there isn't anyone trapped before you shut the doors? And how do you make a door 30' wide and 10' tall that closes over four sections of railroad track, including third rails, in a watertight manner?

              And how many do you put in? Do you put in enough to protect lower Manhattan, as was damaged this time? But you don't have a priori knowledge of exactly how bad it'll be. Do you plan for a surge that covers Manhattan entirely? But if you think that Manhattan is going to get completely flooded, you've probably got bigger fish to fry (so to speak) than water on the third rails. So how do you decide?

              You're monday-morning-quarterbacking, and you haven't even bothered to look up the rules of the game. Things are not as easy or simple - not nearly - as you seem to think they are.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        No politics

        I agree with not getting any UNRELATED politics (such as US foreign policy) into this. BUT there are very pertinent political issues here. Republicans in general and Romney in particular want to gut government spending, including emergency services, and are on record as fighting to de-fund FEMA.

        Disasters liek Sandy DO put some political questions into sharp perspective - do you want to spend an additional trillion dollars on unnecessary military spending and another 5 trillion dollars to cut taxes for the richest people, or do you want that money to be spent on civil infrastructure?

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: No politics

          That is a valid point, although I would sugges a more valid point would be how big do you build your defences even if you had the money?

          Do you build them high enough for a 10 year storm, or 50 year storm. At whatever point you draw the line, at some point it won't be enough. There will always be a bigger storm at some point. The recent article on Geneva demonstrates something scientists have known for a while, that earthquake generated tsunamis and hurricanes / tropical storms don't touch the violence of a significant landslide into water. There were some simulations on volcanic islands splitting apart with a significant part falling into water. The resultant wave was devastating, far beyond 30-40 foot tsunami damage. They also believed this has happened in our past and will happen again.

          Fema should be well funded and whilst defences are important so are proper evacuation proceedures that are well practiced. We get a tsunami pretty much once a year. It's second nature to saunter home, make sure everythings packed / charged and ready to wander further up hill if needed. Tourists understandably get upset which is probably mirrored in situations like this. Something big, scary and unfamiliar is about to happen, this freaks people out. We aren't freaked out by tsunamis because we know that if we follow what we need to do we will be safe, but we know that from experience.

          Should we spend billions on tax cuts, military spending and election campaigns inpreference to disaster prep. I wouldn't choose to but I'm not in charge. I guess the country will have it's say soon. Fema rocks and other than increasing its funding I wouldn't change it.

          As regards scores of deaths, I picked scores because it was seemingly the most appropriate term, given a score is 20? I doubt they were the only deaths that day. It's easy to bash America and Americans, to ridicule their foreign policy etc but 40 people won't be going home to their loved ones. This isn't about Americans, it's about normal people unfortunately being caught in a natural disaster. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, not even bankers. Even our politicians aren't playing on this, the Chris Christie is even complementing the president on his handling of things. Seriously, consider that a staunch republican governor is paying respect to a man from a party which they have refused to work with. When shit goes down in the USA I (as a foreigner) have the upmost respect for how they deal with it. It may lumber along at times and get stuff horrendously wrong, but like the UK, give it a hell of a shock and the response is significant.

          1. James Micallef Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: No politics

            " how big do you build your defences even if you had the money?"

            Good question, I guess it's a trade-off between how much the defences cost and how cheaper it is to just evacuate for a few days and rebuild a lot of stuff once every X years. That equation is going to be different depending on those parameters. For example the Dutch, for whom any significant breach of their water defences would be a huge catastrophe, have a specific tax (not very big either, I believe) that goes toward maintaining and improving those defences. The funding of their water authority is absolutely and unquestioningly supported by both citizens and politicians. When it's a nation's survival that's on the line, nothing less will do.

            In the case of New York, I don't know any of teh city / surrounding terrain so I won't comment onspecifics, but in general it's good to focus on well-built infrastructure (to survive as big a disaster as possible) + well-funded disaster recovery.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      I haven't seen any religious groups blaming it on human rights yet, what's going on?

  3. slim mcslim

    i have said it before and i will say it again... "crazy americans with wooden houses" they don't last too long in a firey/watery zone... even the editor of time magazine agrees....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, Manhattan is just full of wooden houses, isn't it?

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      "a firey/watery zone"?

      i have said it before and i will say it again...

      No doubt.

      "crazy americans with wooden houses" they don't last too long in a firey/watery zone...

      You do know that the US is a pretty big, geographically diverse place, right? (And of course the American continents are much bigger, if by "crazy americans" you mean everyone living in the Americas.)

      My wooden house is a relative youngster at 111, but it's weathered a few storms in its day. It's wet enough around here (mid-Michigan) that the only plausible fire danger is from lightning (very low probability) or an ignition source inside the house, where a different building material wouldn't be much help. Flooding is not an issue; I'm outside the 500-year flood plain and I have a basement with floor drains connected to city sewers.

      My parents live in a wooden house built circa 1690; it has yet to be destroyed by "firey" or "watery" perils. That's a pretty good run. There are still plenty of wooden houses from the late-17th and early-18th centuries along the Atlantic coast.

      Sure, there are parts of the US where wood framing and siding are not ideal. There's a reason the houses in the Taos pueblo have been standing and continuously inhabited for a thousand years - adobe construction is ideal for that site. If I lived in, say, the Colorado forests or a canyon in California, I wouldn't want wood construction. But that doesn't make wooden houses inappropriate everywhere.

      even the editor of time magazine agrees....

      Oh, yes, the editor of Time - a noted expert on architectural disaster planning.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "a firey/watery zone"?

        "adobe construction is ideal for that site"

        ...which makes it about the only site anyone should build using Adobe.

        Oh! Burn!


    3. Rampant Spaniel

      I used to think the same, but frankly its cheaper to simply rebuild cheap wooden houses. Skyscrapers, sure they need to be built to withstand things, but your average house, better let it get knocked down and rebuild then spend a fortune trying to proof it against everything mother nature chucks at you. I grew up in the UK, I love the 20 inch thick stone farmhouse walls etc, but English weather simply has nothing on what the Atlantic and Pacific seem to throw at us stateside. In the UK in about 30 years I saw some flooding and some snow and maybe some strong winds. In a few years here I have been earthquaked repeatedly (every 2-3 months), had 3 tsunamis (we get about 1 a year) seen a few twisters out at sea and been out in a store that was like standing in a waterfall. An inch of rain every 6 minutes. According to the locals this is a quiet spell especially as we haven't had any bad hurricanes lately.

      I'm not sure I entirely agree with their logic, just trying to explain it :) Please feel free to continue to think they're mad lol. But quite honestly, I thought the weather in north yorkshire was iffy, out here it's freakin lethal on a monthly basis, it genuinely is on an entirely different scale. And thats assuming the dormant volcano stays dormant.

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