The Lookout

NYT called out city’s flood-protection problems in September

Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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Cars are blurred as they pass by a building in Manhattan's darkened Flatiron district after Hurricane Sandy. (Mario …

In a prescient New York Times article in September, scientists warned that New York City could become paralyzed for a month or more if a storm—or rising sea levels caused by climate change—caused significant flooding.

This passage, flagged by Reuters' Felix Salmon, stands out in particular:

Consolidated Edison, the utility that supplies electricity to most of the city, estimates that adaptations like installing submersible switches and moving high-voltage transformers above ground level would cost at least $250 million. Lacking the means, it is making gradual adjustments, with about $24 million spent in flood zones since 2007.

Scientists have been saying for years that the city is at risk due to rising sea levels.

Currently, 250,000 ConEd customers in lower Manhattan are without power, and city officials say it could take several more days for it to be restored. The utility company's transformers at a facility on 14th Street exploded during the storm surge Monday night, raising the question of whether this $250 million investment would have prevented that from happening.

At a news conference on Monday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg questioned the feasibility of another suggestion from scientists and experts in that article: that the city build gates to shut off subway tubes when water rises. Currently, the city's subway system is expected to be down for at least the week.

"I don't know how practical it is to put gates on PATH tubes and subway tunnels," Bloomberg said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday that the city needs to rebuild with what he called new, more severe weather patterns in mind. "It is something we're going to have to start thinking about. ... The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level," Cuomo said.

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