Streams

From The Archives: Big Storms, Climate Change Imperil Transit

Friday, October 26, 2012 - 04:58 PM

As Hurricane Sandy approaches, we thought of this, our story from a year ago,  in which we reported that if the storm surge had been just a foot higher during Hurricane Irene, New York's east river subway tunnels would have been flooded.   An alarming prospect, but one the federal government warns could be increasingly common -- and costly.

Here's the story:

On the Sunday after Tropical Storm Irene blasted through the five boroughs of New York City, the city exhaled. Huge swaths of Manhattan hadn’t flooded, high winds hadn’t caused widespread damage. Perhaps no one was as relieved as then-MTA CEO Jay Walder, who had just taken the unprecedented step of shutting down the entire transit system.

“The worst fear that we had, which was that the under-river tunnels on the East River would flood with salt water, were not realized. We certainly dodged something there,” Walder said at a post-Irene briefing with city officials.

What the city dodged was the ghost of climate change future — higher sea levels, intense storms, and elevated amounts of precipitation, all of which could combine to cause widespread flooding of the subway system.

Here's the full story:

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