Monday, July 19, 2010

A Big Apple Hurricane?

What if a major hurricane pummeled New York City?

Last week The Weather Channel broadcast the threat of a hurricane hitting the New York City area, and additional local and national news outlets have since picked up the story – and The Northeast Quadrant is no exception!

It's been over a hundred years since a hurricane directly hit New York City and luck could be running out for a metropolis that never ruminates about such natural disasters. According to The Weather Channel, New York City is the number two most vulnerable U.S. city to be hit by a major hurricane, which would prove absolutely devastating! Factors like population density, amount of property near coastal areas and the length of time since the last major hurricane support the city's vulnerability.

New York City is mostly surrounded by water that could flood critical infrastructures during a lengthy hurricane aftermath, and it is populated by several million people, making evacuation a huge challenge.

The 90° angle-shape of the coastline, where the Atlantic Ocean points ominously at New York City, New Jersey and Long Island, makes the Big Apple especially vulnerable to storm surge. A major hurricane hit the New York City area in 1821 and created a storm surge of up to 13 feet and caused the Hudson and East rivers to meet across lower Manhattan. 117 years later that does not bode well for the MTA New York's transit system which runs the extremely complex subway. Even on a sunny day, nearly 13 million gallons of water are pumped from New York City subways – imagine the submersion of the system if a major hurricane hit! Even a Category 1 or 2 hurricane would require a major evacuation and could cause a lot of damage!

So what about some facts and figures? In early May I blogged about the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project, using New York City as my target area, and I learned that:
  • There is a 23 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a tropical storm or hurricane in 2010 (normal value is 15 percent)

  • There is a 7 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a major hurricane (category 3 or stronger) in 2010 (normal value is 4 percent)

  • There is a 99.4 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a hurricane in the next 50 years

  • There is a 90 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a major hurricane (category 3 or stronger) in the next 50 years.
While it is impossible to predict exactly when and where a hurricane will make landfall, every New Yorker should have a plan. But don't take my word for it! Check out this clip...

A New York City hurricane evacuation map can be downloaded
[.pdf] here.

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