Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New York Has a Website

Called the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder.

New Yorkers can type in their address "to determine if they live in a hurricane flood zone."

Let's try 11 Wall Street.

Oh, dear. It looks like that address is in Zone C:
Residents in Zone C may experience storm surge flooding from a MAJOR (Category 3 & 4) hurricane making landfall just south of New York City. A major hurricane is unlikely in New York City, but not impossible.
That's okay. The New York Stock Exchange isn't that important. Plus, "A major hurricane is unlikely in New York City." Wall Street knows a thing or two about risk.

What risk?
A Category 3 hurricane in New York would behave like a Category 4 in the South. A Northern hurricane typically travels at 34 mph, about triple the speed of a Southern storm.

A major hurricane would produce a storm surge of up to 30 feet, with flooding in all five boroughs, airport and highway closings, and massive traffic jams. The lower Manhattan flood zone for a hurricane making landfall just south of the city includes the World Trade Center site, Wall Street and police headquarters. City Hall - which sits on higher ground and is located toward the middle of Manhattan - might turn into a small island as the East and Hudson rivers converge to its south. If that sounds implausible, remember that it has happened before: A September 1821 hurricane raised tides by 13 feet in an hour and flooded Manhattan from its southern tip to Canal Street.

Today, that would knock out most of Wall Street and many subway lines, and flood tourist spots like South Street Seaport.
Why would anyone build the largest securities market in the country in a flood zone?


Leigh C. said...

Actually, my husband tells me all the computer workings of the NYSE are located in the Metrotech Center in downtown Brooklyn, which is probably where the eye of the hypothetical hurricane would be headed. Buh-bye, stock exchange!

Leigh C. said...

Oh, and NYFD headquarters is in downtown Brooklyn, too. Grab loads of buckets, folks. You're gonna need 'em!

mominem said...

On of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the US was the Long Island hurricane of 1938. In 1933 there were 30 North Atlantic Hurricanes.

They are overdue, as we were.


LatinTeacher said...

Actually, the back-up computers are located (or are in the process of being located) in Bethlehem, PA. But still, it seems to flood around here pretty often these days...

Zachary said...

This is a good enough map of NY's topography.


I admit that a lot of lower Manhattan is topographically "lower." But as a New Yorker living here in New Orleans, I have to say gimme a break.

The Hudson River is tidal up to Albany, a good 100+ miles upriver from NYC. NYC and New Jersey is a complex estuary that experiences a lot of tidal activity. Granted not 30 ft-high tidal surge. Now, I'm sure if we had more wetlands than we have and more creeks than we have we could handle more surge, similar to the cypress swamps here. And storm surge would wipe out a lot of Brooklyn and Queens southern face, but

1. a lot of the surge I would expect can be accommodated in other bodies of water. Large bodies of water like the East River, the Long Island Sound, whatever that estuary New Jersey has, Newark Bay.

Providence, RI had two huge and disastrous hurricanes mid-century (after which they built an enormous barrier) but part of their devastation was that they are at the narrowest part of Narragansett Bay. Similarly, water coming through Mr. Go had nowhere to go or rather very small bodies of water to move through. New York harbor has a "Narrows" between Staten Island and Brooklyn but then expands tremendously.

2. No matter how you slice it, NYC is above sea level. The subways would flood and that would be hell to clean up and get working again. But thanks to gravity, after the improbable 30 ft surge crashing into wall street, the water would DRAIN.

3. We build buildings higher than one story in New York City. So a lot of lobbies might flood, but not the other 40 stories of a building.

That's not to say that New York wouldn't have significant losses. Nor certainly to say that we're not vulnerable to many types of disasters including hurricanes, blizzards, power outages, dirty bombs, bio-warfare, disease epidemics, etc.

But to say "hey look, NY is vulnerable to water too and no one is being mean to them" is one of the worst responses I've heard to the Katrina Disaster.

da po' boy said...

Thank you for your comment and the link, Zachary.

I believe you summed up my post well with:

"That's not to say that New York wouldn't have significant losses. Nor certainly to say that we're not vulnerable to many types of disasters including hurricanes, blizzards, power outages, dirty bombs, bio-warfare, disease epidemics, etc."

As for your last statement, please see the label of the post.