Judging by this morning’s news reports it seems increasingly likely New York City is going to get whacked by Hurricane Irene this weekend.
Presumably if you have the time to read this you have already battled your way through the grocery/Duane Reade line-up to stock up on batteries, water, and pita chips.
Naturally the key is not to panic. What’s going to hit us on Sunday is a tropical storm…not even a hurricane.
However, best to be prepared for the worst.
Last year, after Hurricane Earl failed to make landing on the East Coast, the WSJ took at look at what might happen if NYC were to get hit. Before you read on it’s worth noting they are anticipating what would happen if NYC got hit by a Hurricane 3 storm. Irene will likely be below 1 (a tropical storm) when it gets here. That said, this will certainly give you a sense of what to expect.
To learn about New York City’s last direct hit from a severe storm, you’d need to look all the way back to 1893, when a so-called “West Indian Cyclone” carried sailing ships to Sixth Avenue, created a river on Canal Street that briefly connected the East River and the Hudson, swept much of Coney Island into the sea and entirely destroyed a barrier beach called Hog Island that once lay south of the Rockaways in Queens.
When–not if, say experts–it happens again, a storm will find both New York and Long Island far more populated than the last time. In the city, a hurricane’s storm surge would cause sudden, extensive flooding, submerging much of Lower Manhattan and crippling the subway system and tunnels.
The powerful winds would uproot thousands of trees, down power lines and send debris flying in all corners of the city. And those winds could shatter windows on skyscrapers, especially in the taller buildings that would bear the brunt of powerful gusts that occur at higher elevations. The canyons of Manhattan could magnify the winds, and would be a deadly place for anyone caught beneath the raining glass.
Last January, following the tsunami in Japan, we unearthed this simulation video of what it would look like if New York City got hit by a tsunami. It’s scary. A tsunami is obviously very different than hurricane — the wind factor for one — but both involve a lot of water! New York City, as we all know, does not deal well with lots of water. This video scarily illustrates why that is.
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