New York City: Flood Prevention 101

 I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, stick my nose in others business, spoil anyones day.

Just pointing out what I believe is OBVIOUS,

to a world that can't seem to deal with the obvious.

You can't make believe any coastal or river locations won't be hit with Hurricanes, storm surges, flooding.

You can't move away from hurricanes, away from flooding, from storm surges, unless you plan to abandon everything below at least the 20 foot contour, if not double that.  Should we stop coastal building, you bet, should anyone rebuilding have to build flood, surge and hurricane resistant structures, you bet. 
The solution isn't as easy as ending use of fossil fuel, stop creating other green house gasses, reversing the man made part of global warming.   I'm for all that,  if we don't flooding and storm surges won't be the problem, breathing will. 

Yes, it's really hard to STOP mother nature, but we can temper mother natures fury.  We need to grow up, accept that is the solution, and build legislate, and eco - engineer our way to a more secure existance on a planet we really don't control.  I'm an unbrideled optomist really, I know we can temper mother nature and improve our standard of living at the same time.

What Just Happened?????


The physcal solutions are simple.
The cultural solution is quite frankly impossible, as my rambling below illustrates, along with the very hard pill to swallow to make it all better. 
It is hard to believe anyone needs to tell a city the size of, with the resources of, New York City how to sandbag a sidewalk grating. 


Yet, apparently one does. 


I saw sheets of plywood zip tied to a couple of handrails, sandbags two high on the water side, and a surge that would AT LEAST reach 3 feet at that location.  It's as if not one high paid city offical thought to say.... call the Mayor, police commisioner, a bartender in  New Orleans and say, heh, we met at that conference a few years ago, I don't want to look like a fool talking to my employees so could you clue me in real quick what kind of barrier would you folks throw up overnight to stop a 6 to 12 foot surge?  Really, 15 feet high and 30 feet wide, you sure, really?  Some plastic tarps and a sheet of plywood won't cut the mustard?   Ah crap..., Phill!!!! Get the police, fire, sanitation, building department, MTA in my office NOW!!! and call up the Gov, we need the National Guard NOW!!!!


Instead it seems:

  • The NYC government can't figure out how to protect at least the transit systems.
  • NYC government decided prevention was more burdensome than rebuilding. 
  • NYC government just plain didn't believe the worst case scenarios for this storm.  After all.  We've not had a storm surge in NYC to speak of in about 50 years.  That's before any of our gov't or business leaders can remember, and lets face it, in America, where the cult of the young rules, you aren't going to running across many 65 - 70 yr old agency heads, mayors, or masters of the universe / business people, and no one listens to mere employees.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a culture that gets something that was really quite simple, this wrong.   The biggest subway system in the world, totally knockd out.  1/2 the auto and truck transport knocked out.  100% of the fueling system knocked out for nearly a week.  Flood and surge zones that look like wishful thinking, despite the best universities publishing almost 100% accurate models on the intenet, years ago.  Protection measures that a child from the Gulf would have known wouldn't work.  Indeed, the biggest traffic tunnel, NO effort made at all to prevent it's flooding.  With over 100,000 public, supposedly servants, on the payroll, not ONE brought any of this to the attention of a superior, manager, mayor? 
It is just .... Unbelievable. 
Unless one takes into account two facets of our modern world. 
  1. First, the only thing that counts is MONEY.  If you have more money, make more money than another person, you are a genius the other person an idiot.  The proof, if you are  smart, you are rich.  Therefore, anyone in a managerial postion, owner of business, executive, agency head, etc. not only does not need to pay attention to anyone under them, they shouldn't. 
  2. The other is FEAR.  With a permanent unemployed population of 12 million, many millions trained, degreed, experienced professionals in virtually every field, NO ONE will say anything that might put their job at risk.  You first find out what the boss wants to hear, then tell them that. 
What to do, what to do?
Oddly enough, I'm finding the US Military to be the organization LEAST subject to status / rank blindness.  They are the biggest gov't proponents of alternative fuels that if scaled up might work  (note - not ethanol, they have no use for it, makes you wonder).  They are on the cutting edge of energy conservation, being the biggest users of frost proof shallow foundations and ground source heat pumps (note - PC eco fanatics guiding puplic policy condem the latter as not green enough and don't even know what the former is).  The US military runs blog / twitter / and user supported help nets bigger than any on earth, to let every soldier, sailor, aviator and marine contribute and improve the services.  Find an American business that give the janitor a business wide platform to voice suggestions.