Scientists are predicting that New York City will soon be hit by the Big One: not an earthquake, but a massive and deadly hurricane that will rival if not surpass Hurricane Katrina. Situated as it is on the globe, hurricanes that threaten the city are usually dissipated by the cold waters of the Atlantic; but those hurricanes that do reach this far north are also traveling at a faster rate of speed. What would be a Category 2 hurricane in a southern state like Florida or Georgia, would become a Category 5 if it were to make landfall in New York.
The worst of worst case scenarios would occur if one of these storms directly entered New York Harbor. Together with Long Island to the east and New Jersey to the west, the harbor forms an L-shaped region that scientists call “the funnel.” The hurricane’s energy would hit a “dead-end” and become further intensified by the turbulent waters of the East River and Hudson River at its head, while propelled by the equally turbulent waters of the Narrows at its center; the storm essentially becoming a whirlpool within a whirlpool.
A “Bernoulli Effect” would occur with skyscrapers amplifying the storm’s winds, blasting through areas such as Central Park with tree-shredding torrents of air. Water levels would rise to 13 feet in a single hour and continue climbing until they reached 25 or more feet in many low-lying areas. Manhattan Island would “divide” into “two islands” at Canal Street, which is low ground and become completely submerged, according to a team of Columbia University engineers… a “canal” would indeed run along Canal Street.
The financial district would be left completely isolated, and even higher ground in Manhattan’s uptown would see water levels of 18 feet. Subways would be flooded, roads and airports closed, power failures citywide, telephone and internet connections down, basic drinking water contaminated due to ocean-inundated treatment plants, etc….in short, New York City would be brought to a virtual standstill, unprecedented in its history.
To prevent or to lessen such a day of wrath like this from occurring here, Malcolm Bowman, professor of oceanography at Stony Brook, proposed the construction of massive hydraulic gates situated at three strategic points encircling New York Harbor: one at the East River off of LaGuardia Airport, another at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, off of Staten Island, and a main gate at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In the event of a serious hurricane endangering NYC, these gates (to put it quite simply) would be activated and rise 25 feet above the water’s surface and, hopefully, block the hurricane’s storm surge.
This project would be the most ambitious and most expensive in the city’s history. Bowman insists that installation of this gate system is the only thing that could prevent the disastrous effects of a direct hit from a major hurricane. He was endeavoring to marshal the political will and financial support for his proposal, and his meetings with Port Authority officials in 2001 were going well, when 9/11 occurred…”And you know what happened next,” Bowman shrugged.
Nevertheless, my wife and I are looking on the bright side of it all: we’ve always wanted to go whitewater rafting without leaving home.
- Storm surge could cost U.S. hundreds of billions. (climatecentral.org)
- Get To Know Your Hurricane Terms (houston.cbslocal.com)
- Hurricane Irene of 2011 now rated history’s 6th most damaging hurricane (wunderground.com)
- Children of Andrew still recall 1992 hurricane (miamiherald.com)
- Report: Storm Surge Could Cost U.S. Hundreds of Billions (climatecentral.org)