Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane news: Manhattan south of East 39th Street is a total disaster. Where’s the outrage from the governor and mayor?

Fortunately my office is a few blocks north of my apartment. My Manhattan apartment, south of 39th Street has been turned into the equivalent of a cave in Afghanistan.

Now pay attention, folks.

I blogged last night about the sorry joke it was when the Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, and the New York Transit Authority closed down Manhattan 24 hours in advance of the hurricane. As usual, they were sweating the small stuff and making a great show of over-caution for political purposes while totally ignoring the big booby traps. For example?

Despite several recent crane disasters in Manhattan in recent years, the Mayor forgot to check whether there were any cranes out there that should have been taken down before they began blowing in the wind. There was one. It’s a huge monster, twisting and waving in the 100 mph gusts, that caused the closing of a nearby hotel and forced several hundred people out of their apartments in the midst of a hurricane. But even that’s relatively small stuff.

Who's minding the power grid?

A major thing they forgot to do was check to see if there was anybody competent minding the store at Con Edison, the local power utility.

While a few thousand New Yorkers were evacuated from water’s edge apartment buildings in the Battery Park City area, near Wall Street, there are now 1.9 million New Yorkers without power.

Because of the way the city’s residential infrastructure is set up, that means many New Yorkers, particularly the elderly, are trapped in unheated apartments that are getting colder as the temperature drops. (Con Edison supplies steam that heats many apartments. And even oil and gas-burning boilers need electrical power.) The residents have no hot water. They have no cold water either, since water in New York high rises gets pumped to water tanks on the roofs electrically for storage. They can’t flush their toilets. They can’t bathe. They have to ration their drinking water. The food in their dead refrigerators is rotting. Many have no phone service. Or cable TV service. Or Internet. (Modems go down when the power goes down.)

 If they have flashlights, perhaps they can make their way down ten, or fifteen, or thirty flights of stairs with a flashlight (and then up again to go home.)

But when they get to street level, there won’t be much there for their solace. Most of the food stores south of 39th Street are now closed. Most of the restaurants are now closed. The subway isn’t working yet. So even if stores want to open and have product to sell, there's nobody there to sell it. Or cook it.

“Redundancy? We don’t need
no stinking redundancy” – Con Ed

What’s the cause of all this? Somehow, a transformer blew up somewhere in Manhattan. It may have been due to flooding from the storm. If may have a wind-driven object that flew into the transformer. For all anybody knows, it may have been sabotage.

Whatever the case, I’m sure al-Qeada took note last night that you only have to blow out one transformer to plunge half of Manhattan (I’m guessing close to a million people) into misery and paralyze the city. There seems to be no redundancy. No spare transformer that kicks in when the old one kicks the bucket. There's no way of routing current around the blown transformer, the way telephone companies used to reroute signals around a failed communications node.

In effect Con Edison is saying, “So it’s busted. Tough cookies.”

People will die

There are going to be people who die from this. People who have heart attacks or strokes and can’t call for help because they have no phone service. People who tumble down darkened stairwells. Even people who starve to death in their own apartments.

Once the power is up, I do hope there will be some serious governmental (and journalistic) investigation into why there is no redundancy built into Con Edison’s power distribution system. And then I hope we get some legislation to get it built. Fast.           

Or, once the crisis is tamped down, will Governor Cuomo get back to cultivating his presidential ambitions while Mr. Bloomberg takes off for his getaway in Bermuda?


Anonymous said...

You're such an idiot. You turn steam off to buildings if the steam pipes will probably rupture. It's the smart thing to do since a ruptured steam pipe is even more of a problem to deal with. They voluntarily turned off power to lower manhattan just so that they wouldn't have blown up transformers. No major transformers blew up. The one on the East Side in the ConEd plan.. that wasn't a blow up it was a fuse turning off. When you turn off big fuses in a wind storm, they make a big bang. Check out how their grid works some time.. Each sub-grid has about 20 feeders going in to it with 20+ transformers transforming medium to low voltage. It's a synchronous grid. Not many places do that. It's a true grid instead of a silly transfer switch like many west coast residential 'hoods. Very redundant.
High rises have pumped water.. that's how it works these days. Don't like it, live in a 2story building..
Think they didnt evacuate people and just let the elderly freeze.. No, they warned people MANY times to get out. They even offered to COME GET YOU if you called them.
No big deal.
Overall they planned very well for this. We should be happy about this.
Don't be an idiot. Read a little before you post such crap.

The New York Crank said...

Yeah, anonymous. They just turned off the power, and now two days later they can't turn it back on. If the system is so wonderfully redundant, how come 1.9 million people still have no electricity, two days after the storm? Eh?

And where are all those 1.9 people going to go, assuming they got out? The city doesn't even have 1.9 million hotel rooms. Maybe you'd recommend they live in the street?

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank

The New York Crank said...

To further refute Anonymous, who calls me an idiot, I offer the following.
He says, "That wasn't a blow up. It was a fuse turning off. When you turn off fuses in a windstorm they make a big bang."

Well, here's what Reuters says:

"Reuters reports that as of 2 p.m. ET, almost 250,000 Manhattan homes were without power. Most of those spots were located below 39th Street, thanks to a ConEd transformer explosion on 14th Street that rocked the area Monday evening and subsequently cut off power." You'll find the full text here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/30/lower-manhattan-power_n_2046968.html

And for a picture of that little "pop" go here and watch the megablast: http://youtu.be/ZAqYZ433TeQ

Crankily yours,
The New York Crank