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August 8, 2007

Greater NYC floods
Posted by Teresa at 12:17 PM * 77 comments

If you’re seeing pictures of the tornado track in Brooklyn, it’s about a mile from us.

It was a hell of a storm for this part of the world. Woke us up with spectacular non-stop lightning and thunder. Then the rain hit. For a while the water was accumulating in our back yard at an alarming rate, but then the storm moved on. I dumped more than three inches of water out of my garbage cans.

Scraps got scared. His building is shakier than ours.

Over at the NYTimes, the Cityroom blog is doing a good job of covering a major story: Flooding Cripples Subway System. Even better is the as-it-happens comment thread on that post. So far they have more than 400 flavorful comments. Numbers 155 and 170 are mine. Here’s #155:

#155. August 8th, 2007, 10:43 am

We walked down to 36th Street Station in Brooklyn and were told there were no trains. That wasn’t a huge surprise. Our neighborhood catches the runoff from Brooklyn’s highest hills—we’re down below Greenwood Cemetery and Sunset Park.

It was interesting walking along 4th Avenue. At least one building was still pumping out its basement. Judging from the debris deposits, this morning’s storm runoff was running well above the sidewalk curbs. In at least one place (the On the Go service station and convenience store at 32nd), it looks like the water completely covered the sidewalk and was up into their flower beds.

I tipped what looked like three or more inches of water out of my garbage cans. They were dry yesterday.

So yeah, the MTA couldn’t get rid of the runoff as fast as it flowed in. This comes as a surprise? We just had an extraordinarily heavy storm—there was a tornado in Brooklyn, for pete’s sake! Any place that got a storm like that would have some flooding. The difference is that we have a transit system that RUNS THROUGH UNDERGROUND TUNNELS. That’s why the subway keeps running when surface traffic is at a standstill due to heavy snow. The tradeoff is that it catches summer storm runoff.

If the MTA had laid in more pumps, they still couldn’t have kept this from happening. The storm sewers wouldn’t have enough capacity to take that much pumped-out water. They’re already running at capacity as it is.

The city’s a big, delicately adjusted machine full of interdependent infrastructural systems. Inevitably, there are tradeoffs. If the most important thing in the world was making sure the subway never, ever flooded, no matter how hard it rained, we could do it. It would be very expensive, and you wouldn’t like some of the side-effects. Instead, we have the system we have, and once in a while it floods.

Instead of cursing the MTA, give thanks that you’re not one of the subway workers whose job today will be to clean out all that filthy floodwater, mud, crud, washed-down garbage, and drowned and undrowned rats.

As you can probably tell, most of the commenters are ticked at the MTA. I think they’d have been far more understanding if the MTA had done a better job of getting information out to commuters. Info got out late, patchily, and in many cases not at all. Also, the MTA’s website went down as soon as we hit the crisis point. Nobody’s happy about that. New Yorkers are great at coping with challenges, but we can’t do it if we don’t know what’s happening. This is bad timing for the MTA, since they’re in the middle of campaigning for a fare hike.

They’re testing water quality at the beaches. The city’s emphatically telling Brooklyn homeowners who have downed trees that they’re not to try to dispose of the wood themselves, since they’re inside the Asian Longhorn Beetle quarantine area. The power’s out in places (among them St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, which is running on backup generators), and there’s a life-threatening high heat warning in effect.

The parkways north of the city are of course flooded. They always do that. They’re built on floodplains.

Bloomberg’s doing a press conference. Right now he’s not doing much of the talking. He’s mustered all the city commissioners and department heads, and is having them report where their problems are and what they’re doing about it. This is good. Also, the accents are fabulous.

Heh. Bloomberg’s thanking Father McGillicuddy and Our Lady of Perpetual Help for hosting the press conference. Where did he get those—Central Casting? … It’s being very New York out there. Bloomberg’s opining that God is no respecter of rush hours. Also, that the city is naturally sorry about individual cases of inconvenience, but it’s far from their biggest worry right now. Definitely NYC.

Update: At 1:03 p.m., the NYTimes shut down that Cityblog comment thread at 505 comments. (Sniffs delicately.)

Comments on Greater NYC floods:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:06 PM:

There's a report that Fox News, being in a basement (physically located in one, I mean) has been flooded and is trying to get itself dried out.

A little snarkiness here: they could call in their Bushista blowhards and dry it out with all the hot air they produce.

(Sympathy, here: We've had days when we got six inches of rain. Things like an inch of water at the street's crown, and deep enough in the low spots to stop buses.)

#2 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:06 PM:

I'm glad to hear that you are safe.

#3 ::: Shawn M Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:07 PM:

This is bad timing for the MTA, since they’re in the middle of campaigning for a fare hike.

Wouldn't this be good timing, then? Showing just desperately they need the increased income to handle emergencies?

Not that I think that the MTA has a machine in a basement somewhere that can call down tornadoes on demand, or anything, because who would ever suspect the MTA of being an Evil Organization™?

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:17 PM:

The MTA succeeds at doing a nearly impossible job almost every day in the year. Naturally, one of the commenters at the Citydesk blog is calling for the privatization of the transit system, and one or two others are calling for the MTA to fire all its experienced unionized employees and bring in "more motivated" nonunion employees. Feh.

P J Evans (1), so Fox News flooded? No kidding. Are the people working to clean it up being captioned as looters or scavengers? Have their neighbors set up a roadblock yet to keep them from getting out and terrorizing decent people who have the misfortune to live nearby? Are their affiliates broadcasting stories about how it's their own fault for not getting out in time? I want to hear more about this.

#5 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:27 PM:

I headed in to Manhattan at 10:30 this morning, but ended up turning around and going home to Brooklyn, finding no subway service that was actually usable (and it must have been at least 120 degrees F on the platforms). By 12:30, at least one or two subway lines were back to near-normal, and I got in to work around 1. Ah, the office - blessed air conditioning.

#6 ::: Janet Miles ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Dear ghods. I'm glad you are safe.

Your city and its inhabitants will be in my thoughts for a quick recovery from the storm and its effects.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Yes, privatizing the MTA is obviously the answer, since there's never any featherbedding, cronyism, or graft in a privately-run enterprise. Particularly private enterprises with a near-monopoly over a critical public service.

#8 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:32 PM:

It sounds scary and pretty amazing. I sometimes wonder at the sense of entitlement here.

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:40 PM:

The Google ads are offering a Basement Water Pump and free tickets to the Splish Splash water park out on Long Island.

#10 ::: Matt Stevens ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Yeah, the MTA does a horrible job getting information out to its riders. Lines are often closed without any notice whatsoever. They could win a lot of goodwill with more frequent service announcements. Just shout it over the intercom of something.

Agreed, though, that the MTA really does need money to repair aging infrastructure. I wish they'd save their money for repairs, though, and not (say) the 2nd avenue subway line.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:42 PM:

ADM, a lot of them were posting after harrowing commutes (or non-commutes).

#12 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:51 PM:

MTA was good about things, but wow, the volume of people held up was huge.

The only complaint I have was the bus driver who kept yelling at people packed in like sardines to move to the back, who constantly ignored people telling her there was no further back for anyone to move. She held the M2 express bus up for a good 20 minutes with the same schtick at every stop.

I figure it'll all be sorted out before the end of the day. If not, metro north will probably get me home.

#13 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:52 PM:

A tornado a mile from your home?! Yikes. I'm so glad you are safe and sound.

#14 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Dear Lord.

Glad to hear that you are all well. Sounds harrowing.

(Also sounds from the forecast like it's almost our turn again out here on the West Coast for heat)

#15 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:09 PM:

It's not just the flooding of the tracks that causes delays: if the motormen and conductors can't get to their start points on time, trains have to be rescheduled to allow for absences and substitutions. (Every so often, I get to sit in a dispatch station, and hear what happens when, say, there's a major traffic and subway kerfuffle, and no one can get to 207th Street or Stillwell Avenue to take the trains out of the stations. It's not pretty.)

I had an R that magically transformed into a D, and then into an F, so it only took me close to two hours to get to work from Green-Wood Heights. What can you do? Shrug, and schlep. Though the waterfall coming out of the wall of the subway stairwell was an unpleasant surprise. (When you have open wounds on your feet, that sort of thing is not entertaining.)

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Matt @ 10

I'm glad to know that the MTA in Los Angeles isn't the only one that doesn't believe in timely information. (We get notices on the overhead signs about night-time scheduled maintenance, but they never tell you if the train is going to be late, or if it's been shut down because someone either jumped in front of it, or, on the above-ground lines, tried to play 'beat the train' and lost.)

#17 ::: Shawn M Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Josh Jasper #12: but wow, the volume of people held up was huge.

Think how smoothly the MTA normally handles an even larger volume of people every day, day in, day out. You don't notice the volume because it gets moved through, (relatively) quietly, and efficiently. Even under adverse circumstances (flooded stations and tunnels), they still kept moving people, so that it was just delays, not complete shutdown.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Time for me to once again point to my Urban Emergency and Evacuation bags.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Time for me to once again point to my Urban Emergency and Evacuation bags.

#20 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:48 PM:

This is clearly a provincial, I-don't-live-in-NYC perspective... but rather than the public transit angle, what has me most wide-eyed here is that there was a fucking tornado in Brooklyn.

So, question for the science geeks in the house: my understanding is that you can't say that any specific hurricane (e.g. Katrina) is due to global warming, but that general increases in numbers and strength can, in fact, be reasonably attributed to it. So what about tornados? Extreme weather events in general?

Okay, I'm outa here. Gotta go reread some Bruce Sterling.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:49 PM:

The pictures of downed trees in Brooklyn reminds me of many such events seen during and after Northern California storms. Except one doesn't expect to see them in Brooklyn. Pretty spectacular. I'm glad you guys are okay.

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:08 PM:

I'm pretty boggled by the tornado too.

Chris and I live on a fairly high patch of Brooklyn, and our trains (2, 3, Q, B) were out of commission too. Chris took a bus to the C line to get to work. I phoned in, was told that hardly anyone was there and nothing too urgent needed doing, I might as well stay home.

The local WiFi-equipped coffee shops are doing great business.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:10 PM:

I heard on NY1 this morning that the MTA's primary way of getting information out to the subway stations is to send transit workers out via subway to pass on the news. The major flaw in this system should be obvious.

#24 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:17 PM:

At my end of Queens, which is mostly large apt. buildings, ones at the tops of hills, like mine, were pumping flooded basement areas and/or bringing in huge fans to dry out soaked basement-level carpeting. Ones at the bottoms of the hills were doing the same in their lobbies. Lobbies are expensively decorated items in my part of the boro as most of these buildings are co-ops and a nice lobby improves property value. Watching hoses snake out through the big glass doors and pump water into the street is odd in a "that doesn't usually happen around here" sort of way.

Various blocks had cars parked on sidewalks; I assume that this is because when the cars were parked, they were avoiding the lakes that develop around blocked storm drains in at the street corners.

In other news, a beautiful oldish tree near my mother's building was murdered by Con Ed last week. There's been Con Ed construction along the street for months, with traffic restricted to a narrow passage. One day I was walking home along that route and saw that the street was now completely blocked off to cars and a gorgeous, mature tree (I could get my arms around the trunk but not by much) had been knocked almost entirely out of the ground. Broken sidewalk, broken branches. Of course there's no way of knowing who or what hit it, and it wasn't necessarily the Con Ed guys and their earthmoving equipment that did the deed, but it's a crying shame nonetheless.

#25 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Just wanted to add that this is the 3rd time in the last 18 mos that the subway has gone down for the same reason, massive flooding. It happened about a month ago and also once last year, I don't remember exactly when. _That_ time, I walked about half of the 8 miles home because the train dumped me out in Queens.

#26 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Just wanted to add that this is the 3rd time in the last 18 mos that the subway has gone down for the same reason, massive flooding. It happened about a month ago and also once last year, I don't remember exactly when. _That_ time, I walked about half of the 8 miles home because the train dumped me out in Queens.

#27 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:22 PM:

I checked with some friends in Brooklyn, who were awakened at 5:30 by "incredibly loud" thunder and all the car alarms in the neighborhood going off. They live by the water (South Shore Parkway) but didn't flood.

In Maryland, we get the occasional tornado, but not often. Mostly, we get initial reports that are later revised to something else. When I was in 5th grade, though, one took the roof off my school, cancelling the remainder of the school year.

#28 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Avram at #23: I heard on NY1 this morning that the MTA's primary way of getting information out to the subway stations is to send transit workers out via subway to pass on the news. The major flaw in this system should be obvious.

If memory serves, they also don't have printers in many of the tower rooms, so they would also have to rely on people shouting on the platforms, rather than, you know, being able to make signs and post them instantly.

#29 ::: David Sucher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:27 PM:

It probably doesn't have much to do with NYC at this time in its history -- more for emerging cities like Seattle -- but flooding of tunnels may be just one more argument in favor of above-grade lines, specifically rubber-tired ones like monorails. (I am against steel-rails above grade for reasons of noise.) Social resiliency ought to be one of the factors considered in choosing mass transit modes and putting floods aside, it's a ot easier to evaculate people from an elevated line than from a tunnel.

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Whoah. Tornadoes are not cool. I managed to grow up in the midwest and never see one, but I've seen a lot of their "tracks", mostly out in nearby unoccupied fields or woods. It's like God took a really big eraser to his work. Stuff is just gone.

Glad you're OK.

#31 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Jim Macdonald (18,19):
Sounds more like a need for a sailors bail-out bag, what you need to pull out of your sinking boat to (hopefully) help you survive in the life raft.

#32 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:42 PM:

#29: Dave beat me too it. I was just wondering if it were time for the L to make a come-back.

"It's a lot easier to evacuate people from an elevated line than from a tunnel."

Also, they make better scenery for tense urban car chases.

#33 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:45 PM:

This is the type of torrential downpour which floods the Mott Haven triangle, stopping all Metro North trains period and most Bronx subway trains. (They're all operating again by now.)

Yet somehow, despite having the radio on from 7:10 to 8:00 AM, I heard no mention of this flooding and these service disruptions.

That silence, not the flooding, is inexcusable.

#34 ::: David Sucher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:46 PM:

James D. MacDonald @ 18 & 19
You have thought quite a bit about dealing with emergencies. On your Jump Bag page (thanks for it, btw) you write: "Consider: laminated photocopies of important documents (e.g. marriage license, birth certificate, social security card, first page of passport)."

Going further, do you think it would be good practice to scan (or simply write down numbers) of key docs (maybe even Quicken files?) and then email it to oneself -- such as to a Google Mail account which can be accessed from anywhere an emergency may force one? Obviously there are security issues -- hack into the account and you have the complete identity. Aside from that not inconsiderable (?) issue, your response? Any suggestions on good practice to create such identity redundancy?

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:51 PM:

A tornado a mile from you? I'm glad you're okay. The thought of tornadoes scares the living daylights out of me.

Lizzy L #21: For technical reasons, there has to be at least one tree in Brooklyn.

#36 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Glad y'alls are all right. That was really scary to hear about anywhere, New York City is even scarier to hear about.

Best wishes for all drying their buildings out.

#37 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:01 PM:

David Sucher @34: Rather than scan and email the documents, I'd scan and save them to a CD, and burn at least 2 copies.

1. to ride in the Jump Bag.
2. stored in a safe deposit box at my bank.
3. Optional, stored with relative or at work.

Also, copies of lables from any prescription drugs you may be taking.


#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Gaak! Glad the damn thing missed you. I had nothing worse than a circuitous commute (walking up blocks to get to passable street at most intersections) and a little water dripping in my ceiling.

#39 ::: jillie ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Still don't understand why the MTA has to be so incompetent with keeping its customers informed. It's not just with changes, but with basic information about the subway lines. When I first moved to the city last year I was overwhelmed by how confusing the subway was -- on most of the trains there's no information about the specific line, or the stops, except for the one MTA subway map in each car.

It's not much better on the platform. If there is information about the subway line, chances are it's covered up by change of service announcement.

The thing is there are more complicated public transportation systems that are far more user friendly.

#40 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:08 PM:

I am surprised that this story isn't getting more play.

I drove past it this morning as I left my apartment in Bay Ridge.

First, a gripe and a kvetch: having descended down into the 86th St train station to ankle-deep puddles up on the mezzanine (before even going down further to the platform), I realized some nascent catastrophe and promptly went back up and phoned a colleague who lives nearby, who then opted to drive (who knew it was a city-wide mess-up? Not us, not at this time – thanks, MTA!) - the 'R' train routinely gets all soggy and screwed up during the summer monsoon season, but usually because of tunnel flooding down near the Downtown Brooklyn area under which the trains pass through on the way into the city, because the stations downtown are several stories below ground and so the water has to collect *somewhere* - but this was unusual. Anyway, the slow, arduous slog down 4th Avenue brought us past this church –

Trees were overturned, rooves were dangling and tar-paper was flapping and... the huge window of the church that faces the street was blown out. There were large, scary hunks of glass *everywhere*: embedded the tires of parked cars, in the trunks of the trees, sides of houses, nearby awnings were shredded. How no one was killed last night, I'll never know.

Of course, I did check NY1 and the MTA website this morning prior to stepping outside and nope, no warning about a system-wide shut-down. Had I known that it would be a four hour odyssey. I'd have stayed home but for the fact that I had a matter to wrap up before a grand jury. I finally get downtown - no quorum in the jury, so couldn’t do anything with the few wet, testy stragglers who were there. Sigh. I really coulda, shoulda had gone back to bed.

C'est la vie.

#41 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Stephen Frug (20):
If this were to happen a lot, it might be a climate thing, but it was just a somewhat rare but well understood weather thing: Mesoscale Convective Complex. The most memorable one in my area caused the Worcester tornado of 1953. You can track the trouble from the Rockies east sometimes. I saw this in the forecast discussion last night when it had a chance of getting to the Worcester area.

#42 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Hmmm - the link got munched:

Lemme just try this:

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/transportation/am-stor0809,0,5606496.story?coll=ny_home_ugc

#43 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:14 PM:

From what I can tell, they didn't actually close things down that early, Kevin.

You would prefer all those NYC transit employees trying to drive (and park) at those subway stations?

My usual bus was packed, to no one's great surprise; a lot of people trying to figure out if the M4 or the Q32 could get them where they needed to be. (Yes, I'm taking the M4 again; just like living in Washington Heights, but from the other end of the route.)

What it definitely showed was that getting cars off the road and buses onto it is a workable goal for the 'congestion pricing' efforts.

#44 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:18 PM:

#34 Going further, do you think it would be good practice to scan (or simply write down numbers) of key docs (maybe even Quicken files?) and then email it to oneself -- such as to a Google Mail account which can be accessed from anywhere an emergency may force one?

You could. My little bags are for problems on the order of "get out of town for a couple of days." How far you go, and what you want to do, are up to you.

You could always encrypt your data, put it in a .jpg by way of steganography, and put it on your webpage if you wanted. Your choice, sky's the limit, and go for it.

What I might rather do, though, is put important stuff on a thumb drive and stick that in the bag, with a redundant backup somewhere off-site. By the time the world gets too interesting for that to help, it'll probably be too interesting for much beyond an Armageddon Plan to deal with.

#45 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Communication is a consistent problem for mass-transit agencies. Chicago's CTA has recently gotten quite a bit better; among other things they've joined the CTA_Alerts SMS group, but they still have a hell of a time telling people what's going on in a timely manner, and in my experience both SF Muni and King County Metro (Seattle) have very similar institutional blinders.

Maintenance is a different problem, because its damn near impossible to extract money from the FTA to do something other than build highways, and if you're luck maybe new construction. But funds for capital repairs and upgrades are in damn short supply. Coupled with the way that funding is allocated tends to pull money toward new projects and away from existing infrastructure.

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:31 PM:

We're fine, no problem there, though we'd be less than fine if we'd had to walk to work, or wait for an hour in an intolerably hot train station. Just walking down to the station and back left my hair so sweaty-damp that it still hasn't dried out.

I'm wondering whether it would be a good idea to have a stash of sandbags we could use to block the back door. If that rainstorm had stalled over the city, as hard as it was raining, we'd have been in trouble.

Brooklyn's hills aren't much by Western standards, but our summer thunderstorms can rain down like an open firehose. To give you some idea, our annual rainfall exceeds Seattle's. We live toward the upper end of the brief, gently sloping alluvial plain between the Greenwood Cemetery and Sunset Park heights, and the nearby Brooklyn waterfront. On the streetward side of our building, runoff flows down past us and nails stuff along 4th Avenue, including the subway. It would have to be one hell of a flood for pooling runoff on 4th Avenue to rise to the level of our front basement door.

It's the back yard that's the problem. Most of it is elevated a few feet. It all drains into a small paved area between a retaining wall and the house. That area has a drain for runoff, but if it were to get blocked, or couldn't handle the flow rate, the accumulating water would pour over the back-door lintel and run down a set of steps into the basement. Thus the yen for sandbags.

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Here's the Weather Alert Radio I bought for my daughter.

#48 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 05:29 PM:

The city’s emphatically telling Brooklyn homeowners who have downed trees that they’re not to try to dispose of the wood themselves, since they’re inside the Asian Longhorn Beetle quarantine area.

I have reason to believe that the fine foresters of the Parks Department street trees department are on it.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 05:39 PM:

What would have been Messy Indeed had been if the storm struck about four in the afternoon.

No option to stay at home then.

#50 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 05:45 PM:

As bad as it is, I feel as if I've been kissed by the karma gods today - all the rain lately has apparently put too much pressure on the (four-foot-high nine-inch-thick solid concrete) retaining wall along our driveway, and it fell over with a large bang this morning, hard enough to split it in half.

We took the car in for servicing yesterday.

#51 ::: diana ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 08:08 PM:

Thanks for the link to the mesoscale convection complex. Nice to know what hit us.

Theresa, clearly you have an "english basement" garden apartment like I do, and it's not like you own the building, so .. sacrifice the basement! let the water just go down the steps. Anywhere other than into your own space.

I mean, if the flood ruins your boiler, that just lets you push for solar heating, no? And what else is down there?

#52 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 08:25 PM:

#51 "And what else is down there?"

An Aztec mummy, passed down from generation to generation by Teresa's family, which if allowed to get wet will come back to life and lay waste to the city.

#53 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 09:38 PM:

This post actually prompted a phone call home; my great-aunt's in St. Vincent's at the moment, and my mother's the closest relative and the one most concerned with her care. I'm sure she's fine, what with backup generators, but still.

Meanwhile, a friend had to walk from Brooklyn to midtown to get to work. Out here in Jersey, we got minimal rain and about an hour of nonstop thunder and lightning. Impressive and scary.

#54 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 09:55 PM:

NWS Damage assessment put the Tornado at EF1 when it hit Staten Island, hopped the Narrows, touched down again in Bay Ridge, ran NE from there, reaching EF2 strength. Leif Ericson Park Square is called out as receiving notable tree damage. Leif is no son of mine. It lifted again after the square (a Nissan dealership at 66th and 5AV is called out here, losing the roof).

It touches down again, as an EF1, around 58th, between 5AV and 6AV, then headed east, with another tree-mauling callout in Flatbush (Ocean AV btw Beverly AV and Church AV) then dissipates.

So. Myths.

1) Tornadoes don't cross water.

2) Tornadoes don't hit cities.

Remember that, please. St. Louis had a very small EF0 hit earlier this year (passing between myself and Jordin Kare, who was in town on business.) Birmingham, UK was hit a couple of years back, just before Interthingy.


#55 ::: Jim Satterfield ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Teresa, re #4

Isn't it the jobs of the Fox News staff to try and terrorize innocent people while they're at their jobs in the studio?

#56 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 11:33 PM:

diana, #51, your assumptions about Teresa's house, house contents, and the spelling of her name are all wrong. (Note, there's a spelling reference right above the text box; you might glance at it.)

#57 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Stephen Frug, #20: "So, question for the science geeks in the house: my understanding is that you can't say that any specific hurricane (e.g. Katrina) is due to global warming, but that general increases in numbers and strength can, in fact, be reasonably attributed to it. So what about tornados? Extreme weather events in general?"

Yes, indeedy. Don't have an immediate cite for you, but try the IPCC web site.

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:04 AM:

From CNN:


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Strong winds and heavy rainstorms tore through the Big Apple early Wednesday, killing one person and wreaking havoc on the region's transit system and causing delays at two major airports.


Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a woman died after her car became stuck in high water under an overpass on Staten Island and it was hit by another car.


Five other people have been injured throughout the city, most as a result of falling trees and flying objects when a tornado swept through Brooklyn shortly before 7 a.m. ET, Bloomberg said.


The National Weather Service confirmed the twister winds were up to 135 mph.


The Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn lost as many as 40 percent of its trees, according to Commissioner Joe Bruno of the city Office of Emergency Management.


...

#59 ::: Nicholas ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:42 AM:

#39: on most of the trains there's no information about the specific line, or the stops, except for the one MTA subway map in each car.

There's actually a reason for that -- cars are assigned to storage yards, not necessarily individual lines, and so permanent strip maps in cars aren't always possible. (Even the ones where they try aren't always correct for this reason... 2 trains periodically end up with 5 line maps, and vice versa, because they share the same yard.) The most recent car design, a few of which have started to arrive, solves the problem via all-electronic strip maps.

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 01:58 AM:

That's really freaky. I lived on the East Coast for than 25 years, and never had a tornado come closer than 100 miles. And as unique as the event is, none of the local news services in this area have mentioned it. Now that I know what you guys have gone through today, I'll be thinking about you all.
Good luck with the cleanup.

#61 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 07:55 AM:

Erik@54:

So. Myths.
1) Tornadoes don't cross water.
2) Tornadoes don't hit cities.
Remember that, please. St. Louis had a very small EF0 hit earlier this year (passing between myself and Jordin Kare, who was in town on business.) Birmingham, UK was hit a couple of years back, just before Interthingy

Been one more recent than that. A tornado touched down in North London less than a year ago.

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:30 AM:

What's in the basement? Most of our books. My yarn stash. Our guest room/my office. The fanzines. Other boxed-up papers. My tools.

#63 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:33 AM:

44: What I might rather do, though, is put important stuff on a thumb drive and stick that in the bag, with a redundant backup somewhere off-site. By the time the world gets too interesting for that to help, it'll probably be too interesting for much beyond an Armageddon Plan to deal with.

And y'all just know that Jim has an Armageddon Plan ready to go.

#64 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Teresa #62:

My tools.

Not... the disemvoweller!?

#65 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Gee, all of this totally trumps the recent monsoon news from Phoenix -- classrooms filled with icky mud, pupils moved to another school for the (insanely early in AZ) start of the school year. And our current monsoon total of around 5.25" in Prescott, with no storm major damage at all, seems like gentle April showers.

Wherever he is, Saint James (of the Apocalypse) Ballard may have mustered up a snicker about being proved so right.

#66 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 03:58 PM:

There's usually about one or two willy-willys (Australian for a sort of very small tornado - capable of removing the roof, but not the whole house) per summer over here on the west coast of .au. Given the way the Perth metro area is stretched out along the coastal strip (about 80 - 100km north and south from the river, eastward expansion being blocked by the Darling Range, and westward expansion requiring engineering facilities capable of surviving seawater) they generally touch down somewhere in the city. I don't think weather phenomena give a hoot where they land, to be honest.

Glad to hear all the Flurospherians over in Noo Yawk are safe, though. D'you think if we sent you a few gazillion super-absorbent sponges, you'd be able to send some of the water to us?

#67 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:07 PM:

The McBrooklyn blog plotted out the path of the tornado on Google Maps. It got closer to my place, and to the NH's, than I'd thought.

In McBrooklyn's sidebar blogroll, you'll see a link to a blog called "Tornadic Activity", which doesn't actually have anything to do with the recent storm. It's a fan blog for the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor-league baseball team that plays at Coney Island.

#68 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Wait. There are people who believe that tornadoes can't cross water? I'm confused. How does that belief stand up in the face of tornadoes that are *born* over water?

(I was once privileged to watch a spectacular one form amongst the clouds over Lake Pontchartrain, touch down like the finger of God, and dance there for a while before simply dissipating. I was also foolish enough to stand out there on the grass just my side of the levee and watch it. I'd probably do it again, too.)

#69 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:28 PM:

I recall occasional newspaper stories circa mid-70s concerning tornadoes hitting Suffolk county (eastern Long Island). Parts of the island are literally prairie-like.

But Brooklyn? Obviously divine blow-back, so to speak, for young Republicans violating the laws of nature. God's so angry about that that his aim is off.

#70 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Stefan @ 69 - FWIW, Bay Ridge is home to one of Brooklyn's few concentrations of Republicans, so your theory may not be too far off.

#71 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 10:48 PM:

My bad. I've never rented a place in NYC where the landlord allowed us to put anything in the basement, so I was foolishly extropolating that to your situation, and wondering why you were willing to sacrifice your own apartment to the landlord's empty space. I apologize.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 11:03 PM:

Another wave of thunderstorms on the way for tomorrow's commute. Jolly fun.

#73 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 11:36 PM:

be careful, all in NYC. I don't believe being hear the city center preventing tornaoes, while I was still working at home we had a straight-line wind event that was Very Wierd to experience, it's like a controlled tornado. Looked like an invisible giant striding through the big trees. Went past the house.

Last night we had a short, swift, powerful storm just after we got back from seeing Stardust (about 11 p.m.).

We had a big branch broken off the bad (stumped but sprouting big branches) mulberry tree in our drive, it missed the cars but I'm not certain I can get my car out without cutting on the windfall. We've got someone coming to fetch it tomorrow or Saturday. (insurance guy came by, determined our roof was okay--it fell leaning against the porch roof) so we're avoiding the check against our policy and it will cost about $100 to remove it.

#74 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:27 AM:

Paula, have you had a chance to determine and record your reaction to the new Stardust yet? (Looks like a popular name. Lucky you can't copyright a title.)

It's understandable that, notwithstanding the shortness of time anyway, Other Stuff might have got in the way, from what you're discussing in #73. I saw a not-too-impressive trailer at The Simpsons Movie, (along with a very worrying one for The Seeker: The Dark is Rising) and it won't be released here until September 20th, so the query's not urgent.

#75 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 01:40 AM:

Paula, how was Stardust? We had thunderstorms in NoVA today which really moderated the temp. No damage locally, at least.

#76 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Getting a chunk of our weather really would make a mess of subways. You notice that no Tornado Alley city uses subways. Light rail is the closest we can come to railed transport.

On July 4 I started out for the airport and ended up driving through two foot deep floods in the streets and rivers running down hills. That is pretty typical for Kansas City. It's a disaster area for Brooklyn.

#77 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Mez, see my comments in the Open Thread, #577. If I"m the Paula you're asking. I really enjoyed it, saw it for free and am going to pay to see it again.

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