Flooded subway
(Photo credit: MTA New York City Transit – Leonard Wiggins / Wikimedia)

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City’s transportation system. Storm surge pushed a flood of seawater into vehicle tunnels, railyards, ferry terminals, and subway lines.

“Hurricane Sandy was a big wake-up call for the city,” says Susanne DesRoches, New York’s deputy director of infrastructure and energy.

She says after the storm, subway tunnels and stations had to be pumped out. Electrical systems needed to be cleaned, repaired, and tested. In some places, it took weeks to get up and running again.

As seas rise and weather gets more extreme, the risks from flooding only grow. So New York is working to make its massive transportation system more resilient.

“We’re looking at major flood protection systems across the subway network, the airports, and our vehicular tunnels that go in and out of Manhattan,” DesRoches says.

For example, the city has installed huge floodgates at the entrances of two tunnels. A steel floodwall will soon protect the Coney Island railyard, and the city’s working on ways to seal off subway station entrances and vents.

It’s a multi-billion-dollar effort, but DesRoches says the next time a natural disaster hits, New York expects to be better prepared.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.