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Transportation, Climate Change & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Webinar Series - June 20, 2013

Session 4 Transcript: "Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy"

Presenters:

The presenters included: Gina Filosa of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Tina Hodges of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Sustainable Transportation and Climate Change Team, Richard M. Shaw of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and Antonio Cabrera of New York City Transit Authority of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA-NYCT).

Gina Filosa: Hi, this is Gina Filosa with the US DOT's Volpe Center. I'd like to welcome everyone to the final webinar in the Federal Highway Administration's series on climate change and extreme weather vulnerability assessments. This series follows a general structure of Federal Highway's Vulnerability Assessment Framework. This framework, which we'll talk a bit more about later, is comprised of three key steps: defining study objectives and scope, assessing vulnerability, and incorporating results into decision-making. The three previous webinars in the series discussed these steps in detail. Each of the webinars also featured in-practice examples from state DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies to demonstrate the variety of ways the framework can be applied. While the previous webinars largely focused on planning for climate change and extreme weather events, today's webinar features lessons learned from an actual event, Super Storm Sandy.

I'll just briefly go over the agenda for today's session. First, Tina Hodges from the Federal Highway Administration will give a brief introduction of vulnerability assessments and will talk a bit about some other adaptation work that is underway. Next, Richard Shaw, Assistant Commissioner for Operations for the New Jersey DOT will present lessons learned from their experience with Hurricane Sandy. Then Antonio Cabrera, Track Engineering Officer with the MTA New York City Transit will talk about the storm surge flooding they experienced during Hurricane Sandy and what the agency is doing to prepare itself for future storms. At the end, we'll have a question-and-answer session where we'll open up the phone lines. I also encourage you to type your questions into the chat pod in the lower left of your screen and we'll address those questions in the final Q&A as well. And just to note, today's webinar is being recorded and along with the recordings from the earlier webinars will be available on Federal Highway's climate change adaptation website in the near future. So with that, I'll turn it over to Tina to get us started.

Tina Hodges: Great, thanks, Gina. As Gina mentioned, the purpose of this webinar series is to provide information to transportation agencies interested in improving the resilience of their transportation network to climate change and extreme weather. The Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation have a number of ongoing efforts in this area. As noted in earlier webinars in this series, the Federal Highway Administration has developed a Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework, which was updated in December. The framework largely draws from the work and experiences of a first round of five pilot studies conducted by metropolitan planning organizations and state departments of transportation. It also draws from US DOT's ongoing Gulf Coast study, phase two of which is set to be completed next spring. We intend to continue to update the framework as new information is available. FHWA recently kicked off a second round of pilots. This time there are 19 pilot projects. We're funding many that are focused on the last step of the framework; that is, integrating results of vulnerability assessments into decision-making both from a programmatic standpoint and specific engineering options. Another effort underway is developing a second volume of Federal Highway's existing guidance manual, Highways in the Coastal Environment, known as HEC 25 to our hydraulics engineers. This second volume will focus on assessing extreme events in the coastal environment and incorporating approaches for analyzing the effects of climate change. Finally, we'll have a new project that we're just getting started, working with the state DOT's from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, four MPOs and the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This project will supplement existing efforts in the region by developing a region wide assessment of transportation vulnerabilities based on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and building upon and linking together efforts of earlier assessments. It will aid transportation planners in determining regional priorities for future adaptation options. The project will also conduct engineering-based assessments of adaptation options for up to ten transportation assets that were damaged. I'd encourage you to check out a number of the resources and reports that we have available on our website. You'll see the URL at the bottom of the slide.

I want to take a moment to talk a little bit more about the Vulnerability Assessment Framework. The Framework is two things. First, it's a suggested organizing mechanism for transportation agencies planning to conduct a climate change and extreme weather vulnerability assessment; and second, it's a structure for us at Federal Highway to organize resources and lessons learned for reference and use by transportation agencies. Each box or circle on the diagram has corresponding information and other resources that go with it available on our website. We also used the Framework to organize this webinar series. As Gina mentioned earlier, the first three webinars focused on each of those three main modules. Today's is a little different because it focuses on a particular extreme weather event, Hurricane Sandy, which serves as a window into the impact from the type of extreme weather events that are expected to become more common or severe as the climate changes. According to the federal government's national climate assessment, warming oceans provide more power to developing tropical storms and hurricanes, while rising sea levels extend the reach of flooding, making areas previously immune from flooding vulnerable. Today, you'll hear from New York MTA and the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Both agencies had done previous work in the area of vulnerability assessments. New York MTA partnered with Columbia University and produced the first publicly available report on the impact of climate change on the U.S. transit agency. MTA has also worked closely with New York State and City on climate adaptation efforts and has also developed extensive hurricane plans. In New Jersey, the metropolitan planning organization for northern New Jersey conducted a Federal Highway funded vulnerability assessment in 2011 whose worst case coastal flooding scenario unfortunately was not far off from actual experience with Hurricane Sandy. While the unprecedented power of the storm caused substantial damages, the agency's previous work helped them prepare for Sandy, lessen its impacts, and return to normal operations sooner than otherwise would have been possible. You'll hear today about both agencies' efforts in the areas of extreme weather preparation, emergency response, recovery and planning for long term resilience. You'll see from the arrows and the Framework diagram that it's an iterative process. Both agencies are using the experience of Sandy to monitor and revisit previous disaster plans, as well as to assess vulnerabilities with new information and integrate this information into decision-making. So with that I'll turn it over to the presenters.

Rich Shaw: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Rich Shaw. I'm from New Jersey DOT. And I'm here to talk about our bout with Super Storm Sandy and the lessons we learned as a result of that. It was a fight I would have rather not had to fight, but such was the case. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record as measured by diameter and wind spanning 1,100 miles. The initial damage estimates were $71 billion. I believe that's since been downgraded somewhat to around $51 billion. I think the fatality number has actually risen a bit above 110. The impact was obvious; a lot of people's childhood memories are gone as the Jersey Shore was a popular attraction for many people both from inside and outside the Garden State. A lot of businesses were impacted, a lot of lives shattered. And the question we had was where do you start in the cleanup effort? That really takes us to the next point, which is you need to have a good plan.

Now, lesson number one: prior planning prevents poor performance. I have a commissioner that's always saying that. We had plans in place to deal with emergencies. Within five hours of the time the wind went below tropical force numbers, we had contractors and state people on the ground. Basically, the goal is to be ready to move at all times, 24/7/365. The picture you see at the lower left is the way that Route 35 and Mantoloking looked on October 30 after the ocean had basically created a new inlet to the bay. It wiped out 15 or 20 homes as well as a portion of county Route 528 and Route 35 itself. To the lower right is how that intersection looked on December 11, 2012, 42 days later. It was quite an effort to get to that point; however, had we not had a plan in place to deal with that, I'm sure it would have been several more months before we could have gotten to that point.

Lesson number two that I really want to drive home with everybody is that preparation begins at home. For those of you with families, you'll know you can't concentrate on your job and what you have to do if you are constantly worried about whether your family is making out all right. So prepare yourself at home first. Make sure that your home and your family has everything they need to weather the storm. Have a simple checklist that you can go through. You can get checklists online. Bottled water, flash lights, batteries, first aid kit, and food that doesn't need refrigeration are big. I don't know why, but I took this storm very, very seriously, more seriously than I had any previous storm predicted for our area. I think it was because of the angle that the storm was supposed to hit and because of the size of it. So we actually did go out and stock up on water and food and things of that nature. I'm glad we did because we were without power for five days in my neighborhood, which was not too bad compared to what some people had to endure. But five days in a house where nothing at all works is a little bit tough to tolerate for people. I live in an area where I have septic and sewer, and you can't even flush the toilets when your power is out.

Lesson three that we learned: preparation is a year round thing. We have our pre-storm checklists and operations that we go to every time we have a major event coming. We have a timeline where we know so many hours out certain things have to be accomplished. We have our emergency construction contracts in place 24/7. And they are required to mobilize within five hours of the time that we give them an assignment. Practicing your plan is key. The overall responsibility for emergency management in the state rests with the Department of Law and Public Safety. The Office of Emergency Management reports to them. They do run drills several times a year on things like hurricane preparedness and nuclear disasters and things like that. We continually learn new things every time we drill and upgrade the plans based on what we learn. Another thing is that debris removal contracts are a must have. You should have them in place 24/7/365. There are a lot of things that you have to comply with when it comes to debris removal. There are a lot of federal regulations, a lot of environmental regulations that have to be complied with, and you have to know what those laws are in your state. That was a huge issue for us in being able to get to work right away and get debris off the road. The picture you see to the bottom right there is actually Route 35 itself. The center line of the highway goes right down the middle of the picture. And actually, if you look way in the background there, you can see that there is an entire house sitting on Route 35. Trust me, it didn't belong there. Topping off our fuel supplies is critical. We at DOT provide fuel for about 95 percent of the state's vehicles. We have about 70 fueling locations out of about 73 or 74 that the state has. We top those off before hand to make sure that we have an adequate supply. Inventory all of your resources, start up everything that has an electric motor or a gas powered motor to make sure they all work. Run them for a little while; buy extra chains for chain saws and pruners, and things like that.

Now, lesson number four: an incident command system provides for unified command. For those of you familiar with the incident command system that developed out of the forest fire service about 12 to 15 years ago now. Basically, it sets up a structure for how an incident is to be managed especially among a multiagency type situation. It gives you a better organized response. It allows for common databases to track your resources and requests, and it provides for clarity of purpose and command decision-making. Our post-storm situation was not great. We had situations like this with trees down all over the place, thousands of them. You see the power lines pulled back there. We had about 2.7 million people without electricity. We had just a mess in many areas where homes were completely blown apart. That picture that just came up was the initial picture shown at the beginning of the webinar, that's where the ocean met the bay at Mantoloking. That was that picture I showed where it took us 42 days to rebuild that. Day one, we saw American flags out there with the people who rode it out and they were determined not to give up. But, you had situations like this where you see the car buried in sand. In some locations, we had eight feet of sand and debris on the highway and had to deal with that and remove cars, boats, houses and the like. It was a mess but I think having a plan in place, again driving that point home, was the key to success in this operation. And what was our success? Well, you know, our goal was to restore stability and maintain the safety in the areas that were affected. We closed the three breaches -- there were actually three breaches in Mantoloking one was big about 450 feet, one was about 80 feet, and one was about 100 feet. We closed three of them by Saturday, November 3. We had 581 road incidents that were cleared within three days. We opened Route 35 plus all of the local streets on the barrier island and on Route 36 within one week. We also provided over 59,000 gallons of fuel for first responders and medical professionals because when you have half the power in the state out, the gas stations are out of power and many of them do not have generator backup. So the number of fueling stations that were open for business was limited. On top of that, we had the Colonial Pipeline suffer damage from the storm, so the main refinery in Linden, New Jersey could not operate for several days. We repaired or restored over 1,100 traffic signals by November 7. That's about one-third of our traffic signals that were out of order. The only good thing for us in that point was most people were not going to work, so you generally didn't have the traffic issues that we would have had had there been a full rush hour. And yes, by the way, we did have a nor'easter blow in on November 7 that dumped snow and rain on us and set us back a little bit. But after Sandy, that really was a minor inconvenience.

Post storm recovery effort, we needed to establish our presence in the affected areas. We have a mobile command center in place that we move and we can work out of. It has printers, fax machines, plotters, things like that that we need to operate and create basically a field office. We had good relationships established with law enforcement out there and the utility companies, the local political leaders, and other agencies. It's a situation along the island on Route 35 where you have a 12 mile stretch of road and you have 5 municipalities. So you're dealing with five police departments and five mayors, and they were all affected differently. They all have different needs when it comes to opening the road up to the public to get people back to their homes. So sorting all of that out took some doing. Fortunately, everybody was very cooperative and we came to a solution that gave everybody most of what they wanted. Having an established chain of command is absolutely necessary. We had teams organized with our people who went out with the construction crews and monitored their work. They were given field kits which contained maps of the area that were affected and what kind of work was needed in the area. They had all of the forms that they needed to fill out so that when we went to get either reimbursement through the FHWA ER process or through the FEMA process, they had all of the forms they needed to fill out to give us the information rather than having to come back to them and say, "Well, I know you captured a lot but you've got to redo it in this format because that's what's required." We wanted to get ahead of that curve and not have to redo a lot of paperwork. One of the big things with setting up daily schedules, meetings and reporting requirements was that people knew what was expected of them every day and what information they needed to provide us at the end of the day. A good communication plan is absolutely necessary. Regular situational reports went out every two hours about what was going on in the field. Communication is a key and I can tell you I just attended a hurricane preparedness drill yesterday run by the state OEM and that was the main topic. The situational reports and having an information clearinghouse that the state OEM sent information out to everybody up and down the lines was absolutely vital.

Lesson number six that we learned is act as if you're all alone. Now, that doesn't mean that nobody is there to help you, but especially if you're at a local or a county level there are the agencies that are set up to do certain things for you and provide certain services and when you get a major, major event like this, they are going to get overwhelmed. They are not going to have the resources to supply everybody with everything they need. It's going to be very difficult to figure out who gets what and how long you have to wait for your services. Nobody is staffed or has the financial resource or equipment resources to immediately provide everything everybody needs in a situation like this. So become as self-sufficient as you can, I guess, is the message here. Do as much for yourself and make yourself ready as much as you can because it's nice if they're there when you need them but I would say don't count on anyone being there to help you.

Lesson seven is to have an organized response. We separated the island into grids on maps and assigned everybody to certain areas. It just made it much easier to collect the data about what was going on and what was happening. That also means establishing or having your incident command center on site as close as possible to what we could call ground zero as you can. Use a GIS system, if you have that, to establish maps that are not only maps but can capture spatial information and things like that and update them daily. Log all of your activity into some type of document for use at a later date, whether it's an Excel spreadsheet, an Access database, or even just the Word document. That is the key document, document, document because you really need that if you're going to submit for reimbursement to one of the two federal agencies.

The results are that we did reconstruct the three breaches and had everything opened by December. We repaired over 80 sink holes on Route 35 some of which were, you know, 80 to 100 feet in length. We removed 4,425 truckloads of debris from the road and those are 100 cubic yard trucks, so that's 442,000 cubic yards of debris. We also had 4,330 truckloads of sand that we actually removed, screened on site to clean it, and then stock piled so that the towns could reestablish some of their beach areas that were washed away. We also had a draw bridge, the busiest one in the state, closed down because it was overwhelmed with the surge. It had to be completely ripped down and rebuilt, and that was done by December 19. Finally, 1,250 traffic signs were re-erected because they are one of the first things to get lost in the storm.

The key to our success I think was strong leadership. I think that our governor and my commissioner did a tremendous job. I don't know when they slept because I didn't sleep a lot and every time I was around they were there. So I just think they had a terrific can-do attitude about things. A very effective organizational, operational organization and, again, things that we talked about earlier like emergency contracts and having a storm kit. There was good coordination among the different agencies.

The other lessons learned, like I said before, include a real need to document a lot for this exercise; break things down into as small an area as you can manage. Prepare and practice and know the process. If you've never read a copy of the FEMA applicant guidebook, it's online. You can get it to review it. I would suggest you read it and go through and know what you can and can't submit for. It can save you a lot of time later in doing a lot of leg work for nothing when you find out you can't submit for a certain type of an expense. Also read the FHWA emergency relief manual. Get familiar with them and know what's in them.

What future planning initiatives are in store for NJDOT? Well, one thing we found out was we have to upgrade our traffic signals to make them generator capable. Because of what happened with the refinery being down and the power being out, we had lines for fuel. We had people that were almost getting into fights at fueling stations, and we were worried about our tanks running dry. Having a contract with a fuel vendor is one thing, but they need to be able to pull from multiple refineries, and that's the one thing that we learned that we're going to put into our next contract. The other thing we'd like to do is to have a videographer embedded with our forces so they can actually document on film what we actually dealt with. I think that would help not only just for historical purposes, but also for reimbursement purposes, so you have an actual log of what happened that you can give to FEMA or to FHWA. We need some changes in our accounting system here to help us better separate FHWA and FEMA eligible work. They are actually minor changes that we can make without getting into programming software changes.

There are a number of activities that we're trying on the planning end, such as resiliency. We have to harden some of our things that are now vulnerable. We are looking at that. We've identified a list of what they are. We are seeking some, either FHWA funds for betterments or some FEMA money, to harden those things. We also are looking at areas in the past where we've had damage and some geospatial information to show us where we have vulnerability so we know where not to build in the future. Or maybe we have to build a bridge with a higher clearance than we did in the past. Things like that would be beneficial. You can't design for the 500 or 1,000 year storm because it's probably cost prohibitive to do so. But there are things that we can do, I think, for minimal investment that would give maximum return in terms of protecting our assets. As was mentioned earlier, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Association had done a vulnerability assessment in 2011. It has been long indicated that a major hurricane would affect us in certain ways. Unfortunately they were absolutely correct in what was predicted. The idea here is to take what we've learned there now and try to either build, or design some things that we can build, that will basically prevent some of those things from being as bad. Maybe we can't ever stop things from getting flooded, but maybe what we can do is design things so that when that happens it's minimal and it doesn't do things like wipe out entire buildings as we saw happen in Sandy. So that's pretty much it on my end and I'll turn that over now I guess to Antonio or back to Tina. I think are we taking questions now or at the end?

Gina Filosa: We're going to wait until the need to do questions.

Rich Shaw: Okay. Very good. Well, thank you very much.

Gina Filosa: Thank you, Richard.

Antonio Cabrera: Good afternoon. My name is Antonio Cabrera and I work for the MTA New York City Transit. The topic of my presentation this afternoon will be the storm surge flooding in the New York City Transit. Basically from an engineering point of view, how we prepared, how we dealt with Sandy, and what are we going to do to protect against future storm surges. Some questions to address include: how is the New York City transit system affected by storm surge flooding? Keep in mind that the New York City transit system, the subway and then New York City is one of the largest, if not the largest in the world and we move more than 5 million people every day. So how is it affected by the storm flooding? Particularly, what are the critical areas to be protected, how much flooding of the system could be expected? Could we estimate the height on the extent of the storm surge for each type of storm? The other thing that I have to share with you is how the system was impacted by Super Storm Sandy. Did we have the right data? Were the preparations adequate? What were the lessons learned? Finally, how can we protect against the future storms that definitely will come our way?

I will start with, giving you a history of the previous New York metro area hurricane studies. Then, we will talk about the SLOSH model and the application of that model to identify our critical facilities; and elevation datum, which is always a big topic when you do these kinds of surveys and analysis. I'll then cover the extent of this flooding on the Cat-2 hurricane storm, what happened with Super Storm Sandy, and the possible mitigation strategies and lessons learned. I will also briefly touch upon the New York State 2100 Commission report.

The history of hurricane studies in the metropolitan New York City area really started in the past 20 years. November 1995 is when the metro New York hurricane transportation study was produced. Basically, it was put together by FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service, of course, and the combined State Emergency Management Offices of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Basically, what the metro New York hurricane transportation study told everybody is that the SLOSH model predicted storm surge heights in the New York City area ranging from 11 feet for a Cat-1 hurricane to 30 feet for a Cat-4 hurricane. Something that we all know is that our rail tunnels have points of entry of less than ten feet above the NGVD 29 datum, which is what the study used. So therefore, if your rail tunnels have points of entry that are less than 10 feet, and as a minimum you will get 11 feet under the Cat-1 scenario all the way to 30 feet, you are going to get flooded. The 1992 December nor'easter impacted the PATH facilities, the Port Authority facilities and our transit facilities quite a bit. As a matter of fact, I think that was the trigger for the metro New York hurricane transportation study to be put together.

The nor'easter of 1992, the storm of December 11-12, 1992, did really cause a little bit of havoc. The picture shows the flooding of the Hoboken Path station under that storm, and it was significant. But we were not spared. New York City Transit had to back an L-train out of the flooded 14th Street tube between Manhattan and Brooklyn. A D-train was abandoned in the flooded Green Point Tube under the Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens. Finally, a night train was stranded on Broad Channel; so yes, we have our share of problems there. The metro New York hurricane transportation study did portray a number of different things using visual aids like the one you see here. This is our entrance of the South 30 subway station. What they show graphically is the potential surge on the Cat-2 hurricane, a detail of these places where they took the photograph. In this case, the height of the water on this facility under a Cat-2 storm is depicted by this line that they drew. It's significant because it's almost 11-something feet. The other thing that they have on the studies is a facilities vulnerability table, which basically shows the facility name for several stations. They also have facilities for Amtrak, for Metro North Line and Railroad, Path, et cetera. They show the critical elevation of those facilities, and then the potential hurricane surges, which came from the SLOSH model under the Cat-1 to Cat-4 hurricane. As you can see some of these are significant events. They also have what they call the time history surges, for example, at the Battery in downtown Manhattan in New York Bay, they show the hours of the surge and the peak of the surge for each category hurricane. All of this is very interesting data that we definitely used.

The other thing that struck me by looking at this 1995 metro New York hurricane transportation study was they have a worst case track for hurricanes impacting the metro New York City area. You see here the Atlantic coast, all the way from North Carolina to Massachusetts or almost New Hampshire. They draw the actual path of a worst case hurricane that could impact the New York City Bay, and there it is. It's funny to consider that this is almost exactly the point of entry or the point of impact of Hurricane Sandy many, many years after this study was written. The trajectory is not exactly the same because as you probably know Hurricane Sandy took a veer to the left. But the point of entry was almost absolutely identical to what these graphs show. So yes, we got the worst case track for a hurricane impacting the metro New York City area.

In 2011, that metro New York Hurricane Evacuation Study was updated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, NOAA and the New York City OEM, but this was only a focus on the New York City area, meaning the five boroughs of the city plus the counties of Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau. Shat is significant about the new study or the Metro New York Evacuation Project as they call it, they have the same typical surge time histories, but they included more transportation facilities and, most important, they collected the data in a new datum which is the NAVD88, the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 instead of the old NGVD 29. Also very significant, they integrated the new SLOSH data from the latest model run, which is the one that is at present being used, a 2010 model run for SLOSH. Then, they did the refine mobilization decision, clearance shut down closure, and pre-land fall hazard times for each facility. One thing that also changes is the surges-- the surges were approximately 1.1 feet or more above the previous calculated surges under the prior run of the SLOSH model. So yes, the surges were higher. The SLOSH model name comes from the Sea Lake and Overland Surge from Hurricanes. This is a product from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, which really is computing the maximum envelope of the water or expected storm surge for multiple storm tracks, and they look at the history of hurricanes over a particular section of the coast, over a particular bay. The maximum inundation for each of those maximum envelopes of water, what is called the MOMs, the maximum or the maximums, represents the worst elevation for each category of hurricane to form a line of demarcation that can be and is mapped. The storm surge takes into account high tides, worst case scenarios regarding the impact of the storm, such as the angle of the storm, the high winds, and high tides. All of that is taken into account when you run the SLOSH model.

Now, a question that is infrequently asked is what's the difference between using the SLOSH maps versus the FEMAs FIRMs, the Flood Insurance Rate Maps? There was a collaborative paper between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and FEMA, and they say the following: "When a hurricane approaches, the community's rely on the SLOSH maps and the SLOSH products when making evacuation and other emergency management decisions." That's the reason why we are using it. An example is you have on the left a FIRM, which shows a certain part of the country. On the right is the same area and you can see the difference between the flood predicted by the FEMA map, the zone AE as they call it, and what the SLOSH is predicting for different category hurricanes. Blue will be Category 1, yellow will be Category 2, red will be Category 3 or above. So an area that doesn't seem to be flooded using the FEMA map is really flooded if you consider the storm surge inundation map or SLOSH map. What we found is that SLOSH always is a worst case scenario that predicts much higher surges than FEMA does. Of course, it covers a more extensive area, and that's what we use.

You can download the SLOSH from the NOAA site and run your scenarios there. For example, what I have on the screen here is the display that you get when you run a Cat-2 hurricane maximum surge using the MOMs on the New York Bay. The colors indicate a gradation of the surge itself, from blue all the way to magenta. When you move your mouse over the actual point, you can read the actual surge height with respect to NAVD88. In this case, although it's very difficult to see on the screen, you put your mouse over the Battery here at the tip of Manhattan you will see a surge of17.9 feet on the Cat-2 scenario worst case.

Using the data from SLOSH, thanks to our friends on the New York City OEM, we could download all of the data of the flood zones as predicted by the SLOSH model, the latest SLOSH model, and we can import those into a GIS map. Here is a map that shows the five boroughs of New York City with the rapid transit lines on the background in gray. The colors depict areas that will be flooded as per the SLOSH model. So Cat-1 will be in red, Cat-2 in orange, Cat-3 in yellow and Cat-4 in green. You can see there are significant areas that can and will be flooded under reach of these scenarios computed by the SLOSH model.

I took this data and imported it into our own application which is called a New York City Transit T-Map which basically depicts our lines and tracts to scale, superimposed on the map of the New York City, also to scale, with the street grids and buildings and all of that. Here you see an example of how our map depicts things. Assuming basically what you are looking at here is the tip of Manhattan and some part of downtown Brooklyn, again, with the red being a Cat-1 flood scenario, orange for Cat-2, et cetera, you can see our rapid transit lines with the stations. You can zoom into this using the map, and then you can actually see the streets and the buildings and some stations and actually each of our tracks, which is drawn to scale.

By doing that, we created what we called the flood maps. Let's take a look at all of the facilities or points of entry that we have under each of these zones, for example, Cat-1. This map depicts all of the facilities that are points of entry that we will have under the Cat-1 SLOSH scenario, and there are a few of them as you can see. Some of them could be station entrances, some of them could be fan plants, vents, emergency exits, et cetera. So at least we were able, by using these, to map the entire transit system on the areas that are prone to be flooded. The next thing we did is link those boxes that you saw on the prior map to Google Earth pictures of those facilities because that will help not only the people that have to deploy the resources that they need, but also for our survey to accurately determine what the elevations are of these things. For example, here is the Whitehall Street station entrance. This is a subway station at the lower tip of Manhattan and where it is and how it looks. Even you can go one step further and actually see it using the Google street view of those entrances that could be impacted and need to be protected against a storm surge.

We took those pictures and we sent them to our surveyors, and we told our surveyors to please survey the elevations of these entrances and vents and tell us the actual elevation with respect to NAVD88 because we needed to compare the elevation of these openings to the storm surge from the SLOSH model, which reference to NAVD88 is going to tell us. This is an example. This south entrance to the Whitehall Street Station had an actual elevation of 6.5 feet with respect to NAVD88.

With this type of information, we can put together a critical facilities list which is basically a critical facility name, the borough where it is, the map that it is associated with. Here, for example, is the Whitehall Street station elevation which is 6.46. Using the worst case 2010 SLOSH surge elevations model, what is our prediction of the storm surge at that location? You can see that the 6.46 is the elevation of the facility. You have 11.6 as a predicted storm surge for a Cat-1 scenario, therefore you will end with the 5.1 feet of water on top of that facility and that's what needs to be protected. We had to protect that entrance against a potential 5.1 feet surge at that location. If it's a Cat-2 or worse, well obviously, the heights of water considerably go higher and higher- 11.4 for a Cat-2, 17.3 for a Cat-3, et cetera.

The other thing that impacted us is the fact that all of our drawings are referenced to an old elevation which was always defined at 2.65 feet above main sea level at Sandy Hook. For historical reasons, we have always used that datum. Well, fortunately for us NOAA has a lot of data for each of these stations. We know that at Sandy Hook, the NAVD88 datum plane is 0.24 feet above the main sea level so, therefore, there is a correspondence between our elevation, what we call the TA datum and the NAVD88. So we can convert all of the elevations of the NAVD88 to our TA datum and vice versa. Our TA datum elevations can be converted back to NAVD88 heights.

This is the same list as before, the critical facilities list, which has the same information as before, but now, we have columns added at the end where the surge (this surge here is the worst case 2010 SLOSH surge elevation that is shown in orange) is now converted to an elevation in the TA datum. By using these elevations on the TA datum, now we can plot it, and we can map it against our elevations that we have on our CAD files for the system.

Here it is, showing what will happen-- this is the bird's eye view of the whole system of rapid transit of the New York City subway and the lines are usually colored in light blue. I colored in red and in yellow those areas that are going to be flooded in accordance with the height surges that were predicted by the SLOSH model. The red segments show those tunnels that are fully flooded all the way up to the ceiling. So this will be a worst case scenario where the subway system or portions of it are fully flooded to the ceiling because the water comes in unimpeded.

The same thing happens for a Cat-2. The only thing with a Cat-2 is that the surges are much higher and the duration is longer so therefore, more parts of the system are going to be fully flooded. And as you can see the number of segments in red and yellow is considerably higher than the ones shown on the prior slide. Again, the system in gray is the network of streets on which each rapid transit line lies and it's not a pretty picture. You have also 24 potential points of entry for the system that you have to protect somehow.

That map can be zoomed in using CAD, and, for example, this is a potential Cat-2 hurricane flooding in the New York City system at the 207th Street Yard and Portal. This is the yard. The Harlem River is right here on the edge, and, of course, the water will fill all the yard tracks. Then, there is a portal where these tracks are going into the tunnel. You know, the water will go in and begin to flood the tunnel tracks on different levels because, of course, the track elevation goes up and down, but anything that is shown in red is fully flooded all the way to the ceiling. If it's shown in yellow, it's only partially flooded, and if it's light blue it's not flooded at all. Here is a classic example where you need to protect the portal using, in this case a 10.5 feet tall barrier, to prevent flooding of the tunnel portal and the water coming into the system.

At other points in the system, you have the potential for cross flooding because you have a fully flooded tunnel, and there is a line that intersects and there is a common station at that point. If the water cascades over the staircases that go down to a lower level in this case, then you can flood the lower level even if that line, per se doesn't flood. It's just because of the cross flooding.

One thing that people don't understand well is how can you get flooding if you take all of the precautions? Well, you have to think about flooding that can also occur through small spaces. The height of water and the open area are very significant in this respect. For example, assuming that you have a six by six typical emergency hatch opening like many we have here in the streets, and your cover, which is this parting right here, fits but, you have a little space, half-an-inch only on each side. These wide spaces in between the red lines are an inch open because your lead or your hatch doesn't close properly. This is the formula for flow, and the open area that you see here is almost one square foot, which is not bad. It's small, but if you assume three feet water head on top of these and you do the math, you'll find that your flow equals 249,120 gallons per hour. So, what that means is that little opening that is now being shown in red, in four hours, you will get approximately one million gallons through that little opening.

Now, this is real. This is an example of what happened at the Path Hoboken Station during Hurricane Sandy. You can see here, this is a closed door but you can see how the water is coming in. I don't know if the opening around the edges was half-an-inch or less than half-an-inch or whatever but you can see that this is significant. So these things have to be taken into account. Even if you think that the door is closed well, it may not be fully closed for the water to enter at that rate.

For example, this is another computation, a theoretical one. Let's take an example using the Whitehall Street station entrances in lower Manhattan, which are these two here. We will assume that the two entrances and some vents that are nearby, are bridged, or that their protective measures all fail or, you know, something happens to them. Of course, we know how the time history of the surge goes, and we know also, because we did the survey, that this facility has a height of 6.5 feet and, the surges for a Cat-1 in this case 11.6 or 17.9, which means that under the Cat-1 scenario you will have a 5.1 feet surge on top of these entrances. If you are in a Cat-2 scenario, you will have 11.4 feet of water over these entrances. Now, this is all theoretical but, you know, the two entrances have a square foot opening of 270 square feet, and the duration which comes from the previous slide time history is 40 minutes for a Cat-1 or 100 minutes for a Cat-2. Well, guess what, under the Cat-1 scenario in 40 minutes, a total of 36 million gallons of water could enter through the 270 square foot opening, and in 100 minutes, a total of 117 million gallons of water could enter through those openings. Now, the Montague Street tunnel, which was flooded, has a total volume of 26.5 million gallons and is directly connected to those entrances. It will completely flood in 30 minutes under the Cat-1 scenario surge and in less than 25 minutes if you go on to the Cat-2 storm surge scenario. Of course, the excess water will go north and south of the tube to flood the adjacent areas. So this is significant. That's the theory.

Now, this is the reality, with Hurricane Sandy approaching the New Jersey coast on October 29. You know it was going this way, but then it turned to the left and you can see how it is piling the water through the Long Island Sound, the New York Bay, et cetera, and then the New Jersey Coast.

So, we took a lot of precautions. We knew thanks to all of those maps and all of those tables and the SLOSH models that you had to prepare against the Cat-1 surge. We had our entrances bordered up using sandbags and plywood. We also bordered up the vents on the street using plywood sheets and nails and what have you. And we even built a flood wall at one of the portals, the 148th Street portal here on the lower corner of the right hand side because this is a typical place where we always get floods even if it's only a nor'easter. So, we took our precautions as much and as well we could. Remember, we only had eight hours to do these because that's the time that the Governor and the Mayor decided that the system could only stop or be closed within eight hours of the impact of the storm, because obviously the subway is needed to evacuate people too.

So how did we do? Well, this is not-- this is just the Hollywood version of it. It's not as bad as it looks on this picture basically because this is Times Square, and it was never flooded and not to the extent that you have scuba divers. The fact is that in some places we did well. This is the 148th Street portal flood wall with the flood wall here holding the weather and the debris from Sandy. So, you know, we were right there. We had two feet to spare.

In other places, we didn't do that well. We have eight places on the river tube that were flooded, which are these lines on the East River. We have a major wash out on the Rockaways near JFK Airport on the right hand side. Then, we have trains, and yards, and bus depots with significant flood damage all over the place, which are those circles. The stations with major damage especially South Ferry is at the tip of Manhattan.

These are pictures of the flood at South Ferry, which was completely destroyed. This was a terminal that had only been opened for four years, but the water went all the way up to the ceiling and destroyed all of the communications, all of the signals, all of the systems in the station, and there is also quite a lot of damage to the ceiling tiles, ceiling panels, escalator, et cetera. This is why the destruction here was so enormous that we are not going to be able to reopen this station for another two years.

We had flooded tunnels, flooded equipment, and unfortunately this is all salt water. You know, what the salt water can do to any of things that carry electricity, pump controls, electrical equipment, signals, fans, and communications gear. All of them are vital systems that unfortunately fail due to the water. Not even the track was spared in the tunnel; this shows the track and some of the rail and the fastener damage. You can see here an example of how bad the corrosion has been, and we are still dealing with these situations.

The amount of flooding can be seen here in this slide. This is basically a list of the river tubes. In red are the ones that were flooded and you have the amount of flood, basically the length, the depth, and the gallons in millions. Here is the Montague Street tube, which is the second one in red, 27 million, because it was completely flooded up to the ceiling. Other tubes have less or more flooding, but it was significant, and, of course, the South Ferry terminal station completely flooded.

This is a map from the USGS, which also shows the extent of Sandy flooding in blue. Now, if you look at this map, the areas in blue, and you superimpose it over a SLOSH Cat-1 flood zone, which was shown in previous pictures in red, it's almost one to one. It's more or less, the same prediction as the SLOSH Category 1 flood zone. As a matter of fact, they even took high water marks at each of these diamond points; you can click on them, and you will see the high water mark in this case at the Battery. They took one which was 11.4 feet. Well, that is almost exactly what the SLOSH model predicted for a Cat-1 hurricane at that point. So, SLOSH was very accurate in this case.

We also had flooding on the outside areas Such as this at the Sea Beach Line station near Coney Island yard with water over the platform. Also, there was a significant amount of damage and with a tremendous amount of washout and debris on the Rockaway line, the one that goes near the airport all the way to the Rockaways. We counted a minimum of nine to ten boats that landed over the tracks in this area.

Now, we have remediation and mitigation work ongoing. This is how it looks, this area on the Rockaway flats before, on the left, and then after the contractor finished just before Memorial Day. We have now a functioning line with a new sea wall, which is really a second pile wall. We are operating the trains, but it took significant work between November and May to restore it to operation.

Now, the basic question is how can we protect the system in the future? For example, this Whitehall Street station: how can we protect it against the Cat-2 hurricane surge of 11.4 feet? Well, we have engaged consultants to look at flood defense measures that are being used or have the potential of being used. For example, Tokyo Metro has had this kind of protection in place for quite a while. Some of the lines have flood walls, flood ceiling doors and raised stairs, frame barriers, even flood gates in some tubes. They have also ventilation shutters that operate either manually or automatically.

You have to protect your entrances and there are many ways that you can think of doing that. You're making smaller structures or fully enclosing the facility, the entrance, just to protect against the high water surge. Flood doors or flood gates of all kinds are options, which obviously are the thing to do for communication rooms and sensitive equipment rooms and electrical distribution rooms, et cetera. Not only Tokyo, but Hong Kong also has flood gates, but unfortunately the tunnel has to be engineered to accept these kinds of devices. It is not easy to retrofit an existing 100-year-old tunnel to do anything like that.

Then, you have a whole host of barriers that people have used and have been deployed in other places: automatic flood barriers, frame barriers that you can install by hand before the storm. Panels that you can deploy on top of the entrances. Of course, you have to have the infrastructure prepped for doing that. You have to engineer some sort of holding frames, flood logs as they are called.

Inflatable barriers have been used successfully in other places too. They can be either air pumped or filled with water. An example is the inflatable tunnel plug. This is actually a picture, a demonstration of an inflatable tunnel plug at the new South Ferry terminal the one that was flooded. This is actually not an experiment; this is a problem that the University of West Virginia has and they are trying to optimize how these things will work. Notice that since we have a square tunnel or a rectangular section tunnel, you have to do these kinds of things with plywood to accommodate as much as you can how to put the square, or a round peg, on a square hole, and that's what we have there. But it's an idea that could be used.

Now in other places, we are thinking, for example, our biggest yard in the Northern Hemisphere as far as rapid transit goes is the Coney Island, the Stillwell and Avenue X Yards complex. It has more than 110 tracks, 200 plus reaches, many shops, many buildings, a lot of acres there. Here's the Coney Island Creek, which is the one that floods the facility. It's impossible to elevate this yard or do anything other than building a perimeter flood wall, which creates its own harsh host of problems too because then, what do you do with the water when it rains heavily? You have to pump it out, or literally, you have to have some sort of water treatment and water disposal area like a catch basin. Then, of course, what is the wall going to do to your neighbors when, you may be protecting yourself but you may be increasing the flooding of the adjacent properties. So, we have consultants looking into all of that and trying to come up with the right answers.

Now, the significant consequence of the transit system flooding is that the transit system is, as I call it, the core of the Big Apple, if you don't have the transit system, nothing works. Well, if we have tunnel flooding above the platform, it will impact critical equipment enclosures. Some of them are not only vital, but they are also more than 80 years old. What you have in your hands is a big mess because you have all of this 80-year-old equipment that is damaged by the salt waters, and you have no way of replacing it in time, or with what. So any Cat-2 or Cat-1 hurricane flooding of the tunnels will result in damages costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Most importantly, it's not only the money, it's the time required to restore the functionality of the system, which could be measured in years. We have been lucky so far that we only took several months to restore the Rockaway line and the Montague Street tube and other places. But, if it's a significant hit and you lose vital interlocking, which has, as I say, 50, or 60, or 70 year old equipment, you may not be able to restore the full functionality for years. That means that the services will be disrupted for a long time.

The 2100 Commission was a panel of experts that was convened by Governor Cuomo right after Sandy. It's a very good report. It has a lot of recommendations to improve the strength or resiliency of the New York State infrastructure, and they have a chapter for transportation. The first thing they say in the executive summary is that New York State and, of course, the whole Atlantic East Coast should prepare for a new normal because the storms are not anomalies. They are further evidence of the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather that is attributable to climate change. We have seen that because we have Irene, that for us was really a non-event in terms of flooding one year, and the next year we have Hurricane Sandy which was completely significant. So we went from a non-Cat-1 to a Cat-1 plus. So yes, we concur.

The 2100 Commission report in the transportation chapter has the things that we have been trying to do and we have been doing to some extent, which is identify the assets that are vulnerable; review our design guidelines for any future projects; protect against flooding; and then, of course, establish important elevation data. The post-Sandy assessment should be used to identify those critical locations, which we are doing and we have. Flood walls will be used where appropriate, for example, on those big yards, and of course, we will upgrade pumps in flood prone areas, and, we will even buy new pump trains.

Well, the first line of defense on any transit system, or any system, is preventing water from entering the system by all possible means. Forget about if the water is seen! You have to stop the water at the entrance. Don't let the water come in because then you are in bad shape. Of course, that means closure and protection of the openings, stairs, et cetera. Upgrade your pumps, and install emergency power generators, because the other problem that we had, in our case, is that Con Ed, which supplies electricity for New York City, had a major blowout at the 14th Street substation, and then the system lost all electrical power south of 14th Street, including power to the too.

We are reviewing the design guidelines, of course, and we are hardening critical assets. We already have consultants looking at all of this. Anything that houses vital equipment has to be designed for survival, and, of course, perimeter flood walls and flood gates have to be built in cases where there is no other means, and to protect the Rockaway Flats against the Cat-2 surge, we have just done that. In May we reopened the line, and we will add more pump trains, of course.

Well, bottom line is there was a Scientific American article just this June that says that sea level could rise five feet in New York City by 2100. They call the article the Storm of the Century Every Two Years, which means that, yes it is expected, that we are going to get bigger storms, more frequent storms. If it's every two years I don't know, but I can see the New York City area being impacted by a Cat-2 hurricane. I hope it's not a Cat-3. I hope it's not a Cat-4. The billion-dollar question, of course, is how high will the next storm surge be? We hope it's not as bad as this picture, which by the way is from Hollywood too, but, you know. All right, that's it. Thank you folks.

Gina Filosa: Great. Thank you so much, Antonio for a very interesting presentation. So we'll open up the lines now for questions. If people want to type into the chat pod as well, we can take them that way.

Gina Filosa: There's a question about getting a copy of presentations, and we will be posting that information online on the Federal Highway Administration's Adaptation website along with the recording. So check there soon for all of this information. There's another question, this one looks like it's for Antonio. Are new funding mechanisms being developed to fund the required mitigation strategies for the New York City Transit?

Response (corrected after the webinar): The supplemental appropriations that Congress passed to fund Hurricane Sandy recovery and relief efforts (Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013) provides $10.9 billion for FTA's Emergency Relief Program for recovery and relief efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Approximately half of the amount available is specifically designated for projects that will reduce the risk of damage from future disasters, including impacts associated with a changing climate. FTA's Emergency Relief program is a new program established under the transportation reauthorization bill, MAP-21, that was enacted in July 2012. More information is available at: http://www.fta.dot.gov/map21_15025.html.

Gina Filosa: Okay. I'll just point out on the screen right now in this file share pod you can download reports from the Federal Highway Adaptation Pilot that Tina had talked about earlier in the presentation. I also provided some Web links to the adaptation website and the FTA climate change adaptation pilots, as well. I guess we can wait another minute or two to see if there are any more questions that come in. There is another one. Do you expect key planning and land use risk management strategies to complement the engineering base strategies? And that's for you, again, Antonio.

Antonio Cabrera: Yes. Not so much about land use risk management because, again, our transit system is fixed, it is where it is. The only thing we can do is look at what we can do to protect our facilities. We are, of course, dealing with our entrances and our yards and perimeter full walls and all that. Of course, that has implications that we had to deal with and work together with the city of New York and, you know, all of the state agencies that deal with these issues. Basically we have made a collective decision that we are going to protect everything as much as we can for a potential Category 2 hurricane surge because that is something that we all feel is coming sooner rather than later. We hope that in the future, Federal, State, and local governments begin to look at more extensive regional solutions, such as constructing a barrier over the Verrazano Narrows. Mayor Bloomberg has some good initial tips on protecting Lower Manhattan, for instance. We all have to do our part.

Gina Filosa: Are the hurricane categories begin revised because of expected precipitation totals and wind speed?

Antonio Cabrera: I am not sure about any changes to hurricane categories. I know that NOAA, FEMA, and other agencies are looking at updating their models. FEMA is coming out with new maps next year and will probably revise their SLOSH models using the new data generated by Hurricane Sandy. The models will change and the maps will change, but category designations may not. The models will take into account new wind speeds and new storm surges, and sea level rise to some extent.

Gina Filosa: Once a station is flooded, if the water is pumped out, can it be restored or does it need to be rebuilt?

Antonio Cabrera: It depends on the damage. In our case, the new South Ferry Terminal Station was completely submerged for several weeks while MTA pumped out 14.5 million gallons of water. In that case, the destruction was severe and the station needed to be rebuilt. A simpler station, one with just platforms and concrete stairs, could be cleaned and restored. Unfortunately, all stations have electronic communication stations, vending machines, and other electronic equipment that can be damaged. Those things need to be rebuilt.

Gina Filosa: What efforts are being taken to elevate entrances and ventilation grates?

Antonio Cabrera: These efforts are being looked at by consultants. They are mapping entrances that we know fall in the critical zones and coming up with different strategies for protecting those areas, such as panels that can be bolted on top of the vent gratings. These solutions will have to be easy to deploy. The ideal would be to standardize them across the system, but that is difficult because of the variety of vent openings. The logistics of deployment of those solutions will need to be taken into account because in an emergency we will have a finite amount of time to deploy.

Question from Phone: Antonio mentioned that his agency and consultants are looking at options for protecting the Coney Island yard. Does NYCT have a timeline for studying the projects that can be done to protect these facilities?

Antonio Cabrera: All the projects are two-year or in some cases one-year timelines. We just started doing that this spring because that's when we got the funding. Some are on accelerated paths if they protect critical facilities in downtown Manhattan, where they are very vulnerable. Some will take longer depending on the area. We are all looking into that. All of the projects have a component that is studying mitigation measures to take. Then, once we agree on the most adequate and cost-effective mitigation effort to use, it will go to contract for building whatever needs to be built.

Gina Filosa: Were there any limitations to the modeling that you would like to revise for the future?

Antonio Cabrera: Regarding the SLOSH model, we found that it was very accurate in projecting the impact of a Category 1 hurricane. We were overwhelmed because the storm was a little more powerful than a Category 1 storm, but the model did reflect very well where the water was going and how high it would be. In terms of improving the model, we would all like to know with more accuracy where the water will actually go and how high the surge will be because that varies from storm to storm, and what to expect. But because of variation from storm to storm, we understand that it will never be perfect. Obviously, the more data they collect, the better the model will be in the end. We hope to see improvements but we understand the limitations, too.

Gina Filosa: That looks like all the questions from the chat pod. Tina do you have any closing remarks?

Tina Hodges: Just to thank everyone for participating and to especially thank our speakers. Their information they shared was very helpful. So thank you Rich, and thank you Antonio.

Gina Filosa: Again the recordings and materials will be on the FHWA website, so if you missed any of the previous webinars please check there for the information.

Updated: 03/27/2014
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