The Hoboken power emergency – Part 2

The city partly flooded again this spring from a couple of days of heavy rain. Built on filled marsh, Hoboken is highly vulnerable - but had never seen anything like Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

The city partly flooded again this spring from a couple of days of heavy rain. Built on filled marsh, Hoboken is highly vulnerable – but had never seen anything like Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

Alex Chadwick, BURN Host

It’s been almost 9 months since Hurricane Sandy blew out all of Hoboken, New Jersey’s power. It took a week and a half to pump the water out of the city, and repairs to public and private property, and to the grid system, are going to be very expensive.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer spoke with BURN host Alex Chadwick about her city’s plans to get ready when – not if – the next storm comes to Hoboken.

Listen to The Hoboken power emergency – part 1.

The city began to flood here, at the edge of Weehawken Cove, where the explorer Henry Hudson once anchored. Hoboken is a transportation hub, with a growing population, neighborhood shops, and easy access to New York. But the combination of low topography and rising seas means more trouble to come. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

The city began to flood here, at the edge of Weehawken Cove, where the explorer Henry Hudson once anchored. Hoboken is a transportation hub, with a growing population, neighborhood shops, and easy access to New York. But the combination of low topography and rising seas means more trouble to come. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

 

Rebuilding underway after the ground level floor of the community center flooded - as did the headquarters for the Fire Department, two other fire stations and the central office of emergency services. The water damages include old, paper-based files of birth records. The city is trying to restore them. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

Rebuilding underway after the ground level floor of the community center flooded – as did the headquarters for the Fire Department, two other fire stations and the central office of emergency services. The water damages include old, paper-based files of birth records. The city is trying to restore them. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

 

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The Hoboken power emergency – Part 1

The view from Morgan McNeish's Hoboken apartment  the day after the flood…she and her teen-age son were trapped in their building in the low-lying west part of the city for three days with no power before they managed to get out. (Photo: Morgan McNeish)

The view from Morgan McNeish’s Hoboken apartment the day after the flood…she and her teen-age son were trapped in their building in the low-lying west part of the city for three days with no power before they managed to get out. (Photo: Morgan McNeish)

Alex Chadwick, BURN Host

When Hurricane Sandy landed last fall, Hoboken, New Jersey got slammed. The Hudson River flooded, knocking out all of the city’s power. Hobken went completely dark. Host Alex Chadwick heads to Hoboken – the former marshland just across the water from New York’s West Village – and talks to people who were there the night Sandy took out this small city.

Listen to The Hoboken power emergency – Part 2.

Morgan McNeish (l) a long time customer at Lepore's Chocolate Shop, where Lucille Burke recalls when Hoboken-native son Frank Sinatra would stop by for a favorite sweet. The shop is on high ground…it never flooded. But Lucille couldn't get out of her apartment building for days. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

Morgan McNeish (l) a long time customer at Lepore’s Chocolate Shop, where Lucille Burke recalls when Hoboken-native son Frank Sinatra would stop by for a favorite sweet. The shop is on high ground…it never flooded. But Lucille couldn’t get out of her apartment building for days. (Photo: Donna Ferrato)

 

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When it rains, it floods: Hoboken underwater

A Hoboken street and power station partly flooded. Photo:  Donna Ferrato.

A Hoboken street and power station partly flooded. Photo: Donna Ferrato.

 

Alex Chadwick, BURN Host

The next BURN special is about what keeps us all going, except when it doesn’t: the grid. That’s the term for the complicated, interconnected electrical power system that runs so many of the machines that power our lives. The grid makes i-everything possible.

But it is old, and in many places frail. The city of Hoboken, New Jersey, is subject to flooding even in normal heavy rains. But it never saw anything like what happened last October when Hurricane Sandy hit. Parts of the city were without power for ten days. Now Hoboken is working to build a new, smarter grid for itself – in part, an official told me, because the big lesson the city learned from the storm was that by the time the next big storm hits, Hoboken will have to be ready to save itself.

The city partly flooded twice in the last month from rain storms. Now it’s late May, and after recent heavy rains, the city is partly flooded again.

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Why you can’t attend a rising seas conference in NY

Alex Chadwick, BURN Host

This week, in New York City, the Union of Concerned Scientists is convening a meeting of dozens of public officials from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida to talk about one of the most serious issues these officials are facing: rising sea levels brought about by global warming, the product of greenhouse gases. Some of these officials dealt with Hurricane Sandy – the one that left parts of Manhattan without power for five days and battered the New Jersey coast. Others, especially in Florida, already see evidence of climate change – not from storms, but simply in the tides. The officials are meeting with one another for conversations, with a few scientists on hand to offer guidance.

They will be there – but the public will not. UCS, which describes itself as a coalition of citizens and scientists working to better public policy and corporate practices, has closed the meeting.

I learned of the event a month ago through one of the participants. I sent UCS a note asking to go, and dropped what I thought would be our best card with this group – we were just recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for best radio science reporting. I though of this as an opportunity to meet and listen to the people who are going to be creating the policies and practices that will be of ever greater significance in this country, as more and more lives and enormous swathes of property are at increasing risk.

The response from UCS was that it would be ‘unwieldy’ to allow reporters to observe. And no one from the public, either.

A citizen who might think s/he would like to know more about rising sea levels? No, not this time, they said. Unwieldy.

I’ve known the Union of Concerned Scientists to be public-minded advocates of science-based solutions to all sorts of issues. They’re tough-minded and fearless in their frequent papers and testimony. But when I protested the exclusion of reporters and others from this meeting, a UCS press person said that climate has become so controversial that they worried about hecklers, or trouble-makers – people who would show up for theatrical opposition.

If UCS is going to close a meeting because some nut-job – or even a true skeptic, though many believers doubt there is such a thing – might show up and try to disrupt things, then we are in worse shape than I thought. These are public officials, at a meeting convened by a science organization that boasts of its citizen involvement. And they want to talk just among themselves because an outsider might be argumentative – even disruptive?

A spokeswoman told me a week ago that they’d think about opening the meeting. She’d tested the idea on one official already, and the response was that UCS would be changing ‘the rules’, and thus the official might not attend. Wonderful. If UCS and public officials are doing such a great job getting out the climate message, where is the public consensus about the urgency of doing something?

UCS and public officials have done such a great job getting out the climate message that there is noted consensus about the urgency of doing something. So, okay, maybe we should just leave them alone in a room, talking to each other. But when they close the doors, I hope there’s a flicker of shame somewhere inside there.

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