Bob’s Musings: In Sandy’s Wake
-Mrs. B. and I have been told many times that we’re crazy to maintain a landline phone along with our cellphones. Various hep cats have informed us that we’re behind the times in thinking landlines are more dependable in bad weather than them new-fangled smart do-hickeys that beep and vibrate. Well, in response, let me just say that vindication is a sweet thing…
Power wasn’t the only communication service knocked out by Sandy – federal regulators say the storm took out twenty-five percent of cell towers spanning ten states.
But just because the storm has passed, doesn’t mean cell service in the affected states will immediately improve. In fact, cellular communication could worsen in the coming days.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, many of the functioning cell towers are currently running off backup generators, which the FCC says are running out of fuel. If power isn’t restored to these areas soon, cell phone users could be stuck in limbo with no means of communicating.
Landline users won’t have to endure these same woes, however. The FCC says for the most part the landline phone network that stretches from Virginia to Massachusetts has weathered the storm.
Cell towers knocked out by Superstorm Sandy were slowly coming back to life Wednesday, federal regulators said, but about 1 in 5 were still out of service in a storm-hit area stretching from Virginia to Massachusetts.
That compares with 1 in 4 cell towers that were out of service Tuesday, the day after the storm made landfall.
There were few reports of major damage to telecommunications infrastructure, apart from flooding in some of Verizon’s facilities in downtown Manhattan. But cell towers need power to work, and widespread power outages disabled many. Some towers have backup batteries and generators, but still go silent when battery power or fuel is exhausted. Phone companies vary in how many towers they equip with backup power….
-Little Barry Smarty Pants is claiming he and the loving arms of a caring government will ‘leave nobody behind’.
Methinks Smitty’s interpretation of that sentence is the accurate way of understanding what the Jug-Eared Nancy Boy actually meant when he leaned forward [!] and said it.
-Nicole Gelinas’s column in today’s New York Post is worth quoting in full [emphasis mine]:
A flooded-out economy
On paper, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says its physical assets are worth $64.9 billion — including $18 billion worth of stuff like tracks, signals and switches. But to New York’s economy, the MTA system is priceless.
That’s something New York officials are realizing with dread as they confront stations, tunnels and tracks flooded with corrosive water.
To understand how much subway and rail lines matter, you didn’t have to wait for Sandy. Sunday morning, before the storm hit, Gov. Cuomo announced the MTA would shut down by 7 p.m. — only the second time ever for weather reasons (the first was Hurricane Irene, last year).
One by one, Manhattan’s stores and restaurants turned out the lights. Tourist haunts like the Rockefeller rink were shuttered by dusk.
When workers and visitors can’t get there from the boroughs and the ’burbs, Manhattan is nothing more than a dead island.
Last year, after Irene, subways and rail lines were back up quickly. Not now.
As Cuomo noted yesterday, transit veterans “have never seen damage like this before.”
MTA chief Joe Lhota gave the rundown: seven subway tubes flooded. Downtown stations flooded, with water at South Ferry up to the ceiling.
The problem isn’t just the water — it’s that water can damage sensitive equipment that, in some cases, is so old it’s hard to quickly replace. And the oldest part of the subway dates back 108 years.
As for commuter rail: Tracks were flooded and are littered with debris, including a boat. On the New Haven line, trees have knocked down power lines. On the Hudson line, two diesel locomotives flooded — something that’s never happened before.
And for cars, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel flooded badly, too.
How long will it take to fix all this — and how much will it cost?
There’s no way to know. To get an idea, remember that Irene caused $65 million in shutdown, repair and overtime costs, plus lost revenue — including $21 million to fix a small Metro-North line, Port Jervis.
Repairs this time could run hundreds of millions, possibly (probably?) more.
While the feds typically pay for 75 percent of repair costs, 25 percent of a lot of money is still a lot of money. The MTA was already struggling to find money for capital.
Plus, every day the system stays shuttered, the MTA loses $9 million in fares.
The bigger catastrophe is to the economy — and state and local budgets. When people can’t get to work or to play, they don’t buy stuff and don’t pay taxes.
The city collects $17 million a day in sales-tax revenue. Lots of missed restaurant meals or souvenir purchases are gone forever.
Those trains and subways might as well be carrying cash to City Hall — and now they’re stalled.
So it’s good that New York is already scrambling to get some semblance of transit up. Buses are dry, and drivers are ready to go. Cuomo said bus riders should see a full schedule by today.
If subways stay down, the MTA will have to use buses to replace subways, too.
The MTA and the city could run convoys of buses to replace subway lines. But for it to work, the city would have to keep traffic lanes clear. That likely means restricting car traffic into Manhattan, as the city did after 9/11, as well as keeping a few major thoroughfares throughout the five boroughs open to buses only.
And it has to work. People will grow more frustrated at an unpredictable schedule than at no schedule.
Longer term, the storm points up how vulnerable Gotham is to weather. “We have . . . old infrastructure and old systems” but yet “a 100-year flood every two years,” Cuomo said yesterday. “If there is another situation like this, we [must be] more prepared and protected.”
True. It’s fashionable for so-called “urban thinkers” to muse loftily about how physical infrastructure doesn’t matter anymore — that it’s all about “human capital” or “info-structure” or whatever phrase is trending.
This is comforting, because mysterious “human” infrastructure doesn’t require much in the way of competent government. People just show up and do brilliant things.
That only works until the “human capital” can’t get anywhere.
Then everyone remembers (or should) that greasy, dirty stuff still matters — and if we can’t do that right, Manhattan won’t matter to the “human capital,” anyway.
In the past thirty or so years, we have seen a steady rise in infrastructure failures when natural disasters occur. This will only get worse with each passing year because most of our infrastructure is old [forty to one hundred years old] and, though it was built well, it no longer able to be simply refurbished and/or maintained.
Up until some three decades ago, we knocked down and rebuilt our infrastructure every few generations. Further, we were willing to spend monies on innovations.
This has not been the case since the Committed Left gained control of our local, county, state, and national bureaucracies and elected offices. The New Left has been expending all of it’s time and effort [and our ever-rising tax monies] on Socializing the system or, among the more Radical elements, seeking to destroy the existing system from within.
Billions of tax revenues at all levels have been diverted to Leftist schemes and ‘social’ programs that have nothing to do with maintaining and, when necessary, rebuilding our infrastructure. A lot of the monies have been funnelled to groups that seek to bring down the system and/or to make more people dependent on the government. Further, any infrastructure projects that have been built have (1) ended-up costing four or five times their originally estimated costs due to ridiculous environmental regulations and oppressive union requirements, (2) been designed by people without a grounding in what constitutes ‘function’, and (3) been managed by people more interested in pleasing their political masters than in assuring that high quality and safety are maintained.
Mark Steyn, from his book After America:
…According to Professor [Bruce] Charlton, in the 1970s “the human spirit began to be overwhelmed by bureaucracy.” The old can-do spirit? Oh, you can try to do it, but they’ll toss every obstacle in your path. Go on, give it a go: invent a new medical device; start a company; go to the airport to fly to D.C. and file a patent. Everything’s longer, slower, more soul-crushing. And the decline in “human capability” will only worsen in the years ahead, thanks not just to excess bureaucracy but insufficient cash. [page 31]
As Mr. Steyn puts it a little later on in his tome: ‘America has a money-no-object government with a lot of money but no great objects’.
We’ve allowed our governments to recklessly waste tax revenues for several decades on useless social engineering projects and to line their own and their supporter’s pockets. The result is that we have been Balkanized and our infrastructure is crumbling. We are going backwards in so many ways.
The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled.
—Edward Gibbon, The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
-Well…how about something a bit lighter: Coco T, Hurricane Weather Gal…
-Live Well, My Friends…