New flooding risk predicted for city

A taxi sits in floodwater on Coney Island after Tropical Storm Irene hit on Aug. 28. The next big storm to hit New York will likely be even worse, scientists warned.

Within decades, New York subway tunnels could be flooded in under an hour during a major storm, according to a new report released yesterday.

Another storm like Tropical Storm Irene could cripple the subway system and flood JFK and LaGuardia airports, predicted researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Cornell University and the City University of New York in the report.

By 2020, the sea levels around Manhattan could rise by 10 inches. Researchers warned of a possible four-foot rise in sea levels by 2080, if the glaciers continue to melt at their current rate, the scientists said.

That would jeopardize the entire New York City subway system, they warned, putting it at risk of extreme flooding every 10 years. Right now the system is at risk of extreme flooding every 100 years.
New York City has long been reported as at risk for flooding, but yesterday’s report crystallized just how quickly low-lying areas of the city, such as nearly all of Lower Manhattan, could be underwater.

“After 40 minutes of rain the entire subway system could be underwater,” Columbia scientist Klaus Jacob said in the report, commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The temperature in New York has warmed 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 40 years, which is more than twice the global average.

What to expect

Researchers predict the following will happen:
   
By 2020, nearly 96,000 people on Long Beach could be at risk of flooding.
   
By mid-2020, the sea levels around Manhattan and Long Island could rise by 10 inches.
   
Extreme rain could also put the drinking water system at risk.
   
Researchers said the MTA should invest in more pumps to vacuum water out of the system, and barriers that would keep water from rushing in through sidewalk grates.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.


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