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Science Nation: On the Road to Resiliency--Researchers Map Hurricane Sandy Impact in New York City

3 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation. Huge ocean waves crash.

[explosion]

(male narrator) When Superstorm Sandy slammed New York, the city's infrastructure took a beating. Power stations blew, tunnels and streets flooded, and water poured into the subways. The city that never sleeps was in the dark for days. I would give them a "D." I think that the power could have come up more quickly.

(narrator) University of Washington civil engineer Dorothy Reed is studying how the storm affected the infrastructure of the New York metropolitan area, including the power and transit systems.

(Reed) I'm very interested in looking at what happens during these storms and what civil engineers can do to make the system more resilient.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, Reed and her team are creating layered maps to construct a street-by-street view of Sandy's devastation.

(Reed) Our research assistant, Stanley Wang, did a lot of the mapping.

(narrator) They're plotting the locations of power substations, along with the number of customer outages per district, overlaying that with transit line schematics. They combine that with a layer showing where the power failed, and then they're marrying those maps with precise weather data from agencies like NOAA, NASA, and the National Hurricane Center.

(Reed) We overlay the storm surge, the rainfall, and the wind speeds with the power grid itself, so we can try to correlate the outages with the flood levels.

(narrator) It's a daunting task to pull together data from many different sources into one master map.

(Reed) Our ultimate goal is to overlay all of the maps together. In addition to that, it would be nice to be able to look at the census map to identify the number of people affected.

(narrator) Sandy exposed weaknesses in interdependent systems that need 21st-century makeovers. It's part of the bigger problem facing New York and coastal cities worldwide.

(Reed) The sea level is rising everywhere. So it's really in anticipation of the sea level rise with climate change and adapting to that and how can the city prevent flooding. It's a primary concern right now.

(narrator) For now, the city is considering several options to shore up the city's infrastructure. Reed says her team's work will help planners and engineers identify the city's vulnerabilities, key to being better prepared for superstorms yet to come.

(Describer) A globe turns by the title.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest of the 2012 hurricane season and was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. University of Washington civil engineer Dorothy Reed and her team received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study how Hurricane Sandy affected the infrastructure of the New York Metropolitan area, including the power and transit systems. Reed and her team area creating highly detailed maps to construct a comprehensive street-by-street view of Sandy’s devastation.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
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Episode 3
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