NewsStorm disaster: New York is defenseless against climate change

Storm disaster: New York is defenseless against climate change

The record rain is not the only reason that the tail of Hurricane “Ida” plunged New York into chaos. The US metropolis is insufficiently prepared for climate change.

New York – New Yorkers are a die-hard species and not that easy to scare. But when their mobile phones made a high-pitched emergency tone early on Wednesday evening (September 1st, 2021), many of the eight million people in the metropolis were seriously worried. Tornado and flood warnings were shown with three exclamation marks on the display, telling you to get to safe accommodation as soon as possible. Vehicles are to be left immediately.

Tornadoes are usually weather events that hit the so-called heartland of the USA, states like Dakota, Indiana or Kansas. They are a rarity in the New York area. But on Wednesday, the northeast was hit by several tornadoes that had formed as the tail of Hurricane “Ida” as it continued its destructive journey across the continent towards the Atlantic.

Die Ruhe nach dem Sturm: In der Nacht auf Donnerstag erlebte New York den heftigsten Regen seit den Aufzeichnungen um 1880.


The calm after the storm: On Thursday night, New York experienced the heaviest rain since records were made around 1880.

Tidal waves in New York: Mayor’s office declares a state of emergency

In the hours that followed, New Yorkers saw a spectacle unlike anything they had seen before. Between 8:50 p.m. and 9:50 p.m., just under eight centimeters of rain fell in Manhattan. That was more water than the city had ever seen since rainfall was recorded in the 1880s. The lashing rain, which lasted into the morning hours, threw the city into chaos. Cars and buses were washed away in many streets. Flash floods broke in subway stations, flooding the tracks and platforms in no time at all. Cinemas had to be evacuated during the screenings because water broke into the halls. Firemen went out to rescue people trapped in their cars. The media reported more than 40 fatalities on Friday (as of September 3, 2021).

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the evening. The entire subway network was shut down, and there were no commuter trains into the city in the morning either. Air traffic at the three New York airports was suspended until noon on Thursday.

Hurrikan Ida hat die Westküste der USA heimgesucht und unter anderem in New York schwere Überschwemmungen verursacht.


Hurricane Ida hit the west coast of the USA and caused severe flooding in New York, among other places.

Storm in New York: Memories of Hurricane “Sandy” are awakened

Many New Yorkers were reminded of 2012 when Hurricane Sandy swept through town. Even then, underground stations and tunnels were flooded, and many were not fully repaired until 2020. A main tunnel for long-distance rail traffic has not yet been refurbished, and funds are still being received from Washington. Back then, half the city was without electricity, and some areas waited weeks for the lights and heating to work again. In coastal areas like Staten Island, residential areas have been so devastated that they have never been rebuilt.

At that time, New York vowed to adapt itself to climate change. The city, which has nearly 1,000 kilometers of shoreline and is completely surrounded by water, is one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States to rising sea levels.

After all, after “Sandy”, important infrastructure facilities such as power plants, hospitals and train stations were attached. However, nine years later New York is still not really prepared.

Unterführung in Brooklyn: Die Feuerwehr musste ausrücken, um Menschen aus Autos zu retten.


Underpass in Brooklyn: The fire department had to move out to rescue people from cars.

USA and climate protection: Funds are not approved

A construction project to protect at least the southern part of Manhattan against flooding was just started last year. Parks are being converted into flood zones, and the island near Wall Street is being built further into the sea to provide a buffer zone. But the project could take years to complete.

For another flood protection program, the funds have not even been approved. The National Army Corps has proposed a flood barrier that can seal New York Bay in the event of storm surges. The administration of Donald Trump, however, delayed the project. It is still uncertain whether President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package will pay for it. In the stripped-down form of the law that was necessary to pacify Republicans in Congress, no measures are provided that serve to protect the climate.

New York is exposed to the consequences of climate change without protection

To this day, New York is largely defenseless against the consequences of climate change. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the FEMA flood maps are out of date. The endangered zones have become significantly larger and the population density in these areas has increased. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, this will make it more difficult for many New Yorkers to make claims for compensation.

New York can only hope that “Ida” will help to accelerate efforts to protect against floods. However, Robert Young, director of a research institute to protect American coastlines, painted a bleak picture in an editorial in the New York Times. At this point, Young said, the US will not be able to keep up with the consequences of climate change. “Everything we do to protect the coast is little more than a plaster.” Not good news for New York. (Sebastian Moll)

Header list image: © SPENCER PLATT

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