The Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting is being held this week in Washington, D.C. This year there are nearly 12,000 attendees from around the world to participate in the more than 4,000 presentations covering all transportation modes and addressing topics of interests to all, including policy makers, administrators, researchers and practitioners.
A special session was held focusing on the impact to transportation by Sandy: Superstorm Sandy: Transportation Challenges and Research Opportunitis in the Afermath of a Disaster.
Jock Menzies, American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) president, led the panel that looked at the impact on the transportation of people and goods, what has been learned in the recovery phase and what we can expect in the future with the climate trends
New Jersey State Climatologist Dr. David Robinson explained the role of state climatologists to monitor, understand and inform. Regarding Sandy, he gave background on why this particular storm was unique and so powerful and talked about the trends that impact severe weather situations.
The path of Sandy was that it formed in the Central Caribbean in late October, which is not at all unusual. At the same time, there was a blocking high pressure ridge south of Greenland, which shouldn't have been there as it was very unusual for that time of year. That ridge pushed Sandy back to the west. Finally, there was an inverted trough in the jet stream that almost helped pull the storm in. The combination of the three created an explosive situation.
Robinson talked a bit about what we are seeing in regards to climate change, including increases in very hot days and heat waves; increases in arctic temperatures; rising sea levels; increases in intense precipitation events; and increases in hurricane activity.
With a higher base of sea level and a warmer atmosphere -- which has more energy -- there is the potential for more violent storms. He stated we may be dealing with more intense forms of weather, making us susceptible to more disruptions in service
New York MTA
MTA New York City Transit Chief, Operations Planning, Peter Cafiero spoke about the impact of Sandy on transit infrastructure and operations. He talked about the storm preparations, the storm event, immediate recovery, longer-term recovery and preparations for the future.
In development since the mid 1990s, the MTA hurricane plan calls for suspension of service when sustained winds are forecasted to exceed 39 mph. The system shutdown begins eight hours prior to that period so there is time to allow for the securing of rolling stock, signals and employees.
He said that transit also supported the evacuation of low-lying neighborhoods in 12 hrs prior to shutdown.
The storm surge was on Monday evening, October 29. Prior to that they had constructed barriers to keep water out of tunnels, following the flooding they had experienced during Irene. The barriers didn't prevent flooding from Sandy, but it did reduce the amount of flooding in some areas.
From the storm there eight stations with major flood damage. All of the tunnels flooded with two of them being flooded to the ceiling. Near the Kennedy Airport area the track was washed out and there was marine debris. On the bus side, there were trees downed blocking many of the routes
Cafiero said it was easier to plan for the shutdown than plan for coming back. One thing they hadn't counted on was a blackout in Manhattan; there was no power below 28th Street in manhattan. That delayed rail service restoration for four days following the storm and complicated bus operations after dark
Bus service started October 31 and initial subway service started November 1. They tried to get a skeletal system up and running and within 24 hours, had created a three-route, 330 bus fleet that provided service from Brooklyn to Midtown.
Ongoing updates were made to the website showing route service as routes changed, were restored and added.