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Sparks

Flood-Proofing NYC’s Subways Means Closing Them

Even in the best case scenario, storms will keep closing New York City’s public transportation system.

A subway map.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

New York City’s subway service was hit hard by the rains and flooding that hit the city today: The B, G, W trains were all suspended, while every other line either saw delays or partial suspensions. This is, as the Wall Street Journal's Ted Mann tweeted (or whatever we’re calling it these days), a sign of how vulnerable the subway system still is to flooding. But it’s also worth pointing out that the MTA’s best-case scenario for a subway system that’s been hardened against extreme rain and flooding would force many of the city’s underground stations to close anyway. At some level, if the MTA’s plans ever come to fruition, service disruptions would be a sign that things are working as intended.

A bit of context: After Superstorm Sandy inundated the city in 2012, the MTA asked the engineering and design consultancy Arup to develop a barrier that could close off the entrances to subway stations during extreme rain, preventing water from coming down the stairs and flooding tunnels. Arup and manufacturing firm ILC Dover came up with a system they called Flexgate, which is essentially a fabric cover that can be rolled out to cover ground-level entrances and stairwells. It’s been rated to withstand flooding from Category 2 hurricanes; in 2019, The Verge’s Justine Calma wrote about how the MTA intentionally flooded a subway entrance in Brooklyn for a few hours to test the system out.

Of course, the problem with gates that roll out across station entrances is that ... you can’t really use those stations. This is the problem with hardening subway systems against flooding generally: The Flexgate is one of many solutions the MTA has been testing post-Sandy, but protecting stations and tunnels from water does, inevitably, mean some level of service disruption.

But hey, at least our feet will be dry when the trains start running again.

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Neel Dhanesha profile image

Neel Dhanesha

Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan.

Sparks

We’re Worrying About Hurricanes Wrong

Don’t look at the number of forecasted storms and panic. But don’t get complacent, either.

Hurricane aftermath.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

When is an announcement less an announcement than a confirmation?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2024 hurricane season outlook, issued Thursday morning, might be one such case. For the past several weeks, hurricane agencies around the country have been warning of an extremely active, potentially historic season due to a confluence of factors including the record-warm water in the Atlantic Main Development Region and the likely start of a La Niña, which will make the wind conditions more favorable to Atlantic storm formation. With the Atlantic Hurricane Season set to start a week from Saturday, on June 1, NOAA has at last issued its own warning: There is an 85% chance of an above-average season, with eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven of those expected to be “major” Category 3 or greater storms.

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The Capitol.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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There are lots of different bills and approaches floating out there, but the most popular is the “border adjustment” tax, basically an emissions-based tariff, which, as a concept, is uniquely suited to resolve two brewing trade issues. One is the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will force essentially everybody else to play by its carbon pricing system. Then there’s the fact that China powers its world-beating export machine with coal, plugged into an electrical grid that is far dirtier than America’s.

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It Took More Than 4 Days to Put Out This Battery Fire

The California energy storage facility is just a short hop from the Mexican border.

Cal Fire trucks.
Heatmap Illustration/Screenshot/KUSI-TV

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“There is no visible smoke or active fire at the scene,” Cal Fire, the state fire protection agency, said in an update Monday morning.

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