Wednesday October 31, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) -- Blame a very high tide driven by a full moon, the worst storm surge in nearly 200 years, and the placement of underground electrical equipment in flood-prone areas for the most extensive storm-related power outage in New York City’s history.

It’s like what happened at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan last year -- without the radiation. At a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan’s East Village, a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and expectations, swamped underground electrical equipment, and left about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers without power.

The substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet.

Last year, the surge from Hurricane Irene reached 9.5 feet at the substation. The utility figured the infrastructure could handle a repeat of the highest surge on record for the area -- 11 feet during an 1821 hurricane. After all, the substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet. But planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger -- a surge of 14 feet.


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