Landstrike: New York's horrible hurricane scenario
* Risk of strong p.m. storms: Full Forecast *
I recently read local author Ken Bass's book Landstrike, a fictional take on the real and potentially disastrous scenario in which a major hurricane makes a direct hit on the Big Apple. The book is well-written, action-packed and captivating. With Hurricane Preparedness Week upon us, Landstrike provides an important cautionary tale about New York City's likely vulnerability to hurricanes, which applies (to varying degrees) to other highly populated, developed locations along the East Coast. I invited Ken to blog about his book and provide an excerpt, which he does below. - Jason, CWG
Like many Capital Weather Gang readers, I'm a self-professed weather geek. When I retired from law practice a few years ago, I set out to write an account of Hurricane Hugo, the 1989 category 4 storm that struck Charleston, S.C. as it left a long swath of destruction from the Caribbean to Canada. After completing much of the research, however, Hurricane Katrina emerged in the Gulf of Mexico, devastating New Orleans and Mississippi. As I watched hours of television coverage in morbid fascination and horror, I wondered who would want to read about Hugo after something as overwhelming as Katrina.
But I had all this research, and started seeing references to the catastrophic potential of a major hurricane striking New York City. I read a book about the Great Hurricane of 1938, which struck eastern Long Island and New England, killing more than 700 people, destroying more than 50,000 buildings and knocking down more than a quarter BILLION trees.
Keep reading for more about Landstrike, and an excerpt from the book...
I found it easy to imagine what a hurricane like Hugo, or the '38 storm, would do if it hit New York City directly. Although I had never intended to write fiction, I soon found myself sketching out a story. Some friends encouraged me, and before long I was writing what became Landstrike.
My goal for Landstrike was to make it as realistic as possible, while educating the reader about what a storm like this would be like. Most likely, a major storm threatening New York would be moving fast--thus reducing warning time (the 1938 hurricane was moving faster than 50 mph when it came ashore on Long Island). Also, because hurricanes approaching the Atlantic coast tend to curve northward, their landfall is much more difficult to predict than a storm approaching the Gulf Coast. As a result, New Yorkers would get relatively little warning time, a fact highlighted in the book.
It's also impossible to evacuate New York City--the government's policy for a hurricane there is to "shelter-in-place." It's not a bad strategy, but hurricanes are such a rare and unexpected event there that many citizens would not take warnings seriously until too late, would not have a plan, and would not know what to do, or where to go.
A category four hurricane going up the Hudson River could generate a storm surge of up to 25 feet, causing widespread flooding, while devastating the New York's industrial infrastructure. Wind from such a storm, amplified at the upper levels of the city's skyscrapers, would blow out tens of thousands of windows, destroying the lavish interiors of many landmark buildings. Millions of trees would be blown down. New York and its surrounding communities would be isolated for days, without power for weeks. The storm's aftermath would generate a humanitarian crisis with the need to supply 25 million people with food and water.
I won't give away the story, but any avid follower of hurricanes will be hard-pressed to put the book down once the eye of fictional hurricane Nicole crosses Sandy Hook, N.J. and enters the lower Hudson River. I also hope that life doesn't imitate fiction--when I started writing, in 2005, the year 2010 seemed far away, so I used the official hurricane names for this hurricane season, as well as tides, moon phases and other data. Many forecasters are calling for an active season. If we get to Nicole this year, and it's September, I'd advise staying away from New York for a few days!
Excerpt from Landstrike:
Just east of Coney Island, Nicole assaulted Rockaway Point, a sliver of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean to form the outer barrier of Jamaica Bay, a vast marshland and tidal estuary fronting the sprawling grounds of John F. Kennedy Airport in Southern Queens. It was now 4:20 p.m., and in less than a minute and a half, the twenty-four-foot storm surge inundated the entire Rockaway Peninsula, lying less than ten feet above sea level, quickly drowning two foolhardy souls who had stayed there to watch the storm. In a matter of minutes, Nicole devastated thousands of homes in quaint little neighborhoods with charming names like Breezy Point, Neponsit, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Seaside, Hammel, Arverne, and Edgemere. The storm surge rushed over the Marine Parkway Bridge linking Rockaway Point with Brooklyn, collapsing it and washing it away. Farther down the peninsula, the raging storm stripped the roadway off the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge into Queens.
Jamaica Bay, swollen with storm surge streaming across Rockaway Peninsula, soon overflowed into eastern Brooklyn and southern Queens, rapidly filling Kennedy Airport with seawater. Inside the main ring of terminals at Kennedy, a skeleton crew of workers lost their battle against the rapidly rising water as it coursed through ticket counters, baggage claims, waiting areas, departure lounges, food courts, and security checkpoints, coating everything with sticky brown marsh mud and instantly destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment. Debris from the devastated homes and businesses on Rockaway Peninsula, swirling in the floodwaters, shattered windows, opening JFK's terminals to Nicole's roaring winds. A large section of the North Channel Bridge on Bay Boulevard--the main road from Queens into Rockaway Peninsula--broke loose, ramming into the Delta Airlines terminal and wrecking an entire concourse.
The main runways began to buckle, huge slabs of concrete coming loose as the water scoured the earth from underneath. The elevated roadway running in a circle past the various neo-modern terminals collapsed. Thousands of cars left in the various parking lots and garages by travelers earlier in the week floated off. At the International Arrivals Building, on the south side of the airport, wind tore off two hundred feet of roof and hurled it into the water. Rain poured into the upper level, soaking the few pieces of equipment saved from the flood below.
Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | June 3, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: grimesman | June 3, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eric654 | June 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 1shot | June 3, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: abainenglish | June 3, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | June 3, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: xcurmudgeon | June 3, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eric654 | June 4, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: eric654 | June 4, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: patriotpaul | June 4, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.