10 Years After the Great Blackout, the Grid Is Stronger — but Vulnerable to Extreme Weather

Science & Space

It wasn’t the tree’s fault — or least, not just the tree’s fault. Nearly 10 years ago, on Aug. 14, 2003, the electricity grid in the U.S. Northeast was stressed close to the limit. This wasn’t unusual; summer is a period of high demand in the Northeast, as air conditioners run overtime to compensate for the heat, and a number of older power plants were already offline for maintenance. As power lines became overloaded, they began sagging because of the high temperatures, until one line south of Cleveland touched an overgrown tree limb and short-circuited. What followed was a cascade of disaster due to a mix of human error and equipment failure, until by 4:10 p.m. E.T. that day more than 50 million people had lost power in parts of Ontario and eight U.S. states. New York City looked like this, and power wasn’t fully restored for two days…

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Study: Electric Cars Made using Fossil Fuels Worse for the Environment than Conventional Cars

Is this a surprise? Often, the media and policy wonks discuss the consumer-side effects of environmental protection, but the environmental effects of manufacturing “green solutions” should not be taken lightly.

Electric cars actually harm the environment more than their gas-powered counterparts in many places, a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has concluded. That’s in part because electric car production “proved substantially more environmentally intensive,” the report said, according to the BBC. “The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.”

That higher production cost might pay off if you live in an area powered by clean electricity sources—particularly if the car stays on the road a long time. But if your area gets its power from fossil fuels like coal or lignite, “it is counterproductive to promote electric vehicles,” the report said—they may even wind up causing more carbon emissions than gas burners. In addition, electric car batteries require toxic minerals like nickel, copper, and aluminum, increasing the potential for acidification.

via Study: Electric Cars Hurt the Environment – At least in areas that burn fossil fuels for electricity.

Sandy Victims to Confront Cold, Another Storm | Common Dreams

Cold temperatures and a Nor’easter loom over Sandy survivors still without power and heat. Temperatures dipped down to 39 in New York City Saturday night and are expected to get even colder Sunday night. Weather Underground co-founder Dr. Jeff Masters expects the mid-Atlantic and New England to face an early-season Nor’easter on Wednesday bringing strong winds and heavy rains to areas still affected by Hurricane Sandy.

via Sandy Victims to Confront Cold, Another Storm | Common Dreams.

What’s Really Happening In Blacked-Out Manhattan | Co.Exist

The lack of an official, coordinated door-to-door response here in downtown, close to some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country, is a bit chilling. Currently across the five boroughs almost half a million people are still without power. If you were going to target people most likely to need help when the power and water is out, it would be the elderly residents of high-rise towers like the ones that surround us. According to a 2011 NYU report, the East Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown have a population of 169,000. Over 34% of the housing is low-income, 60% more than in the rest of Manhattan, comprising tens of thousands of people. And the lights are out for all of them.

via 1 | Whats Really Happening In Blacked-Out Manhattan | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

Temporary Fuel Trucks Arriving in NYC and Long Island – 10-gallon maximum | NBC New York

Temporary fuel trucks were being deployed in key locations in New York City and Long Island to help provide free gas to emergency vehicles and the public. Cars will be able to fill up directly from the 5,000 gallon trucks, which are being provided by the Department of Defense in coordination with the National Guard. There is a 10 gallon limit per vehicle.

via Amid Gas Shortage, Pleas for Help from Sandy Victims, Temporary Fuel Trucks Deployed to NYC and LI | NBC New York.

Commuters Snatch Up Bicycles in Storm’s Wake – US Business News – CNBC

In New York’s transportation woes, there is finally a silver lining. New Yorkers are biking and carpooling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on all modes of motorized transportation.

In the midst of congested transit left in Super Storm Sandy’s wake, more New Yorkers are opting to ride bicycles.

“Yesterday we outsold our busiest summer Saturday,” said Emily Samstag, manager of Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn, speaking to a surge in bike-related sales just one day after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. “Our first customer walked in and said: ‘The subways are down so I have to buy a bike’. That was standard all morning.”

via Commuters Snatch Up Bicycles in Storm's Wake – US Business News – CNBC.

Electric current hits salt; causes explosions that rock manhole covers – NY Daily News

Salt is a strong electrical conductor. Ocean water is full of salt. Once the salt dries, it can wreak havoc as power utilities restore electricity.

Several small explosions rattled storm-weary residents of Peter Cooper Village late Friday night and even blew two manhole covers as Con Edison was restoring power to the area. The latest apparent nastiness from Hurricane Sandy — days after the nightmare storm — caused no injuries, according to paramedics and Con Ed officials on the scene. Officials said the explosions occurred when the utility started restoring electricity and the current hit salt on the power lines. The salt was the remnant of a 10-foot wave of East River water that crashed through the complex at the height of the storm Monday.

via Explosions rock manhole covers as Con Ed restores power in Manhattan – NY Daily News.

Millions of gallons of gas to arrive in New York – NY Daily News

In New York, gas trumps water during a disaster. This good news for New Yorkers could not have come too soon.

Federal and state officials made urgent moves Friday to ease panic at the pumps, and it’s not a miniute too soon as stressed-out drivers in the New York area were still running on fumes.

The Department of Defense is sending 24 million gallons of gas and diesel fuel to the area, officials said.

via Gas shortage update: Defense Dept. to send millions of gallons of gas to area; Gov. Cuomo waives registration fees and tax requirements for fuel tankers pulling into New York Harbor to expedite delivery – NY Daily News.

Hurricane Sandy Gas Shortage: Dry Pumps Could Last For Days

Industry habits could hamper efforts to respond to future gas shortages.

Even as local authorities seek to alleviate the shortages, they can’t fix the biggest obstacle separating thirsty vehicles from gasoline: power outages that keep gas stations from being able to pump the supplies on hand.”If everything goes well, by the weekend we could see some relief,” Ralph Bombardiere, head of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops, said in a telephone interview. “But it won’t be normal until the end of next week.”And even when gas is plentiful again, the industry seems unlikely to take the kind of steps that could help keep another storm like Sandy from abruptly making gasoline scarce.”Once the gas starts to flow, well go back to the same old habits,” said Bombardiere.

via Hurricane Sandy Gas Shortage: Dry Pumps Could Last For Days.