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Deadly Sandy Spurs Backups, Shutdowns

Monday, October 29, 2012

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With Hurricane Sandy on the march in the U.S. Northeast, infrastructure officials were taking unprecedented precautions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was beefing up inspection at plants in the storm's path.

“Sandy Cripples East,” weather.com announced, and officials said more than 10 million people in the Northeast were likely to lose their power in the days ahead as the slow-moving storm pushed on.

NJ boardwalk flooding from Sandy

Flooding from Sandy hit New Jersey's boardwalks early and hard on Monday.

The weather station called the storm “a cyclone of fearsome size and unusual intensity” as it “underwent another alarming round of intensification early Monday morning” and “began its dreaded left turn toward the East Coast of the U.S.”

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

‘Exceptional and Destructive’

“Sandy appears destined to enter the history books as one of the most exceptional—and potentially destructive—storms to strike the Northeast in modern history,” the outlet said.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm would “bring a life-threatening storm surge and coastal hurricane winds plus heavy Appalachian snows.”

"This is not a coastal threat alone," said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "This is a very large area."

Sandy NOAA map
National Hurricane Center

A satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy at 8:25 a.m. ET Monday (Oct. 29). Forecasteers said Sandy was likely to collide with a cold front and spawn a "superstorm," bringing flash floods, snowstorms and massive power outages.

The New York Times was among the news outlets providing a real-time map of the storm’s path

Governors from North Carolina to Connecticut declared states of emergency.

Mass Transit Shutdowns

Public mass transit systems were shut down in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in advance of the storm—believed to be the largest pre-emptive public transportation shutdown in U.S. history.

MTA / Aaron Donovan

New York's Grand Central Station was empty amid a historic public transit shutdown. Systems in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington were also closed.

Verizon Wireless (here), Sprint (here) and T-Mobile (here) have all said they have prepared their networks for the big hurricane. AT&T had no specific information about Sandy.

FEMA urged people to use text messages or social networks, rather than phone calls, to reach loved ones whenever possible, to reduce data traffic on wireless networks.

NRC Inspections

The NRC said inspectors at each plant in the storm’s impact area “are independently verifying that plant operators are making the proper preparations, are following relevant procedures, and are taking appropriate actions to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm.

The agency was monitoring the storm from the Incident Response Center at its Region I Office in King of Prussia, PA, and from the Operations Center at its headquarters in Rockville, MD.

“Activities at all nuclear power plants are overseen on an ongoing basis by at least two NRC Resident Inspectors,” the agency said. “In response to the storm, the agency will dispatch additional inspectors to provide support, with still others on standby."

Enhanced Oversight

The plants receiving enhanced oversight during the storm include Calvert Cliffs (Lusby, MD); Salem and Hope Creek (Hancocks Bridge, NJ); Oyster Creek (Lacey Township, NJ); Peach Bottom (Delta, PA); Three Mile Island 1 (Middletown, PA); Susquehanna (Salem Township, PA); Indian Point (Buchanan, NY); and Millstone (Waterford, CT).

Three Mile Island - June 2010
Marquee1313 / Wikimedia Commons

The NRC announced "enhanced oversight" at several nuclear plants, including Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Unit 2 (left) at the plant has been deactivated since a 1979 cooling system malfucntion that caused a partial meltdown.

The on-site inspectors are equipped with satellite phones.

Nuclear power plant procedures require that the facilities be shut down prior to any projected hurricane-force winds on site, the NRC said. All plants have flood protection above the predicted storm surge, and key components and systems are housed in watertight buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and flooding, the agency said.

 

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Facility Managers; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Mass transit; Nuclear Power Plants; Public Transit

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