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Infrastructure Battered by Sandy's Wrath

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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The plants, refineries, levees and other infrastructure of the U.S. East Coast took an unprecedented pounding from Hurricane Sandy, despite officials' best efforts to secure facilities before the record storm hit.

Among the most serious incidents:

'Unprecedented Storm Impact'

Although downgraded from hurricane status right before it made landfall in the U.S., “Frankenstorm” pounded several states with powerful winds, devastating amounts of rain, and treacherous snow storms.

NASA animated video
NASA Goes Project

A NASA video animation shows the progress of Hurricane Sandy as it approached the U.S. Eastern seaboard from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28.

The storm hit the East Coast with 80 mph, hurricane-force winds and had a 2,000-mile reach.

“We expected an unprecedented storm impact … and that’s what we got,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday (Oct. 30) morning, the worst of the storm had passed, but it had already claimed at least 29 lives in the U.S., with some media outlets reporting up to 35 deaths.

Across 15 states and the District of Columbia, approximately 8 million people were without power.

And the storm's full effects still had yet to be felt.

'Heightened Watch' at  Nuclear Plants

Before the storm hit, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it was taking unprecedented precautions and sending additional inspectors to nine power plants. On Tuesday, the NRC issued an update stating that three reactors had experienced shutdowns during the storm, while another remained in an "Alert." 

Con Ed substation explosion
TrillianMedia / YouTube

In New York City, a Con Ed Plant substation exploded, knocking out power to Lower Manhattan.

The three reactors to experience shutdowns during the storm were Nine Mile Point 1 in Scriba, NY; Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, NY; and Salem Unit 1 in Hancocks Bridge, NJ.

Nine Mile Point 1 underwent an automatic shutdown Monday (Oct. 29) evening when an electrical fault occurred on power lines. Later Monday night, Indian Point 3 automatically shut down because of storm-related electrical grid disturbances.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday, Salem Unit 1 had to be manually shut down by plant operators as circulating-water pumps were affected by high river levels and debris in the waterway.

In New Jersey, Oyster Creek--the oldest U.S. nuclear power plant--declared an "Unusual Event" due to high water levels. The plant, which was already out of service for scheduled refueling, was upgraded to an "Alert" two hours later.

Floods Hit Refineries

Two New Jersey refineries were halted because of the storm, according to Reuters. Phillips 66, a 238,000-barrels-per-day plant, shut down on Monday as a precaution, stating there was "some flooding in low-lying areas." The plant remains closed. Hess Corp.'s 70,000-barrel-per-day plant also shut down ahead of the storm, but has since lost power is unsure when it will restart.

Tanker sinking

Reports of devastation were mounting as the storm subsides, such as this tanker that washed ashore Tuesday (Oct. 30) in Staten Island.

Colonial Pipeline lost power at its Linden, NJ, tank farm, but said it hasn't suffered any operational damage and plans to use portable generators to resume pumping.

In Ontario, Sandy brought on a power outage at the Imperial Oil refinery.

Mounting Devastation Information

As Sandy subsided, more devastation was being investigated.

In Maryland, raw sewage was leaking from the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Howard County at a rate of about two million gallons of sewage per hour.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; Nuclear Power Plants; Oil and Gas

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