How Will The New York Subway Tunnels Get De-Flooded?

The flooded subways have essentially crippled transportation in New York City and some of the surrounding areas. So how are recovery workers supposed to get some 400 million gallons of water out of the tunnels?

The answer, according to this article from Wired, is giant pumps that will be used to suck the water out and send it back to sea. Using two types of pumps - including one that could go as much as 100 feet deep and - the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start with the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the major thoroughfare between Brooklyn and Manhattan. They expect to pump out 10 million gallons of water from that tunnel alone.


But it's going to be a painstaking process, according to Wired. The pumps will have to be repositioned constantly.

"And not only will the pumps have to be repositioned as the water in the tunnels recede, the Corps crews will have to go slowly as they pump the water out. ‘These large tunnels take large capacities of water," says Curry Graham, a Corps official in Washington D.C. ‘We can't de-water quickly because that could cause damage to the structure.'"

But as you've probably read by now, pumping out all the water is just one of many steps. Crews will have to go in and clean the tunnels and assess any damage done to the subways' electrical systems. From a Washington Post story in the Boston Globe:

"‘Thousands of connections in signal systems will need to be cleaned and tested before trains can run again', said Mortimer Downey, a former MTA executive director and current board member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

‘It's an enormous amount of wiring and an enormous amount of connections that go to what's called relay rooms,' Downey said. ‘They've got to turn the system on, and if it seems to be working I think they've got to go to every component and check it and get rid of all the salt. What you don't want is a short circuit that causes the system to fail.'

Such a failure caused the deadliest crash in the history of Washington's Metro system in 2009, he said."


Our collective hats are off to the folks involved in getting New York up and running again. The task ahead of them is nothing short of gargantuan.

Photo credit AP

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