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Articles by Ben Strauss

Ben Strauss is Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives at Climate Central, a nonprofit science and media organization. He is also a founding board member of Grist -- the popular and irreverent environmental website! -- and helped launch the Environmental Leadership Program. He holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University.

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There could be a lot more than lawn chairs out of place after the next big storm.Photo: Downtown Traveler

Cross-posted from Climate Central.

New York City dodged a bullet with Irene, but big trouble passed more closely than most people think. If the storm surge had pushed New York Harbor about one inch higher, it could have been enough to overcome some of Lower Manhattan’s outer defenses and flood the subway system, FDR Drive, PATH, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, if history is a guide.

At 8:42 a.m. on Sunday morning, close to the peak of an unusually tall high tide, the water reached 4.8 feet above the average high tide level, as measured by a gauge at the Battery. It was the sixth-highest level ever recorded for New York Harbor. The tallest mark came in 1821, at 6.5 feet. The most recent incident topping Irene was the December Nor’easter of 1992, which reached about one inch higher at the Battery and caused enough area flooding to shut down the entire subway system and PATH for several days. Unless the city has substantially raised its defenses, 4.8 feet put Irene in risky territory.

Lots of things could have tipped the balance this tim... Read more

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