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Sandy didn't hit me hard. My neighborhood was barely touched. Schools have been closed and my work place has been closed but my neighborhood lost no power or water, and most businesses opened up soon after the hurricane. Some were open DURING the hurricane. So in some ways I have had a nice little vacation, though I have been working at home to some degree analyzing data. But overall it has been low key and to me Sandy was less intense and impressive than Irene.

I also spent one day helping a friend in the Rockaways, which really drove home how bad the hurricane was. But until today I wasn't able to get into work at the NYU Medical Center both because of subways being down and the Medical Center being down.

Well today the trains were running and I went in to see what I could get done. I needed to pick up more data I'd already acquired on the microscope to analyze at home and to start getting my experiments up and running again.

Now I have seen the same reports you all have about the closing of the Medical Center but again it didn't sink in what it all meant until I was there. More below.

I have been affiliated with the NYU Medical Center for most of the past 14 years. During that time I have to say it has improved a great deal. It always has had good research, though even that has improved from excellent to stellar. At the in house seminars and retreats I am always really impressed with the quality of research. Even some departments that were mediocre before have undergone changes that improved the quality of research hugely. I am not that familiar with the quality of medical care though I have known patients that have gone through Bellevue hospital and I do know several physicians who work at the medical center and in general think it is good. My own health care there has been excellent. The administration used to suck. I once had to essentially go on strike before they actually gave me a promised benefit and I found another benefit was essentially a bait and switch. But from what I can tell that has changed and the administration seems much better. They even have started giving additional benefits in response to employee demands and doing so in a quality way.

So overall it is an excellent medical center.

Sandy hit it hard. All along the East River flooding from the storm surge shut down facilities. The main campus around 30th Street, Bellevue Hospital and the VA hospital all are heavily damaged in the basements. Not structurally, but in terms of facilities: water, power, back up power, animal facilities, deliveries...all shut down by flooding. That closes down some of the best research being done in the world today in addition to the patient care.

Some of my friends have been part of the teams that have been saving patients, saving stocks, saving experiments and even heading to other facilities helping other labs. And all this while living in a building that STILL has no power or water. Many of these people have been showering at a nearby gym. So many people have been working so hard to limit the damage and get things up and running ASAP.

What happened? I have read in the media and on dKos lots of reports and questions about what happened. Why didn't they evacuate earlier? Why were so many critical facilities in the basement? Some politicians have expressed anger at NYU for what happened. But bottom line is it is hard to see how this could have been avoided.

There were vulnerabilities in the system. But they were designed to withstand pretty much anything that historically have hit Manhattan. This storm was a "once-in-a-hundred years" event, though climate change is shifting this to a once in maybe 5-20 years event. Which is a sobering lesson. Fuck Republican denial...climate change is biting us in the ass and the MAIN reason why the NYU Medical Center seemed unprepared is that it was prepared for pre-climate change conditions and we are in a climate change reality right now. Which, to echo Mayor Bloomberg, is why we have to defeat the Republicans BIG TIME. Because every Republican elected will reduce our ability to be prepared for events like this.

The storm surge was huge for Manhattan...biggest I hear in 200 years though it will likely happen again within the next 20 years at least once thanks to climate change and Republican refusal to do anything about it. That is one reason why things went wrong for the medical center.

The medical center was holding up fine at first. Then came the storm surge. This hit the basements harder than expected. Rooms that should have been okay were breached and since they are still flooded, the reasons aren't even clear yet. Once the breach happened, it happened fast. I heard similar stories in the Rockaways. When a basement started flooding, it happened fast...sometimes so fast that people can't get out and that is how some people died in the Rockaways.

People were actually in the process of handling some of the crises in the basements of the medical center buildings when the surge surged in and these people had to run. This surge hit critical facilities that then collapsed in a domino effect. The number of things that went wrong ended up being quite large.

Why are critical facilities in the basement? There are several reasons for this. First off, lab and patient facilities take precedence and facilities that are less people-oriented are often put in the basement. Deliveries, animal facilities, fuel tanks, storage, steam pipes, etc. Second, that is how it has generally been done in the past. Some of the buildings affected are older (not all!) and so have out dated facilities. Updating facilities like that takes time and money and, being on the board of my co-op apt. building has taught me that making those decisions is tough and no matter how carefully you plan, something unexpected will defeat you from time to time. Updating is happening but can't be done all in one shot. Finally, some facilities are easiest to build, maintain and service in the basement. Building them elsewhere would be impractical or even dangerous. So I don't think there was anything done wrong per se by the medical center, though it is likely that some lessons will be learned and changes made as practical to better plan for events like this as they become more common.

I also want to emphasize that the administration at the medical center is working hard to support their staff. They are feeding students, post docs and staff, particularly ones who are stuck in housing without power and water. They are working hard to get money to labs quickly to replace lost materials and get research up and running again. Clinical trials interrupted by the hurricane and pharmacy services are taking precedence. Psychological services for staff and students are being put into place. The staff, students and faculty are working together as a team to help wherever they can. That said, there is frustration, particularly over lack of running water...which has made bathrooms pretty awful. But overall people are doing everything they can.

I have heard that some animal rights groups are getting all crazy about the damage to the animal facilities. What they are ignoring is the fact that these animal facilities and the animals contained therein are extremely valuable to researchers and people worked their asses off to save them. Some people lost decades worth of hard work when they lost their animal stocks. And the truth is almost all the animal facilities were rescued. It was only in the building where the storm surge broke in too fast that the animals were lost. To have the terrible loss to critical cancer, heart disease, immune etc research be exploited by animal rights groups is disgusting. I have some appreciation for some animal rights efforts, and their efforts have had positive effects on HOW animal research is conducted. But to exploit a disaster like this for their own propaganda and to try and paint researchers as terrible people is just plain wrong. I am lucky. I work on worms...these are tough beasts and I expect to only lose maybe a few weeks or a month's worth of work due to the hurricane. But some people have lost years worth of very important work. My heart goes out to them. Fortunately the scientific community around the world is reaching out to help. This is despite some degree of competition among labs.

Subway ride this morning was slow and crowded. Coming home it was pretty normal. But it is just nice to be able to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan again.

I will not be going in to work tomorrow. I may try to get out to the Rockaways again. But I am glad I went in. This time I don't think I helped, but it did help me understand the situation better.

And once again, please, please please, let's all do one last push to defeat the Republicans who are causing SO MUCH DAMAGE to America and the world.

Originally posted to mole333 on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad all is well. (4+ / 0-)

    It is quite a juxtaposition of worlds.  Several buildings in the Gowanus Houses have been without power for a week.  They are Zone B so no evacuation.  I'm not sure if their equipment rooms were flooded when the canal came up.

    I am sure you know that voting will be chaotic.  Is the word being spread that people who vote at John Jay and the Armory will be voting at PS 282 and 154 (Windsor Terrace).  Details are on Lander's site.

  •  Thanks for sharing your experience mole. (7+ / 0-)

    I'm in midtown Manhattan and so was spared Sandy's direct wrath - and the ConEd converter shortout that caused the power outage from 39th Street east to west, north to south though my office on W15th Street was down on power until sometime late Saturday.

    I had nothing but gut feelings and my strong sense of intuition when Sandy was spoken of in the days leading up to her slamming us the way it did.  On Oct. 24th when The Weather Channel came on with the GS Model and the European Model for Sandy I called my cousin in WI to say that, "this is going to be really, really bad!"  She downplayed it and said, "Oh this will probably be like Irene and it's too soon to tell how bad it's going to be."  I said to her, "This will be NOTHING like Irene, and like NOTHING we've seen ever, at least in our lifetimes here."  When she said, "How do you know that?"  I said, "I don't but just look at the maps, where WHERE is that water going to go?  It's got nothing to stop it - nothing meaningful anyway."  I told her I hope I was wrong but walked around with a sick feeling in my stomach the rest of the week and couldn't keep food down.  When Sandy came through it was just horrible seeing the water surges that kept coming and coming with nothing to stop it.

    There were vulnerabilities in the system. But they were designed to withstand pretty much anything that historically have hit Manhattan. This storm was a "once-in-a-hundred years" event, though climate change is shifting this to a once in maybe 5-20 years event. Which is a sobering lesson. Fuck Republican denial...climate change is biting us in the ass and the MAIN reason why the NYU Medical Center seemed unprepared is that it was prepared for pre-climate change conditions and we are in a climate change reality right now. Which, to echo Mayor Bloomberg, is why we have to defeat the Republicans BIG TIME. Because every Republican elected will reduce our ability to be prepared for events like this.

    The storm surge was huge for Manhattan...biggest I hear in 200 years though it will likely happen again within the next 20 years at least once thanks to climate change and Republican refusal to do anything about it. That is one reason why things went wrong for the medical center.

    I wholeheartedly agree that this will likely happen again in our lifetimes and possibly worse!  What if we were exposed to a Cat 2, Cat 3, Cat 4 or God help us - a Cat 5 hurricane?...The New York City area is already a newly established tornado belt as in the last five years, confirmed tornadoes have touched down somewhere in the five boroughs.  We NEVER had to deal with that type of weather condition before.

    It's a very sobering thought and we are simply not prepared.  We must prepare and you're right, Republicans are all too willing to sacrifice people's lives and livelihoods for their own sick, self-serving reasons.  They are a blight on the ass of humanity who must be stopped; voted out.

    Lastly and most importantly, I'm glad you're ok.

    Peace,
    DES

    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 02:31:12 PM PST

    •  Tornado (4+ / 0-)

      We had one of those pass right over our building that first time. Did the stupid thing and pasted our faces to the window to watch it. It seemed like a big thunderstorm, but it was weird to think about what was really happening.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 02:34:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Having grown up in WI we were no strangers (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mole333, ladybug53, kishik, dotdash2u

        to living with tornado warnings and I slept in the basement some nights due to my serious fear of them.  Fortunately we lived close enough to Lake Michigan to have been spared a touchdown.

        Next time, if you can't get to a basement please head into your bathtub and cover yourself with a good heavy quilt or blankets.  Also - this may sound funny - it might be good to invest in a football helmet and safety goggles.  You can don those before getting down in the tub and protect your head and eyes from the worst of flying debris.

        "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

        by Dumas EagerSeton on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 02:48:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Basement... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nchristine, ladybug53, kishik

          My apartment IS a basement! Or at least 2/3 of it. One bedroom and bathroom are on the 1st floor, rest is in the basement. And our back yard is pretty sheltered. Still, I don't think we should press our faces up against a window to watch it. We both were saying how stupid we were but we literally were "wow, the tornado is passing RIGHT over us!"

          Your advice is far smarter than what we did!

          FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

          by mole333 on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 03:28:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  A hundred year storm - the problem (6+ / 0-)

      with statistics is that it has no memory.

      A hundred year storm means that we had a 1% chance last year, and we got Irene.

      We had a 1% chance again this year and we got Sandy.

      We will have a 1% chance again next year of having a One Hundred Year storm.

      And a 2% chance of having a Once in 50 years storm.

      And a 4% chance of having a Once in 25 years storm.

      And a 5% chance of having a Once in 20 years storm.

      And a 10% chance of having a Once in 10 years storm.

      And a 25% chance of having a Once in 4 years storm.

      We vote in 2 year and 4 years timeframes, but can't afford to wait 20 years to address the vulnerability of the subways, to name just one example.

  •  Chalk up another refrige of food thrown out! (7+ / 0-)

    Power was off 5 days.  We made out better than many others.

  •  Thanks for your insider diary. (4+ / 0-)

    Except for GS, in their brand spankin' new building, a lot of buildings had problems, over on the west side too.

    I know what you mean that until you see it first hand it's just another story on TV.

    The thing I'm most impressed with re NYU/Langone and Bellevue is that when the surge hit, evacuations happened and no one died during the evacuations either.  That's some outstanding crisis management!

    Hopefully, NYU will become a model for innovative changes that can retrofit and upgrade existing buildings.

    •  Evacuations (4+ / 0-)

      The evacuations were done by a very devoted staff with considerable skill and dedication. But it was also a desperate and critical situation under unexpected circumstances. I am not 100% convinced that there were no deaths given the fact that some of the patients left were already critically ill. The descriptions I have heard make me wonder how they all fared in the following days. But it was an extreme situation and the medical center met it about as well as possible.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 06:38:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, mole. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, skwimmer, dotdash2u

    You may remember that docbrooklyn works at the Manhattan VA, just down the street from you.

    The water reached five feet deep at 23rd Street and First Avenue.

    The VA hospital is closed indefinitely, having suffered the same problems as NYU and Bellevue, although being in Zone A, it had evacuated its patients before the storm. The staff are going to Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens.

    We have no idea what the future holds.

    I remain stunned and overwhelmed.

    Remember. Bring them home. ● And he reminds me that we are playing a long game here … and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once -- Michelle Obama.

    by edsbrooklyn on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 07:30:33 PM PST

    •  VA (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edsbrooklyn

      I only know the VA got hit because my friend was recruited to help labs save their most important stocks. I think they were relocating to Rutgers or something for the duration. Until then I had only heard about NYU and Bellevue, but it stands to reason VA would have been hit as well.

      Hope all is well!

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 05:07:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had a combination (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, skwimmer, dotdash2u

    My apartment in Rego Park is fine for power and all, but my office in downtown Manhattan has no power and major flood damage.  So I'm going to have to work from home on a laptop until around mid to late December.  

     

  •  thanks mole for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333

    taking the time to write this very informative diary.

    The storm wasn't that big of a deal in Maine and all of my family from NJ, NY, and CT did okay though one nephew in NJ lost power for a week. So from my perspective and even watching the news with the numb weather crews standing on the beach before it hit, didn't seem like much. Once the cameras got into the areas hit hard the difference between perspective and reality was a deep chasm. Some call it storm porn but really that's one thing the tv and net do well. I'm just dumbstruck seeing all the damage and hurt. I don't know why but NY has a special pull for me unlike any other big citiy though I've never lived in any city. It seems epic what you all went through and still are. Carry on!

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 09:43:37 PM PST

    •  Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      daveygodigaditch

      Personally I pretty much slept through most of the hurricane. I had thought it was minor compared to Irene until I watched the news. My friends who live in and near the medical center had a completely different experience. I some ways I am still learning what happened to the city I live in.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 05:10:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks to those who saved the work! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, dotdash2u

    I'm in a cancer clinical trial and I love those mice. and worms, or whatever.

    •  Indeed (0+ / 0-)

      There were some heroic efforts and I am very thankful to those people. And the mice! My worm work does overlap some cancer work as well. Hopefully that will be published soon if this hurricane hasn't set back our collaborators (our part is already pretty much done).

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 05:12:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Same with me, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, swampyankee

    Although my area suffered pretty bad tree damage, miraculously, most trees were kind enough to not destroy homes or property.  We were imconvenienced by power outages (some with power still out, but most restored by Sunday), but are lucky to be in an area that although on the south shore of long island, and by crows fly near water, we suffered no flooding.  I was told we were spared by 2or 3 feet (water had flowed as closeas about 1/2 a mile, but our elevation up enough it couldn't go further, so pooled at that point).

    I know people up as far as the 90s on the east side that got flooded! (cars got swamped parked on the street) And there were also parts of zone B that also were flooded.

    I have not yet returned to work (lower manhattan).  Apparently some electrical equipment was damaged, given the more than several instances of explosions down at Peter Cooper Village, it is making many slow down in getting things powered back up.

    I work to blocks from The entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge...

    It's sad and bad in the rockaways.  But police presence is huge. Saw a clip on tv with people standing on line to vote, trying to do as they always would... Go before work. But apparently the generator set up isn't working properly? There's some sort of delay in the polling place opening (at a school) but people are patiently waiting.  They said it would open soon.

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 04:02:37 AM PST

    •  Voting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skwimmer, kishik, dotdash2u

      Voting in NYC seems high turnout. I already voted. Went around 7 AM. Stood on line for half an hour or so, was the 66th person in my ED to vote and on the machine I was 118. Hell there are entire elections where we don't get that many votes in an ED. I think it is a good sign that so many in NYC are voting. Doesn't help with electoral votes but it does show that there IS enthusiasm for our President and it will help the popular vote.

      Best of luck!

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 05:15:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm on my way now! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        swampyankee, mole333

        gee - I didn't even check if my polling place got power back!!!  I'll find out when i get there.

        All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

        by kishik on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 06:02:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Republican model (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, dotdash2u

    The Republican model is taken from the current business model, which is to evade spending one dime on infrastructure and the people to maintain it. It's much more fun to pay top dogs big salaries and bonuses and to buy out other firms. This model is destined to fail, but the top dogs hope they will be out of there before the catastrophe hits.

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