Employees from MTA Bridges and Tunnels are pumping 43 million gallons of water out of each of the tubes of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping out the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping out the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping out the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping out the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping out the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Pumping water out of the flooded A Line tunnel near Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan.

A pump train draining the Cranberry Street Tunnel, which carries the A and C trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan underneath the East River.

A look inside the pump train.

The internal mechanics of the MTA’s pump train.

The pump train at work.

Measuring the water depth in the Cranberry Street Tunnel.

Measuring the water depth in the Cranberry Street Tunnel, full of water.

The South Ferry Station, full of water.

The South Ferry Station, free of water, but full of debris.

The South Ferry station after pumping.

2012-11-05

Co.Exist

A Look Inside The Heroic Cleanup Effort In New York's Subways

How do you get hundreds of millions of gallons of water out of a network of underground tunnels? A lot of effort, a bunch of hoses, and a super cool pump train.

Before it’s time to address larger questions about how best to protect New York’s subways from filling with water the next time there is a giant storm surge, there’s a more pressing problem: Getting the water in the stations and tunnels out.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Leonard Wiggins

Workers from the MTA have been toiling tirelessly since Sandy struck a week ago to get the city’s subways and tunnels back up and running. We already showed you some images of how much water there was in just one subway station. The truth is, there wasn’t some magic solution to getting it all out, just plenty of heroic effort and a huge amount of pumps, including a special pump-equipped subway car that you can see in the photos above, which sucks the water out of tunnels.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Leonard Wiggins

What does a subway station look like after it’s been filled with water? As you can see, really bad. When salt water and metal meet, it means a lot of corrosion. If there is electricity present, that process happens even faster.

Amazingly, a week later, nearly all the city’s subways and tunnels are open again, though fixing the vast damage caused by that much water will surely take much longer. Despite the impressive turnaround time and hard work by these city workers, the next time it would be better to just not have the subways flood at all. Whether the solution is to simply elevate subway entrances to make it harder for water to flow in or to create storm surge barriers around all of New York harbor—that remains to be seen.

Add New Comment

2 Comments

  • Lp115lp

    When TV news showed the inflatable barriers at the entrance to one of the train tunnels all I could think of was the blast doors in the Moscow Metro. At the bottom of the escalators are deep grooves/depressions in the floor. Large blast doors were to be lowered into those grooves allowing the stations to be used as nuclear fallout bunkers. Pity NYC's subway wasn't built to enable resident to survive such an attack also. The blast doors could've kept out all that water.

    BTW: As anyone familiar with WW2 submarines can attest - when the electricity and seawater mix they create chlorine gas which was another threat to these workers.