Preparing Our Cities for the Next Flood

There is minimal protection for coastal cities when it comes to combating tropical storms. Tropical storms can cause massive damage due to wind speed, impact from landfall, and remnants of floods. Whether one agrees climate change affects the frequency and power of hurricanes is irrelevant, these storms are occurring, and could hit a city such as New York City. The end of the 2017 hurricane season was devastating to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, each experiencing record breaking storms. These storms left communities demolished. In the case of Puerto Rico, the entire island may not have power for months. Puerto Rico has the potential to have 3.4 million displaced persons. If New York were hit by a strong enough storm there is a potential of over 8 million displaced persons. Generally, cities have minimal protection from such incidences. “Soft” defenses would be too extensive on their own to protect a city. The “hard” defenses cities do have offer little protection. In addition, it is difficult to know if a “hard” defense will be useful during a storm until the actual storm arrives. While building defenses for coastal cities is important to protect the areas, it is paramount to have systems that can act during the storm rather than invest in defenses that may fail.

Infrastructure from the underground storm drains to sky scrapers must be adapted to combat the strongest storms in order to minimize damage. It is 2017 there are cities, such as New York City, that continue to rely on bayous, rivers, and land to drain water in the event of a flood. One of the main tools used to combat flooding is storm drains, but as apparent in Texas, these storm drains can easily overflow from a strong storm. The frequency of flooding will continue to increase as the sea level continues to rise. If an area with a dense population, such as New York City, were hit by a major storm, waiting for the water to recede would not be an option. With this said, major cities on the coastline could benefit from the flooding system used in Japan to protect Tokyo known as the G-Cans Project. The G-Cans Project is a series of underground tunnels that total 3.7 miles long, and vertical shafts that measure 580 feet long, 59 feet high, and 256 feet wide. This network is capable of channeling 12,500,000 L of water per minute. However, if a city’s major portion of underground real-estate is used by subway stations, such as New York City, the scale of the G-Cans Project may not be possible, but the system may still be useful especially when used in combination with other flood prevention plans. If the water from a storm cannot be stopped it can at least be rerouted before more damage can be caused.

The following gives a brief look inside the G-Cans Project’s tunnels and tanks:

Storms are more than heavy rain fall, they are also extremely powerful winds, and the taller the building the more exposure to stronger winds it has to endure. Winds can make buildings sway. While winds may not always cause huge junks buildings to go flying, the swaying motion may distort the structure. Generally, swaying is not good for buildings. However, instead of fighting against wind, a possible solution is to go with the wind as evident by the architecture of the Sky Tree in Japan. The Sky Tree, the second tallest structure in the world, allows the movement from earthquakes to push it around. The Sky Tree is composed of a core column and an outer flexible region, the two sections are connected by oil dampers. As one part of the tower sways one way, the other sways another way which allows it remain stable. Granted this architecture was designed for earthquakes, but the uses for the design can also be applied for high-speed wind situations. Instead of fighting the wind, buildings could sway with it. If buildings had the flexible design of the Sky Tree getting through heavy storms turns from combating the storm to literally flowing with it until it passes.

The following is an image of the structure of the Sky Tree:

There is insufficient time to create a method that would prevent all damage to cities from storms, as the affects of climate change are a current threat and precautions need to be taken. However, cities need to take prepare themselves now because the weather patterns as exemplified in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico will persist, if not get worse, for thousands of years. Even if carbon emissions were completely stopped, it would take thousands of years for the Earth to recover. Once cities take preliminary action for the coming weather problems, then they can begin to take preventive measures to prevent all damage.

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One Response to Preparing Our Cities for the Next Flood

  1. Shannon Britton September 27, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    My eyes widen while reading the part about a flood hitting New York City – potentially 8 million people affected. I can’t imagine a city that large and abundantly populated being hit by a hurricane, maybe i feel like this because it is so close to where i live and a place that is near and dear to my heart. The 2017 hurricane season was awful and will sure go down in history.
    The G-Cans project in Tokyo is so fascinating and incredibly smart. This would be a useful flood prevention system for the US to take a look at. Like the article said, in a place like NYC where a lot of the real estate is underground this system might not be as useful, but other cities and areas – this strategy could make the biggest difference.
    The weather is very unpredictable and no one can tell the actual extent of a flood however we should be taking more precautions and preparing ourselves better for natural disasters. Like we saw this hurricane season, natural disasters can be horrific and sudden. In order to be more prepared and lessen the damage we as a country need to take preventative measures.

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