Map of the Week: Know Your Zone

In contrast to the Pacific Ocean, which has been a veritable assembly line for storms this year, the Atlantic has had a relatively quiet hurricane season.

We’ve seen just three named storms, none of which have reached “major” hurricane status. There’s actually one struggling northward right now —Hurricane Cristobal—which has brought some dangerous riptides, but little in the way of other weather.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Marie is currently churning up the Pacific, gobbling up smaller storms and producing “epic,” surf-board-breaking waves. On average, the left coast generally sees 15.4 storms per hurricane season (which runs through the end of November), with 3.9 major hurricanes. This year, all bets are off: there have already been 13 storms and 5 major hurricanes…and we’ve still got three months to go.

All that being said, New Yorkers (and all of our Atlantic Coast brethren) would be wise to remember that we’re only halfway through our hurricane season, too. In fact, we are actually most vulnerable between now and October—one only need to remember Hurricane Sandy to know that’s true.

Know Your Zone

This year, the New York City Office of Emergency Management launched an awareness cam­paign called “Know Your Zone” to encour­age New York­ers to find out whether they live in one of the city’s six evac­u­a­tion zones. Almost three million New Yorkers do.

Screenshot of Know Your Zone map.
Screenshot of Know Your Zone map.

The map is visually pleasing, if a bit retro, and incredibly easy to use: just type in an address to see the zone (and the location of the nearest evacuation center). The website contains tips on developing a plan and ways to stay informed, and even has downloadable “badges” to use on websites and a hashtag for social media (#knowyourzone).

Even if you think you know your zone, it’s worth a second look. Last year the City changed the hurricane evacuation zones from A, B, and C, to zones 1 through 6 (with zone 1 being the most likely to flood). The increased number of zones make evacuation more accurate, meaning the city is less likely to over- or under-evacuate areas.

The new zones also incorporate a new storm surge model from the National Weather Service, topographic data, and information from actual events such as Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy.

What’s your zone? Do you have an evacuation plan?


Map of the Week: Mixing Electricity & Water In NYC

This past Wednesday, 13.57 inches of rain fell on Long Island in a 24-hour period, setting a new record for the state of New York. Cars were submerged, roads were washed out, and train stations inundated. In all, Long Island received more rainfall in one day than would normally fall in the entire summer season.

If it feels like these kinds of storms are happening more frequently, that’s because they are. Since the late 1950s, the Northeast has experienced a 71 percent increase in “very heavy precipitation.” Scientists have attributed this in part to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures.

A map showing observed change in Very Heavy Precipitation since the 1950s. Via U.S. Global Change Research Program
A map showing observed change in Very Heavy Precipitation since the 1950s. Via U.S. Global Change Research Program

And as it turns out, it’s not just our cars and our train stations that we should be worried about. Much of our energy infrastructure is also situated along coasts and shores, making them vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges, and flash flooding.

When Energy and Water Mix

The U.S. Energy Information Agency recently released a new mapping tool that shows how our energy infrastructure—think natural gas facilities, nuclear power plants, electricity stations—might be affected by hurricanes, heavy rains, overflowing rivers, and other flood events.

The map show areas that have a 1% (aqua) and 0.2% (orange) annual chance of flooding (a 1-in-100 and 1-in-500 chance, respectively), and overlays it with the location of our country’s energy infrastructure. To determine if a specific area is vulnerable, users can input an address, town, or county name and see street-level results. In fact, you must zoom in to street level view to really see the details.

Even a cursory look at this tool will confirm what you’re probably already thinking: a lot of our infrastructure is already at risk, especially in New York City.

The development of this tool was spurred by a request from New York City after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast, causing an estimated $65 billion in damage and extended blackouts in downtown Manhattan. The thinking is that the more data we have, the better decisions we can make in planning and in responding to emergencies.

In the image at the top of this post, you’ll see an area of Queens, the Bronx, and Randall’s Island with multiple power plants (we count at least seven, plus two petroleum terminals) at risk.

Here’s another shot, this time showing massive flooding in Red Hook and along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn:

Flooding in areas of Brooklyn, including Red Hook and Gowanus. Via US Energy Information Agency

Time to start battening down the hatches, NYC.


Map of the Week: BargeNYC

New York City’s garbage is a hot-button issue these days (see our 91st Street MTS post here if you’ve missed the hubbub). One thing we think helps put the fight into context is hard data—while you might have an opinion on where these transfer stations should be sited, you can’t argue with facts about where they currently are.

Plus, we all contribute to the problem (if, by some crazy chance, you manage to exist without producing trash, please let us know your secret!), so it’s extra-important to have an understanding of what happens to those bags after their curb-side pick-up.

Barge NYC has put together this map in order to show the location of our Waste Transfer Stations: the places where garbage trucks unload their goods. At these stations, our garbage is loaded onto tractor trailers, barges, or railcars, and ultimately taken out of state.

A few important points that the map makes:

  1. Most of the city’s transfer stations (59) utilize tractor-trailers to move trash. There are only seven marine transfer stations, and five rail transfer stations.
  2. The neighborhoods of Newtown Creek and the South Bronx host 32 transfer stations. Collectively, these stations handle more than 60% of NYC’s annual waste.
  3. Newtown Creek has 19 Waste Transfer Stations — this is the densest cluster in all of the city.

You can check out the map here. Another cool feature: click on the individual icons to see details about that specific station — and in some cases, a Google Map photo!

Are there any transfer stations in your neighborhood?

Map of the Week: NYC Toxic Sites

New York City may only have two official Superfund sites, but don’t feel too sad: according to this NYC Toxic Sites map released by Property Sharks, our bustling metro is absolutely littered with gasoline spills, oil tank failures, abandoned landfills, and other government-reported contamination threats.

Type in your address, neighborhood, or zip code, and learn what kind of toxic violations surround you. Out here in Ditmas, where all of NYER resides, we’re proud to report that aside from a smattering of “Tank Test Failures,” we’re not doing so bad.

For those of you who find yourselves sandwiched in between toxic icons on the map, Property Shark does caution that not all of them are reason for panic. “Not all icons are equally serious and some issues are much more benign than others,” explained Nancy Jorisch, a PropertyShark senior data analyst. Still, for a city threatened mightily by sea level rise and flooding, the density of toxic sites seems ominous, regardless of severity.

And yet, as overwhelming as the map may be, we’d love to see even more detail — right now, there’s no easy way to get the scoop on the individual icons near your property of choice. What exactly is an “MTBE Spill?” When did that “Tank Failure” occur? How do you know when to be worried and when to relax? More data, please!


In the meantime, let us know how your neighborhood fares in the comments!