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  • Hurricane Sandy left a lot of eponymous sand lying around, some of which ground things to a halt. Do you know what sand does to an electric motor or generator? It's like hitting the Delete key as you type, except there's no Undo.

    Salt was part if its assault. Tons of it coated subway tracks and signaling equipment in the NYC MTA and lubricated vehicular tunnels. The pit at Ground Zero became a tide pool. Con Ed is hosing down substations. The grid is in barely functioning tatters.

    Sitting in idling cars with nowhere to go, people plug in their phones to recharge as they affirm to their connections that they are hanging in there. But where? In Brooklyn, with fish rotting in distributors' warehouses. In lower Manhattan, ready for markets to open with no change of underwear. In Queens, with an eight mile walk to work tomorrow. In Staten Island, floating face down near the remnants of a wharf after having refused to evacuate.

    Thirteen years ago, Hurricane Floyd charged through the New York City area, closing schools and sending families to shelters. Only then, there were fewer households, businesses, lanes of road, switching centers and bus routes to disrupt, not to mention all the digital infrastructure we take for granted nowadays, systems that feed on electricity and hate water like cats. The systems we now depend on are both bigger and more brittle. And the storms get bigger.

    Whether you believe we're in for more frequent and fierce storms or not, there's no denying that major ones like Sandy can shut us down more thoroughly than they would have in earlier times. We are so into our digital media and devices that a natural or man-made catastrophe can render us deaf, dumb and blind.

    Do you believe we have really progressed, and are you ready for the next big storm? Which will surely come.
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