Hundred of thousands of people in Lower Manhattan lost power all at once during Hurricane Sandy, and stayed in the dark for days. Now, Con Ed is making changes in the event the city is faced with another storm of Sandy's magnitude. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
It was 8:30 p.m. last October 29th when the flooding from Sandy overwhelmed the 13th Street substation, causing an explosion and ultimately plunging most of Manhattan below 34th Street into darkness. Over the past year, engineers and experts from Con Ed have worked to prevent this from ever happening again.
"In order for us to continue supplying reliable energy to the customer, these are things that are now a requirement," said Con Ed Area Manager Vic Faster.
One mile of higher concrete walls now surround the facility. They were finished in June. They're double the height of the floodwaters that poured in -- a plaque memorializes the high water mark -- and they're built to withstand the huge pressure exerted by the surge.
"It's not as easy as just building a wall to a certain height, you have to plan for the reinforcement of it," Faster said.
Critical infrastructure on the inside of the substation was storm hardened as well. Walls were built around sensitive machinery. Con Ed this week was testing a hand cranked lifting system.
"If that box was permanently at a low elevation it could be impacted by floods, so by now making it a crankable box that could be raised, you can raise it at times when there's any flood threat," Faster explained.
On both the inside and outside, the utility installed waterproof doors to seal in the facility.
"And it lowers it down onto the ground, compressing the gasket and then the same thing is true with these bolts, we crank these bolts, as well as the bolts on top to form a water tight floodgate," Faster said.
In addition to doors and walls, Con Ed is investing millions in other types of infrastructure improvements.
"Over the course of four years, our plan is to spend about a billion dollars, that's including investments in our distribution systems, in our substations, in our steam generation plants and on our gas systems," said Con Ed Engineer Griffin Reilly.
Con Ed says its response will be constantly evolving to deal with long-term threats.