New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

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The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.

MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

Russia Prepares for Nuclear War

New satellite images suggest military buildup in Russia’s strategic Baltic enclave

By Oren Liebermann, Frederik Pleitgen and Vasco Cotovio, CNN

Updated 6:24 PM EDT, Wed October 17, 2018)

Reykjavik, Iceland (CNN) New satellite imagery shared exclusively with CNN shows Russia appearing to upgrade four of its military installations in Kaliningrad, Russia’s strategic outpost on NATO’s doorstep.

Kaliningrad — Russian territory that’s sandwiched between Poland and the Baltics but disconnected from the rest of Russia, known as an exclave — has been a focal point in tensions between Russia and the West.


Earlier this year, aerial images came to light that suggested the Russians had significantly modernized a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad. Now, satellite imagery and analysis from ImageSat International, a commercial satellite firm, appear to confirm that a major modernization is underway in at least four locations throughout the region.

Those upgrades include fresh work at what analysts have identified as the Kaliningrad nuclear weapons storage site. Images captured between July 19 and October 1 indicate work on an exposed bunker under renovation that appears to conceal activity underneath.

Another set of images shows 40 new bunkers under construction, increasing capacity at a military storage area near Primorsk, Russia’s second-largest port on the Baltic Sea. The new bunkers surround older, smaller bunkers at the center of the site. Images from July 18 show the bunkers under construction; 10 weeks later, the bunkers appear complete.

A short distance north of Kaliningrad, images appear to show upgrades to the Chkalovsk air base, including a new railway and the installation of an instrument landing system that would allow aircraft to land in inclement weather.

A final set of images shows the upgrades in Chernyakhovsk, a base that houses the 152nd Missile Brigade of the Russian military. In February, the base received nuclear-capable Iskander missiles, prompting a US defense official to call it “the biggest move we’ve seen” in terms of Russian militarization of the Baltics.

The Russian military did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on new evidence of military modernization in Kaliningrad. But the Russian government has consistently defended its right to deploy weapons there.

‘We’re not going to be intimidated’

Kaliningrad matters because of its strategic location.

“It’s very important for them [the Russians] because that is their port on the Baltic sea,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.

“They don’t have a land bridge that extends to that area … and so they’ve built it up over time.”

Foggo, who did not comment directly on the new images, said Russia’s presence in the exclave does not deter NATO from operating in the region.

“If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them,” he said. “We’re not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there.”

But US military officials say they are concerned by what they call Russia’s ability to establish “anti-access/area denial” capabilities, or, weaponry that reduces NATO’s potential freedom to maneuver in the region. Those include some of the modern weapons systems stationed in Kaliningrad, including anti-ship missiles, radar systems and surface-to-air missiles.

The ImageSat International report bolsters findings from a June 2018 Federation of American Scientists (FAS) conclusion that Russia may have significantly modernized the nuclear weapons storage site since 2016. The FAS report pointed to an underground bunker that was excavated and deepened before it was covered over again, “presumably to return (to) operational status soon.”

The new ImageSat report points to upgrades at the same bunker. Hans M. Kristensen, the director of nuclear information at FAS, previously said it was unclear if nuclear weapons are or were stored at the site, but suggested the weapons could be moved there quickly in a crisis.

Tensions running high

Kaliningrad sits about 482 kilometers (300 miles) west of mainland Russia, and as tensions between NATO and Russia have escalated, Kaliningrad has become a major fault line in relations between Russia and the West. NATO has stepped up its military presence in the Baltic region; in addition, US President Donald Trump has demanded that fellow NATO members invest more in defense spending.

But Kaliningrad isn’t Russia’s only frontier with NATO. Russia also shares a small border with Norway, where US Marines will be training later this month as part of Trident Juncture, a major NATO military exercise involving 50,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 150 aircraft and 65 vessels.

Trident Juncture is meant to send a message. It is a so-called Article 5 exercise that tests the readiness of NATO allies to come in to restore the sovereignty of one of its members — in this case, Norway — after an act of aggression.

US Marines conduct military drills on Wednesday in Iceland, ahead of the Trident Juncture exercise in Norway, NATO’s largest since the end of the Cold War.

Tensions between Russia and the West have been at highs not seen since the Cold War, amid the poisonings in England, allegations of Russian election meddling and Western sanctions on Moscow.

But Foggo, who is overseeing Trident Juncture, said the exercise wasn’t a threat to Russia, noting that NATO and Russian troops would be more than 700 kilometers (approximately 435 miles) apart from each other during the maneuvers. NATO, he added, had invited Russian and Belarusian observers to monitor the exercise.

“I want them to be there because that conveys the strength of the alliance,” Foggo said.

This story has been updated to correctly identify the instrument landing system in a satellite image provided by ImageSat International.

War Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Palestinian protesters carry tires as smoke billows during a protest along the Israel-Gaza border, October 12, 2018.AFP

Defense Chief: Israel Must Deal Hamas a Blow – Even if It Means War in Gaza

Almog Ben Zikri16.10.2018 | 11:37

Israel needs to decide if it is headed toward war in Gaza, Avigdor Lieberman says, and a military blow ‘is the only way to lower the level of violence to zero or close to zero’

Defense Minister Avidgor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Israel must decide if it is headed toward another war with Hamas in Gaza.

According to Lieberman, the security cabinet should order a military blow against the Islamist group “even at a price of moving to a wide-scale confrontation.”

Israel does not intend to continue responding to violent incidents along the border as it has in the past, the defense minister declared. “My opinion is very clear. We must land a strong blow against Hamas. That’s the only way to lower the level of violence to zero or close to zero.”

The security cabinet is expected to meet on Wednesday for a second time this week on the situation in Gaza.

In a visit to the Israeli army’s division near the Gaza border, Lieberman said the violence on the border last Friday led him to understand that the situation there has changed, and that Israel must change its approach toward the incidents along the border fence.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, on a visit to the IDF’s Gaza Division, which serves near the Gaza Strip border, Oct. 16, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

“Since we’ve allowed the United Nations to bring fuel [into Gaza], we have only gotten high-profile violence,” he said. “We’ve reached a red line and now is the time to make decisions.”

The problem in Gaza is not Hamas’ tactical activity, including the lauching of incendiary balloon and the burning of tires, but rather Hamas’ decision to push for an end to the siege of Gaza, the defense minister said. Both Israel and Egypt have limited the flow of people and goods in and out of the Hamas-controlled enclave.

“The Jewish people’s genetic defect is that we refuse to listen and make our own interpretation,” he said. “We need to accept things as they are.”

Israel has done everything that it could not to escalate the violence on the border, the defense minister said. “We have exhausted all of the options and all of the possibilities. Now is the time to make decisions.”

Defense officials have expressed the belief that a wide-scale confrontation in Gaza is not necessary. One senior official said Monday that in light of Gaza residents’ situation, it would be difficult for the Israeli army to conduct combat operations in the Strip without Israel coming in for international criticism.

The army is taking the position that efforts should be made to avoid a military confrontation with Hamas until the end of next year, when work on Israeli infrastructure along the Gaza border designed to prevent Hamas from building attack tunnels under the border will be complete.

While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Lieberman commented on an interview with an Italian daily that Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, gave at the beginning of the month in which he said Hamas was not interested in war. Lieberman said the remarks should not be taken seriously.

“It doesn’t matter what Arab leaders say in Hebrew or English,” the defense minister said. “What’s important is what they say in Arabic.”

Asked by Haaretz to comment on the disappearance of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Lieberman said Israel has many problems of its own. “Leave that to the international community,” he concluded.

The continuing violence from Gaza, which has included mass demonstrations along the border fence and more recently the use of incendiary kites and balloons to set fires on the Israeli side of the border, have been ongoing since March. About 200 Palestinians have been killed in the clashes.

On Monday alone, 24 Palestinians were wounded by live Israeli military fire in clashes near the Gaza border, the Gaza Health Ministry said. According to the Israel Defense Forces, 2,000 Palestinians demonstrated for several hours near the border in northern Gaza.

Earlier Monday, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said Israeli aircraft fired at a Hamas position in southern Gaza after two Palestinians placed an explosive charge near the border fence. There were no casualties in the incident. On Friday, seven Palestinians were reportedly killed by Israeli army fire as some 15,000 protesters demonstrated along the border.

In light of the continued violence over the weekend, Lieberman ordered a halt to deliveries of fuel and natural gas into the Strip despite opposition from senior defense officials to the step. The officials expressed the belief that a distinction should be made between fuel supplies sent in by Israel to avert a humanitarian crisis and other fuel that the Gulf state of Qatar is contributing. Israel delivers daily supplies of fuel and natural gas at levels that it says are the minimum required to prevent a collapse in Gaza.