Tim McDonnell joined the Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine, where he nurtured his interest in environmental journalism. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.
On Monday night, Hurricane Sandy's flood waters inundated electrical equipment underneath lower Manhattan and left hundreds of thousands of residents there without power. By Wednesday afternoon, nearly 240,000 were still in the dark, with no clear end in sight. Climate Desk visited one historic high-rise apartment where residents were running perilously low on water, food, and patience.
Any doubt about where Mitt Romney stands on climate change was infamously laid to rest at his GOP convention speech in August, when he drew guffaws from the audience with a gibe at President Obama for wanting to "slow the rise of the oceans" and to "heal the planet," while, in contrast, Romney would "help you and your family."
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, that rhetoric makes less sense than ever, as families reel from devastation wrought by "the rise of the oceans." So on Tuesday in Minneapolis, as East Coasters were just assessing the damage, Bill Clinton found an opportunity to call Romney's bluff: "In my part of America we would have liked it if someone could have done that yesterday."
"I think we all can agree we're seeing complete and utter devastation," Brendan Gallagher says, standing in front of the charred remains of his childhood home.
Just a short drive from New York City's famous Rockaway beaches, Breezy Point, Queens, is a quaint seaside hamlet where many cops and firefighters come to retire. It's a place known for charming historic bungalows and sweeping ocean views, but on Monday night it quickly became the setting for some of Hurricane Sandy's most terrifying damage.
As a massive storm surge swept in with the gale-force winds, an as-yet-unknown source sparked a fire that, according to New York City Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, ultimately leveled more than 100 homes—luckily, most residents heeded early evacuation warnings and no one was killed. Today, locals waded back in through still-receding flood waters to assess the damage while firefighters—some off-duty, picking through the wreckage of friends' and neighbors' homes—tamped down the smoldering ruins.
Big storms always raise the spectre of damage to nuclear reactors and other important energy infrastructure. But with wind speeds predicted to gust up to 90 mph today, how are the East Coast's wind turbines holding up to Hurricane Sandy?
"Wind turbines are designed specifically to harness the wind, but they are also designed to withstand it," Ellen Carey of the American Wind Energy Association said in an email. Most turbines are designed to stand up to winds up to 135 mph, she said, well beyond what's expected from this storm. And there are a host of techniques turbines operators can make use of to protect the infrastructure, starting with rotating the blades laterally so that wind slips through them.
Feel like you're undersaturated with campaign advertising? Need even more exposure to the slogans and smiling faces of our two major presidential contenders? When Alexey Komissarouk, a Bay Area programmer, wanted to add to the growing list of apps for political junkies, he designed a program that can give voters a bit more control over the web ads they see.
This week he and a few friends launched Hotspot the Vote, which harnesses Android devices to "Obamify" or "Romnify" WiFi routers so browsers will replace every ad (including ads for Amazon, Etsy, OkCupid, or whatever else you might normally see, along with ads for other politicians) with ads for your candidate.
"It's like putting up a campaign poster in your living room," he said. And while you might apprecitate being reminded of which candidate you're rooting for with each and every banner ad, the program packs a bigger punch when installed on public routers: Komissarouk is pitching the tool to coffee shops and other spaces with open internet connections. It's Obama or nothing at Philadelphia's Trolley Car Diner, a 1950s-style eatery that owner Ken Weinstein said "Obamified" its free WiFi yesterday.
"We're in a very liberal community," Weinstein said. "Our choice to Obamify reflects our clientele."
Still, Weinstein said the change didn't equate to an official Trolley Car Diner endorsement of the incumbent, and rejected the suggestion that limiting online content for his patrons was a form of censorship: "They have a choice about whether to eat here, and about whether to sign in to our WiFi. As long as we're providing it for free, I think that's reasonable."