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News Link • Natural Disasters

FYI: Why Does Salt Water Make Hurricane Damage So Much Worse?

•, By Colin Lecher

Sandy crippled the NYC subway system this week, knocking out power, damaging switches, and dumping gallons of storm water into the city's aging tunnel infrastructure. Officials estimated that it would take several days for the subway to return to normal (some lines have already resumed service), and a 2011 study on similar disasters suggested it could take even longer, up to several months. A big part of the problem? Salt.

Unlike a rainstorm, a hurricane--or superstorm, which Sandy was demoted to--scoops up salt from oceans and estuaries the way a kid scoops up sand at a beach. The "brackish" water (salty but not extremely salty) and the saltwater (about 35 parts per million salt) get mixed up with freshwater and carried inland by the storm surge. When that water is pushed to shore, it can be more damaging than the salt-free version, especially if comes into contact with electronic equipment (as was the case with Sandy).

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