Bizarre January in New York City

Hope you're as intrigued as I am by the bizarre "coincidence" of the 5th Avenue "19.5 disaster" on Jan 2. As discussed in my original Web piece, (A Possible January, 1998 "Hale-Bopp Event"), January 2 was the day that Hale-Bopp's orbit actually "crossed" Sirius -- as seen from the moving Earth. If you count Jan 2 as a "miss" of one full day, the odds are 365/2, or -- 182 to 1 against "chance." So, so ... But wait.

According to one of the business owners quoted in today's second New York Times story (January 5, See below), the New York firefighters woke that owner (Taylor) and his wife "about 5:30 AM." That would reasonably put the break at "around 5:00 AM." Sirius was on the horizon at 4:54 AM in New York, Jan 2 -- as it was at 5:11 AM during the "Greenland Event," December 9.

I was also intrigued by Taylor's other comment: "It looked as if a bomb had gone off out there [emphasis added]." I'm having one of my former assistants in New York (Carrie Clark) check with the Columbia and other local geological observatories to see if there was any suspicious "seismic event" at around the "proper time." She's also getting us local video.

Now, according to the initial January 3rd Times' piece, "... 1.5 billion gallons of water [surges] daily through 6000 miles of [water] mains [under New York]." Since, according to the story, the break -- between "19th Street and 20th" -- was about five feet long, the odds of that "5 feet" rupturing between those two streets, out of 6000 total miles, is -- 6000 feet times 5280 feet/mile, divided by 5. Or--

Over 6 million to one ...

Factoring in the odds of the "break" choosing that exact time [when Sirius was within 10 arc minutes (one third of a Full Moon) of the horizon -- about "2000 to 1"], and that raises the odds against this being "an accident" to--

12,672,000,000 to 1!

Now, lets go back to the day; 180 to 1 for Jan 2 (as opposed to the 3rd) being "pure chance." We must multiply 12,672,000,000 by ~ 180, which give us "about 2 trillion to 1 ..." against chance! In other words, Art, the odds strongly favor at this point someone choosing a "small" symbolic event (as opposed to "the big one") to prove their "ritual Egyptian point" ... at "19.5," with Sirius on the horizon, in the one major city which sits at "Cydonia's latitude" on Earth -- 40.868 ... Getting interested?

Finally -- don't you think it strange, given the magnitude and location of this event (the heart of the most famous city in the world, on its most famous street), that NOTHING has appeared in ANY media (including the Web) ... outside of NYC (just like "Greenland") ..?

Burst Water Main Deluges Part of NYC's Fifth Avenue

The New York Times, Jan 3rd, 1998

NEW YORK -- A century-old water main ruptured under lower Fifth Avenue early Friday, creating a car-swallowing, curb-to-curb sinkhole and watery chaos in a bustling neighborhood whose streets resembled Venice for a few hours. Then, as the rivers receded, a gas main broke and the crater spewed forth a tower of orange flames.

No one was injured in the spectacular flood-and-fire day centered at Fifth Avenue near 19th Street. But water damaged scores of lobbies, storefronts and basements for blocks around, 40 residents were evacuated, hundreds of offices and businesses were closed, subways were halted, traffic was rerouted and gas, water, electric, steam heat and telephone services were disrupted for many.

By Friday night, the broken water and gas mains had been capped, the fire had been put out, basements were being pumped out and city officials were gloomily assessing a tangle of damaged water, gas, sewer and electrical lines.

Most of the utilities were expected to be restored over the weekend, but officials said Fifth Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets might be closed for a week.

"This one's a beaut," Commissioner Joel Miele, of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, said as he surveyed a gigantic crater that might have been the scene of a bombing or an earthquake. "This one's as good as I have ever seen, or heard of."

As residents, shop owners and office workers stood behind police barriers on soggy streets and gawked at flames that shot 20 feet in the air for two hours in the late morning, officials acknowledged that a day of excitement and some danger had left a residue of frustration for those who live and work in the area, and that the costs of repairs, cleanup and lost business might be heavy.

An owner of Moe Ginsburg, at 162 Fifth Ave., two blocks from the break, one of the largest of the many clothing dealers in the area, estimated lost sales Friday at $100,000. At Daffy's, a women's clothing and shoe store at Fifth Avenue and 16th Street that does $35,000 worth of business a day, water flooded a stock room filled with spring merchandise.

Siobhan York, a sales manager at a Nine West store at Fifth Avenue and 19th Street, said there were $2 million's in women's shoes, leather bags and other inventory trapped in her store. "It's going to kill my business," she said of the prospect of a week's closing.

While acknowledging financial and other hardships, city officials noted that it could have been worse. No one had been killed or injured, and they said the impact of the twin breaks on commuters, traffic and business generally had been minimized by fortuitous timing, since many offices and some businesses had closed for a long holiday weekend on the Friday after New Year's.

In an age of supersonic speeds and instant global everything, the events were also a reminder that a basic element of urban life -- a water system that most New Yorkers take for granted -- is still a creature of the past, laid down in horse-and-buggy days before anyone imagined punishing traffic vibrations and 1.5 billion gallons of water surging daily through 6,000 miles of mains.

The one that broke Friday was new in 1897, a 48-inch cast-iron pipe that carries 40 million gallons of water a day down Fifth Avenue. Evidently tortured by decades of rumbling traffic and the stress of temperature extremes in recent days, a chunk about 5 feet long ruptured under Fifth Avenue just north of 19th Street about 3 a.m.

Over the next six hours, millions of gallons of water surged out. It turned Fifth Avenue and adjacent 18th, 19th and 20th Streets into lakes a foot or two deep. It flooded scores of lobbies, storefronts and basements in a predominantly business district dotted with residents. It rolled east to Broadway and west to Sixth and Seventh Avenues and, following Manhattan's south-sloping topography, it ran in parallel rivers a half-mile down into Greenwich Village.

The waters also flooded nearby subway tunnels and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson tube that runs from New Jersey to 33rd Street, turning the morning rush into a nightmare for tens of thousands of commuters. The 1, 2, and 3 subway lines in the area were closed from 4:40 a.m. to 9:50 a.m., and F trains were down until 7:35 a.m. PATH service was not restored until the evening rush.

Meantime, a swath of Fifth Avenue's asphalt surface had collapsed into a jagged crater between 19th and 20th Streets. The hole extended 30 to 40 feet up the avenue, from sidewalk to sidewalk, and was 15 feet deep in spots. At some point, a car from New Jersey that had been parked on the avenue's east side slid in like a child's toy in a sandbox. Swallowed with it were parking meters, street signs and chunks of sidewalk.

Throughout the morning, as residents of the area were evacuated and barriers were erected to keep thousands of office and store workers and their customers out of the area, police closed off a 10-block area from 17th to 22nd Streets between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Buses and other traffic were rerouted around the trouble.

As city environmental and utility officials swarmed over the cratered scene, crews managed to shut off water leading to the ruptured main about 8 a.m., but water to many buildings in the area was was kept running over alternate routes on a complex grid that includes three smaller lines on Fifth Avenue.

But about 9:45 a.m., as firefighters prepared raise chunks of asphalt to let city workers get at the broken water main, the ground nearby -- much of it sand undermined by the water -- shifted and cracked open a 3-inch pipe that carries natural gas from a 24-inch main under the avenue into an office and residential building at 125 Fifth Ave.

Gas began flowing upward and some spark -- no one knows exactly -- ignited it into a whooshing tower of flame. Workers in the area, at first fearing a larger explosion, quickly retreated, and witnesses told of a sense of peril.

"We saw these Con Edison workers running away from the flames," said Beth Stover-Garcia, who with her husband, Jason, had been evacuated from their home at 125 Fifth Ave. and were watching from a block away. She said the flames reached up above lampposts as high as the second stories of nearby buildings.

About two hours later, firefighters and Con Edison workers drilled into the gas main, inserted a balloon-like rubber and leather diaphragm and cut off the gas supply. The flames slowly died, and were out completely about noon. But gas was shut off to more than 30 buildings along the avenue and on 19th and 20th Streets.

Electricity, steam for heating office buildings and telephone service were also shut off throughout much of the area, officials said. While the utilities were expected to be restored over the weekend, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management said it might take a week to repair extensive damage to underground water, sewer, gas and electric lines and to refill the crater and repair and repave Fifth Avenue.

While scores of people were evacuated from apartments on Fifth Avenue and in the adjacent sidestreets, only 40 residents of Fifth Avenue buildings were not allowed to return Friday, the Red Cross said. Some went to stay with friends or relatives, but 34 registered with the Red Cross for emergency housing and some were put up in hotels. It was unclear when all would be home again.

Some were let back Friday but only to get clothing, pets and other possessions. "We're trying to accommodate people where we can," Jerome M. Hauer, the director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, said. But for those on Fifth Avenue, a quick return was out of the question. "Clearly people won't be allowed into buildings on Fifth Avenue," he said. "There is no water, no gas, and a large amount of debris in the lobbies."

Some basements, including one at 125 Fifth Ave., the building closest to the broken mains, had water up to their ceilings. The building superintendent, Philip Jean-Jacques, said he had only got a glimpse in some of the windows, and had seen mud all over the first floor.

As firefighters pumped out flooded basements in the area, Hauer said late Friday that engineers had inspected the most heavily flooded buildings and had determined that none sustained any structural damage.

Asked about a series of structural problems that had befallen buildings in midtown Manhattan in recent weeks, including a building collapse on 42nd Street and bricks tumbling from a facade on Madison Avenue, Hauer said: "If you look at the individual situations, there is a fairly good explanation for each one."

As for Fifth Avenue, the traffic barriers were up from 18th Street to 23rd Street on Friday night, at least until Saturday. But the avenue will probably be closed between 19th and 21st Streets for a week, officials said.

"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it will be six or seven days before it will be fully reopened," Bruce Brodhoff, a spokesman for the emergency management office, said.

Saturday, January 3, 1998
Copyright 1998 The New York Times

Side Streets Edge Toward Normal, Work on 5th Ave. Sinkhole Plods On

The New York Times, Jan 4th, 1998

NEW YORK -- Some evacuated residents returned to their apartments, shoppers and workers filtered back into side streets and scores of emergency workers toiled in a huge crater on Fifth Avenue near 19th Street on Saturday, as the Flatiron district struggled to recover from the flooding and flames of water and gas main breaks.

As rerouted traffic eddied around the stricken block and many businesses reopened in adjacent side streets, life edged back toward normalcy in perimeter areas of Friday's twin ruptures, which flooded streets, basements, stores and lobbies for blocks around, and then shot a column of fire skyward for hours.

But progress was far slower Saturday at ground zero -- Fifth Avenue between 19th and 20th streets -- where the water gushing from the century-old water main had created a curb-to-curb sinkhole 15 feet deep. Although the ruptured mains had been capped and the danger was past, the water, gas, sewer, electric and telephone lines serving nine buildings on the block were all shattered.

And as backhoes and diesel shovels wrestled chunks of asphalt out of the hole, city officials said the task of reconnecting underground utility lines and of rebuilding the street would take several days to a week and that traffic on Fifth Avenue might not be flowing normally until next weekend or beyond.

"We believe we are going to have to replace almost all of the street and some of the sidewalk," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said at a news conference Saturday. "That will take a couple of days. The real issue is how much damage was done to the electrical systems going to the buildings on either side of Fifth Avenue." That, too, could take days, he said.

Jerome Hauer, director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, said that repairs might allow the resumption of traffic on a couple of lanes of Fifth Avenue later in the week. But he said the life on the block might not be normal for a couple of weeks.

There was no access to businesses and offices on the block Saturday, though some of the approximately 40 residents evacuated during the emergency were allowed to return to their apartments. Most were not inclined to stay in homes that had no heat, electricity or running water.

Traffic was still shut off on the avenue between 18th and 21st streets, and on 19th and 20th streets between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. But pedestrians -- residents, workers and customers -- were allowed back into the side streets, and many of the businesses that had been closed on Friday reopened Saturday.

Ismael Rasheed, the manager of Baboo Color Labs, a film-processing company at 37 West 20th St., said his business had lost $10,000 because of the forced closing on Friday, but added: "We've had no problems today. The customers can come into the street."

But a few doors away, Warren Schneider, the superintendent of a 12-story condominium at 40 West 20th St., said his building still had no gas heat or hot water and only partial elevator service. "There were four inches of water in the basement last night," he said. "The electricity was out, too, but it's back on today."

Ann Heinn-Inen, manager of the Tap Room, a brew pub restaurant at 3 West 18th St., said that basement flooding had spoiled malt used for on-site brewing, and that some of the brewing equipment also had been damaged. She said losses would be heavy unless the pub could reopen soon.

At the crater site, more than 40 city and utility workers labored over a tangle of broken pipes, sewers, and gas, electrical and telephone lines. Joel Miele, the city's commissioner of environmental protection, compared the repair work to that of a "surgeon reconnecting veins and arteries."

The most visible progress was in the appearance of the sinkhole. A parked car that had slid in had been hoisted out by a crane, and many of the jagged chunks of asphalt and sidewalk that had given it the look of a lunar impact crater had also been hauled away. That left a big sandy depression, where a tangle of utility lines hinted of a mass of adders in a pit.

Sunday, January 4, 1998
Copyright 1998 The New York Times

5th Ave. Is Still Drying Out After the Great Main Break

The New York Times, Jan 5th, 1998

NEW YORK -- Dan Esch was asleep in his basement apartment early Friday morning when his roommate said something about a flood. He opened his eyes and saw his cat's litter box floating through the bedroom with the cat inside. Books, shoes and a pair of pants were floating, too.

"Everything was bobbing around in this muddy, mucky water," said Esch, who lives on West 19th Street, less than a block from the spot on Fifth Avenue where a water main ruptured before dawn on Friday. "I had a lot of cleaning up to do."

He was not the only one. As emergency workers hurried to repair the century-old 48-inch main and reconnect utility lines along Fifth Avenue on Sunday, dozens of residents and business owners assessed the damage and continued the muck-removal that kept them busy all weekend.

Never hesitant to proclaim New York's superiority, even in disasters, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani snapped photographs at the site on Sunday and called it fascinating.

He said a lot of work had yet to be done and invited New Yorkers to come inspect the broken pipe, the 30-foot-long sinkhole the break created and the tangle of wires it exposed.

"It's actually a remarkable thing to see, to get to see what it looks like underneath a crowded New York City street," Giuliani said. "The complexity of that -- I think it's greater than the complexity of the human body."

Although most water, gas, sewer, electricity and telephone service had been restored by Sunday afternoon, people like Esch said their lives were hardly back to normal.

At 7 West 19th Street, Peter Taylor clucked as rubber-booted workers marched into the basement offices of his wife's business, A Better Tax Service. Taylor spent Saturday airing out computers and mopping the hardwood floors, which he said would have to be refinished. He and his wife, Sherry Jacobson, found out about the ruptured water main from firefighters who pounded on the door of their apartment, above the office, on Friday at 5:30 a.m.

Taylor, who had emigrated from Northern Ireland, said the damage was similar to that caused by bombs in his home country. "It looked as if a bomb had gone off out there," he said. "I think we probably were one of the lucky ones in terms of damage."

City officials said only five buildings along Fifth Avenue remained without electricity on Sunday night, and a spokesman for Consolidated Edison said five buildings remained without gas. A spokesman for Bell Atlantic said telephone service had been restored to the approximately 100 customers who had reported problems.

About 30 residents and 12 business owners were still not allowed to return.

Monday, January 5, 1998
Copyright 1998 The New York Times