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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Day New York Drowned: A Science Fiction Story

The Day New York Drowned: A Science Fiction Story Scientists had long predicted that it might happen. In the Atlantic Ocean near the northeast tip of North Africa are the Canary Islands. Scientists knew that one side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in one of the Canary Islands was unstable. The scientists warned that the next time the volcano erupted, that side of the volcano might collapse, sending 20 cubic kilometers of rock into the ocean. This, the scientists warned, would cause a huge tsunami that would travel all the way to the eastern cities of the United States, putting them underwater. But few people paid much attention to the warnings.

Then one day in the year 2025 the volcano in one of the Canary Islands started erupting. Warnings went out on the internet and television programs. Few of those in New York City paid much attention to the warnings. People went to work as usual.

Then the side of the volcano collapsed, sending 20 cubic kilometers of rock into the ocean. A gigantic tsunami was created, larger than any that had been seen in modern times. The gigantic wave headed for the eastern cities of the United States.

Within a half an hour the tsunami came into contact with an unlucky ocean liner in its path. The huge ship was snapped into two pieces like a piece of celery broken into two by a hungry teenager. Hundreds on board died.


It took several hours before the media started raising dire warnings about the approach of the tsunami. By the time word of the event started to sink in, the tsunami was only a few hours away from New York City.

On the 85th floor of the rebuilt World Trade Center, there was finally an announcement over loudspeakers about the approaching tsunami. The first reaction of securities analyst Michael Postel was to call an emergency meeting to discuss the market implications of the sudden event.

This could be a market maker,” said Postel. “Let's put our heads together to discuss our trading positions. This may be a good time to short the stock market.”

Screw the stock market!” said Linda Tsang. “Right now we've got to figure out how to save our own skins! If that tsunami hits us, we're toast.”

Postel looked out the window, down towards the PATH train entrance near the World Trade Center. He saw a huge throng of people at the entrance of the PATH. It looked like there was a sudden mass exodus of people trying to get out of Manhattan, to the safety of New Jersey, where they could get other trains far inland.

I'm leaving now to get the train to New Jersey,” said Linda.

I'm going to walk to the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Michael Postel. “I'll try and hustle over to Brooklyn Heights, which isn't too far. On that high ground, I might be safe.”

I'm going to stay here,” said Postel's boss Sam Peterson. “As long as this building doesn't fall, I should be okay.”

Michael and Linda used the building stairs to exit the World Trade Center. Michael began walking the half mile walk to the Brooklyn Bridge. He tried to hail a cab, but it seemed impossible to get one.

Linda faced a much different situation. The PATH train entrance was only about 150 yards from the World Trade Center, but the walkway was clogged by many thousands of people trying to get in to the train entrance at the same time.

Linda finally got into the PATH train entrance. There was a long delay before she could get a train. She finally was able to make it to the train station at Newark, New Jersey. She waited impatiently for a train that would take her further inland.

Michael made it to the Brooklyn Bridge. He found it clogged with thousands of pedestrians fleeing Manhattan. It was almost impossible to move. The bumper-to-bumper traffic was at a standstill. Finally Michael had an idea. He jumped on top of the bumper of a car, and climbed onto its roof. He then walked over the roof, onto to the hood of the car. From there, he jumped onto the rear bumper of the car ahead of that car. Repeating the same process, he began using car roofs and car hoods as a weird pathway to move forward on the car-jammed bridge. He had to jump between different lanes many times, but he was finally able to make it to the end of the bridge. He then began running the short distance to the high ground of Brooklyn Heights.

From his office in the World Trade Center, Sam watched in horror as the gigantic tsunami crashed into New York City. He saw many buildings submerged by the gigantic wave. He looked down at the crowd of people in front of the PATH train entrance, and saw them all buried by the gigantic wave. Sam saw some tall buildings snap in two when the tsunami hit.

From a spot in Brooklyn Heights, Michael watched as the tsunami submerged the Brooklyn Bridge. Thank God I didn't try to stay there, he thought.

At the train station in Newark, Linda waited impatiently for her train. She looked down the train tunnel, wondering when the train would arrive. At last she heard a distant rumble. Her heart was lifted. That must be my train, she thought, the one that will take me away from this danger. But then she looked at the tunnel again. Coming down the tunnel was not a train, but a gigantic surge of water. The low-lying city of Newark was being submerged by the tsunami. The merciless water drowned everyone in the train station, including Linda.

Sam and Michael survived. Sam thanked the engineers who designed the new World Trade Center. They had designed the building to be especially strong, so it would not fall in another terrorist attack. The same structural strength had allowed it to survive the tsunami. Many other buildings in Manhattan were toppled by the mighty wave.

After a few hours, the water levels began to drop, and in a few days the water was gone. When people began to walk down the streets of Manhattan again, they could not believe how it looked. The streets and buildings were are all coated in muddy, oily gunk. The streets were littered with thousands of upside-down cars, countless corpses, millions of papers, endless pieces of building wreckage, and every type of trash.

If we were to bus in every person in the United States,” said one observer, “it would take us a year to clean up this mess.” 

Author's note: the danger of a mega-tsunami hitting New York City is small but real. Google for 'Canary Islands mega-tsunami' for more information.