Days after Superstorm Sandy struck New York City on Oct. 29, 2012, a line of people snaked up the stairwell at NYC Health & Hospitals/Bellevue Hospital, passing bucket after bucket of fuel to each other up and up to the 13th floor, where the generators stood. The hospital had been on backup power since the night of the storm, and the fuel pump and elevators weren't working.
"It was a full moon and a high tide," said Marcy Pressman, Bellevue's deputy executive director, and evacuation was not an option because the facility was designated a "shelter in place" hospital.
Unlike hospitals in Texas, which were mostly prepared for Hurricane Harvey's recent deluge and relied on flood barriers and other protections to stay open for business, some of New York's were hit particularly hard five years ago.
At Bellevue, two days after Sandy struck the hospital had no other choice but to evacuate its 736 patients. Other hospitals in the area also evacuated their patients to dry facilities. Bellevue, which had been open continuously since 1736, closed for the first time. NYU Langone Medical Center closed its emergency department, too, as did other facilities—some for months—as they struggled to recover after flooding.
It took some of these hospitals a long time to get back on their feet. In many areas, they found that the key is a combination of staying dry and being redundant: Have more than one generator and have those generators and fuel up high, and have patient data in more than one place.
With that in mind, these hospitals fortified themselves for the global-warming strengthened inevitable next storms—including Hurricane Irma, on the tail of Harvey—as they put what they learned into practice.