5 Pieces Of Infrastructure That Are Still Spotty Thanks To Sandy

The storm has passed New York City, but services are still on the fritz in many places. (Updated.)

1. Cellphone coverage

Update: AT&T and T-Mobile just announced a roaming agreement between the two, allowing customers of both networks to use whichever one is operational in their area, with no additional charges or messing with settings on their phones.

Customers will be able to place calls just as they normally would, but their calls will be carried by whichever network is most operational in their area.

This will be seamless for AT&T and T-Mobile customers with no change to their current rate plans or service agreements even if the phone indicates the device is attached to the other carrier’s network.

T-Mobile and AT&T both utilize network technology based on GSM and UMTS standards, which allows for this sharing of voice and data traffic.

The above photo, posted on Verizon’s on Wednesday morning, of one of its buildings in Lower Manhattan, shows what the telecom is up against. Here is a portion of its post:

Restoration efforts across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions continue today and into the foreseeable future following Sandy’s historic landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening. Given the extensive damage from the flooding and the high winds, relief agencies are just now calculating how long it will be until transportation, power and other necessities of daily living are operational. Many experts are predicting days, if not weeks, for this to happen.

The hardest hit area is Lower Manhattan, where Verizon continues to focus significant efforts on restoring services below 39th Street, where conditions are bleak. Good progress is being made at Verizon’s network technical facilities there. Due to the record flooding in the area, some faculties had water in basements areas which damaged some of the backup power equipment including generators and fuel pumps…Verizon’s communications equipment — voice switches, data equipment, routers — in these faculties are located on higher floors as designed and have not been damaged.

Sprint put out another statement on Tuesday night, also noting its difficulty getting back up and powered:

We are experiencing service impacts in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy and the concurrent winter weather conditions, particularly in the New York tri-state area, parts of Pennsylvania, and parts of New England. This is due to loss of commercial power, flooding, loss of cell site backhaul connections, site access and damaging debris. Safety is our priority, and weather and safety conditions are still dire in some areas.

T-Mobile, in a blog post, said that their services were 90% percent operational in Washington D.C., 80 percent operational in New York City. They, too, noted their problem areas:

Restoration work continues in the harder hit areas of lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, coastal and Northern New Jersey, Connecticut and portions of Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia.

AT&T’s most recent statement:

As we continue to closely monitor our wireline and wireless networks for service disruptions, we are experiencing some issues in areas heavily impacted by the storm. We are in the initial stages of performing an on-the-ground assessment of our network for damage and crews will be working around the clock to restore service. We are deploying personnel and equipment as soon as it is safe to do so.

Unfortunately, things might get worse before they get better. A story in Computerworld noted that the wireless routers (cell hubs located in, ugh, basements of cell towers) are powered by diesel-fueled generators. The FCC has warned that some of those back-ups might run out of fuel. But at least it’s bringing certain neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan closer, like this group in Alphabet on 9th St and Ave. C.

2. New York City Airports

As the pictures posted by JetBlue show, LaGuardia was literally under water. Two of the metropolitan New York airports have opened, Newark and JFK, albeit with minimal flights, according to USA Today. LaGuardia remains closed. Expect scattered cancellations at other airports on the Eastern seaboard but the major airports in Boston, Baltimore, etc. are currently open. Overall, almost 20,000 flights were cancelled.

3. Data Centers

As BuzzFeed readers know, like HuffingtonPost and Gawker, our website went down thanks to Sandy. As this story details, two major data centers in Manhattan experienced intense flooding, and one of the most wired buildings in the city, 111 8th Avenue, also saw a loss of services. Gawker remains down, angering Nick Denton. As this Wired story details, it took heroic efforts to build BuzzFeed a new site on Amazon servers overnight. As the data centers remain partially flooded, scattered servers around the world seem to have picked up the slack.

4. The New York Stock Exchange

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

The stock exchange is open, although, as this Businessweek story notes, people have having some trouble using the cell phones on the floor. (See above on cell phone service.)

5. Postal Services

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The famous U.S. Postal Service adage about wind, sleet, etc. aside, expect some delays in package and mail delivery. FedEx noted on its website that “although contingency plans are in place, some service delays and disruptions can be anticipated in the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia” and has a downloadable spreadsheet of affected zipcodes. On the bright side, it just landed the first flight at re-opened Newark airport.

UPS also has a list of impacted zipcodes up on their site, but is beginning to resume normal services.

While some mail is still being delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, check their website for alerts: some sites are still without power and carriers are asked to use their discretion before venturing out.

Keep in mind that Sandy hit at a particularly bad time for the shipping industry, as the holiday season is about to ramp up. UPS has begun to hire 55,000 seasonal workers and for some, their first job will be sorting out the packages held up by Sandy.

6. Bonus: The Ever-Helpful Transportation Tracker

Go to WNYC’s Transportation Tracker page to see updates on this fantastic creation.

The subways and railways have been some of the hardest hit bits of infrastructure and service is slow to be returned. In New York City, buses have begun running again but subways remain closed until Thursday, when limited service is slated to begin. Metro-North and LIRR will start limited runs this afternoon. New York City bridges are open, and the traffic is predictably horrible. Also of note: people are saying on Twitter that transportation apps are useless w/r/t the NYC bus schedules, buses are packed but, hey, at least they are free.

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