April 15, 2024

For Flood Victims, Another Blow Is Possible

Thousands of homeowners in New York, New Jersey and nearby states added flood insurance last year after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee swamped much of the same area with heavy rains.

But many others are likely to find that their flood insurance policies have lapsed or that they wrongly assumed their homeowners’ policy would cover the damage. That is a common misunderstanding, according to insurance experts.

Flood insurance “is mandatory if you have a federally backed mortgage and you’re living in a flood-risk area,” said Erwann O. Michel-Kerjan, managing director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

But, he added, “the reality is slightly different. After many events, we realize that many people who were supposed to have that coverage were not covered.”

Just how many people face losses from this week’s storms is not yet known, according to officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program. The program subsidizes premiums on policies that are sold through private brokers.

Although local communities work with the agency to require coverage for residents in flood zones, the federal government does not track how many people in those areas lack coverage.

Enforcement of the requirements also is spotty. Most mortgage lenders require that buyers in certain property zones have flood insurance before closing on a home purchase. But relatively few monitor compliance with the requirement when the coverage expires, meaning that some homeowners inevitably allow their policies to lapse.

Even those who are current in their federal flood policies could find that all of their losses are not covered. Policies on residences of any type are limited to coverage limits of $250,000 on the structures and $100,000 of contents, and businesses are bound by $500,000 in building coverage and another $500,000 in contents.

For Hurricane Sandy, taxpayers could be responsible for $5 billion to $10 billion of total property damages estimated at twice that amount. This is because flood victims living in federal disaster areas will be eligible to receive aid, under certain circumstances, even if they don’t have flood insurance. Among the programs are one offering grants of up to $30,000 and another consisting of loans from the Small Business Administration — available  to homeowners as well — that carry a 4 percent interest rate.

That will be the case even though significant changes to the program were signed into law by President Obama in July. Among the most drastic changes is that vacation homes, businesses and properties with severe and repetitive losses will lose their flood-insurance subsidies, allowing premiums for those holdings to increase by 25 percent each year until they reach market rates — or what nonsubsidized private insurers would charge for the same policy.

Those changes stemmed from criticism that the program was largely a giveaway for wealthy beachfront property owners. Without it, they say, fewer people would be willing to take the risk of living in flood zones, particularly near the ocean.

Whether the move to market rates will survive over the long term is uncertain, at best. Real estate lobbyists, a powerful constituency in Washington, have long pushed to keep the price low for flood insurance policies because it makes it easier to sell homes in flood-prone areas.

But the new law will require market rates for newly purchased property, any property that has improvements exceeding 30 percent of its value or any new policy or renewal of a lapsed policy.

Even with those changes, the long-term survival of the program remains uncertain, according to government auditors, who have cataloged inefficiencies and management problems for years.

The program has about $18 billion in debts, said Orice Williams Brown, director of financial markets and community investment at the Government Accountability Office. Most of those debts are legacies of Hurricane Katrina, which caused such huge insurance losses that the federal program had to borrow money from the Treasury.

There are some bright spots in the flood insurance outlook, however. Thousands of homeowners who experienced flood losses this week now have coverage — thanks to the fact that they also suffered losses a year ago, from floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

One stipulation of receiving federal disaster money for uninsured damage caused by flooding is that the home or business owner is then required to buy flood insurance. When they do, the coverage is entered into a federal database, according to a FEMA spokesman, and the agency checks each recipient for new disaster aid against lists of previous events.

According to FEMA statistics, since last year’s storm damage, the number of federal flood policies covering properties in Pennsylvania grew by more than 7 percent, to 72,521 at the end of August. The number in New York State rose 3 percent to 168,905, while policies in New Jersey grew 2.3 percent, to 236,038.

Still, plenty of homeowners resist buying coverage, said Mr. Michel-Kerjan. “You often hear, ‘I was never flooded, so I didn’t think I needed that,’ ” he said.

Edward Wyatt reported from Washington and Mary Williams Walsh from Philadelphia.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/31/business/for-flood-victims-another-blow-is-possible.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Businesses Await Price Tag of Hurricane Sandy

Even as businesses struggled on Monday to gauge and contain the damage from Hurricane Sandy’s slow move up the East Coast, economists played down the likely long-term effects. The recovery after the storm, they said, could actually pump up growth temporarily in a few sectors, like construction and retail sales, when cleanup begins in earnest in a few days.

Immediately, though, the focus was on just how long it would take for business to resume as financial markets, department stores, and most big companies announced plans to close Tuesday for the second day in a row. Unlike some hurricanes that blew through in a day, Hurricane Sandy was projected to linger over the Northeast for much of the week, broadening the short-term fallout.

Over all, economic losses from the storm could range from $10 billion to $20 billion, according to an analysis by Eqecat, a firm that performs catastrophe risk modeling for the insurance industry and government. On that scale, big insurers might account for $5 billion to $10 billion in losses.

“We think it’s going to be big,” said Tom Larsen, senior vice president and product architect at Eqecat, suggesting the toll could fall somewhere between that of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Irene last year. “Broad areas are going to be subject to high winds for a longer period of time than in a normal Category 1 storm.”

Of course, some sectors will be hurt more than others. A study last year by the Global Business Travel Association estimated that a typical Category 3 hurricane on the East Coast could reduce spending on business travel by just under $700 million.

Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1 storm, which is significantly less powerful than a Category 3 hurricane, but its extended stay throughout the East Coast could actually result in higher losses than the study found, said Joseph Bates, the association’s vice president for research.

“The scenario we looked at only had an impact of one day,” he said. “This storm is going to last at least three days.”

Besides the halt in electronic and floor trading in virtually all Wall Street financial markets Monday and Tuesday, several prominent companies delayed scheduled announcements.

Pfizer, the big drug maker, put off its third-quarter earnings report until Thursday, while Thomson Reuters and NRG Energy delayed their reports until Friday.

Google canceled an event planned for Monday to introduce a new smartphone, the Nexus 4, as well as several new tablets, all aimed at the holiday shopping season. Facebook also called off an event showcasing its new Gifts platform, which had been set to take place at F.A.O. Schwarz in Manhattan on Thursday.

Major retailers began closing New York stores on Sunday afternoon.

Saks Fifth Avenue boarded up its flagship store in Manhattan, a striking image for a retailer known for its high-fashion windows.

“We have taken the necessary precautions in each store to protect our property and limit damage,” said a spokeswoman, Julia Bentley, in an e-mail. Saks closed stores in nine other locations from Maryland to Boston.

On Monday, about 130 of the 850 Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores nationwide were closed, said a spokesman, Jim Sluzewski.

“We’re not selling generators or bottled water or any of those sorts of items, so given that much of what we sell is discretionary, it’s not as big of an issue for our customers,” he said.

Sears Holdings had closed 115 stores as of midday Monday, and was monitoring the storm to see where to send generators for stores in case power went out, said a spokesman, Tom Aiello. Among Sears shoppers, tools and generators were popular items, while at the company’s Kmart unit, blankets, food and water were selling well, Mr. Aiello said.

Stephanie Clifford, Clifford Krauss and Stephanie Strom contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/business/brunt-of-business-impact-yet-to-come.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Top Social Topics in ’11: Bin Laden and Mubarak

Osama bin LadenAssociated PressOsama bin Laden

Almost two-thirds of adults who used the Internet in 2011 also belonged to social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Most people said they adopted these tools to stay connected with relatives and friends, new and old, the Pew study found. But what were they saying and sharing, beyond a baby’s first words, prom photos and other personal status updates?

Facebook and Twitter, two of the largest social platforms, issued year-end lists last month that provide insight into the topics that drove the conversation in 2011.

Osama bin Laden topped the list of global topics discussed on Facebook, which has 800 million users worldwide. What ranked No. 2? It was not the royal wedding, or Kim Kardashian’s wedding (and breakup). It was the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl. No. 3 was the news of Casey Anthony’s acquittal in the killing of her daughter, Caylee, 2.

At No. 4, Charlie Sheen’s well-documented problems surpassed conversation about the death of Steve Jobs. This put Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton in sixth place, ahead of the death of the British singer Amy Winehouse, the release of the video game Call of Duty MW3, military operations in Libya and Hurricane Irene.

The most shared article in the United States on Facebook, however, was a link from The New York Times showing a collection of satellite photos of Japan, before and after the earthquake and tsunami.

For Twitter users, the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was the hottest news topic, followed by the raid in which Bin Laden was killed, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya.

The top hashtag in 2011 on Twitter was #egypt.

The ending of the final game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup prompted the most Twitter tweets per second in 2011. That is a metric Twitter uses to measure the intensity of conversation about a single event. There were 7,196 tweets per second for the end of the game, compared with the 5,106 per second generated by the killing of Bin Laden.

“The most-shared stories have a couple of things in common: They are subjects that are compelling or fascinating at a human-interest level,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “Most people don’t have conversations about the latest doings of Congress or the Federal Reserve Board; they talk about things with a human, often celebrity face on them. And these stories are almost always fueled by traditional media.”

Facebook also made top 10 lists of musicians, athletes, television shows and movies discussed on the platform. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the final installment in the series, was the most-discussed movie. “House” was No. 1 on the list for television shows. “Pretty Little Liars” was the most-discussed television show on Twitter.

In sports Lionel Messi, the Argentine soccer star who plays for FC Barcelona, was the most-talked-about athlete on Facebook.

The top soccer player talked about on Twitter was Wayne Rooney of England.

The Facebook page with the most highly engaged audience in 2011? It was not Justin Bieber’s or Lady Gaga’s. The Jesus Daily, run by a doctor from North Carolina who posts inspiring words of Jesus from Scripture, maintained the top spot for most of the year.

“Spiritual groups are one of the oldest forms of social networks,” Mr. Rainie said. “They understood a fundamental truth about networks eons before the Internet existed: The most effective way to get things done and to survive is to form a community.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fed86ab165fcedfae3136a85d274df8d

Home Building Sags Again

Work began on a seasonally adjusted 571,000 homes last month, a 5 percent decline from July, according to the Commerce Department. That’s less than half of the 1.2 million that economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets.

Single-family homes, which represent roughly two-thirds of home construction, fell 1.4 percent. Apartment building plunged 12.4 percent. Building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 3.2 percent. One cause of the downturn was Hurricane Irene, which slowed construction in the Northeast.

Over all, homebuilding fell to its lowest levels in 50 years in 2009, when builders began work on just 554,000 homes. Last year was not much better.

While home construction represents a small portion of the housing market, it has an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

After previous recessions, housing accounted for at least 15 percent of economic growth in the United States. Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, it has contributed just 4 percent.

Cash-strapped builders are struggling to compete with deeply discounted foreclosures and short sales, when lenders allow borrowers to sell homes for less than what is owed on their mortgages. And few homes are selling.

New-home sales fell in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000, the weakest pace in five months. This year is shaping up to be the worst for sales on records dating back a half-century.

Renting has become a preferred option for many Americans who lost their jobs during the recession and were forced to leave their homes. Still, the surge in apartments has not been enough to offset the loss of single-family homebuilding.

Another reason sales have fallen is that previously occupied homes are a better deal than new homes. The median price of a new home is nearly 28 percent higher than the median price for a re-sale. That’s almost twice the markup in a healthy housing market.

The trade group said Monday that its survey of industry sentiment fell slightly to 14 in September. The index has been below 20 for all but one month during the past two years. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn’t reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=323df7953869632084ec18cfdb228097

Bucks Blog: Hurricane Damage Questions, Part 2: Flooding and Food

A flooded basement in Hoboken, N.J., after Hurricane Irene.ReutersA flooded basement in Hoboken, N.J., after Hurricane Irene.

Bucks readers have raised questions about hurricane claims for water damage and for food that spoiled due to a loss of electricity.

Hurricane Irene is expected to be one of the costliest storms in history, according to an article in Wednesday’s paper. But insurance may not pay for much of the damage because so many homes lack flood coverage. Just 17 percent of homeowners nationally carry flood insurance, said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Q. Does homeowners’ insurance typically cover damages from basement flooding that arises from a loss of power to the sump pumps?

A. Generally, no, although there are a handful of exceptions, Ms. Worters said. For instance, she said, a standard homeowner’s policy from Peerless Insurance may cover damage due to flooding that results specifically from a failed sump pump.

But in most cases, flood damage is excluded from standard homeowners’ policies. To have flood protection, you must buy a separate flood insurance policy. While you can buy these policies through your agent, the carrier in most cases is the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

The average flood insurance premium is about $600 a year, although costs in high-risk areas can be significantly higher, and premiums in low-risk areas lower, according to the flood insurance program. There’s usually a 30-day waiting period before coverage becomes effective after you buy it.

Even flood insurance doesn’t cover everything, however. There are often exclusions for damage to basements, Ms. Worters said. Typically, flood policies cover your foundation and mechanical equipment like furnaces and hot water heaters, as well as appliances like washers and dryers. But improvements to your basement, like finished walls and ceilings, and personal belongings you store there, aren’t covered, according to the flood insurance program.

You can find information about policy pricing here and read more background on the evolution of the flood insurance program here.

Q. Does insurance cover the loss of food in refrigerators/freezers due to extended power outages?

A. Yes, if the outage is storm-related, Ms. Worters said. Most homeowner policies include a set amount for food spoilage — typically, $250 to $500 per appliance. So if you have a refrigerator in your kitchen, and a deep freezer in your garage for stockpiling meat, you’d have $500 to $1,000 of coverage.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=110bbadd2afcfa35bfae99027831add0

Economix Blog: Casey B. Mulligan: Preparing for Disaster

DESCRIPTION

Casey B. Mulligan is an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

Much of the economics of environmental disasters is about anticipating and planning.

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

Hurricane Irene traveled the East Coast last weekend and was expected to be one of the rare hurricanes to hit New York (by the time it reached there, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm). Although many thousands of people in the region may be without electricity for days to come, New Yorkers are glad that Irene did little damage as hurricanes go.

The storm began to receive media attention the weekend before it arrived, and people in the New York area used the time to prepare themselves. Forecasters have been criticized for overestimating the amount of wind that New York would experience, but the winds and tides were plenty strong. Preparation was an important reason that damage was limited.

For example, the eye of the storm passed right over Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports, but planes did not crash because the airports were shut during the storm. Few lives and little cargo was lost from ships in the area because the ports were closed, and vessels moved out of the area.

Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power, and many homes were flooded. But, clearly, the damage would have been much worse if Hurricane Irene had hit with no warning.

I have no expertise in climate, weather, physics or aerodynamics, but one of the lessons of economics that environmental changes are less harmful when they can be anticipated. With only a few days of preparation, as with Hurricane Irene, people and mobile capital can be moved out of harm’s way. Protective barriers can be constructed for the immobile capital like homes.

New York was not given a definite warning of Irene a year ahead, let alone a decade ahead. But if it had been warned years ahead, the economy could have adjusted even more by making plans to locate activity in more protected places. Or perhaps even to invent goods and production processes that are more hurricane resistant.

The opportunities for preparation are one reason why economists expect the damage from global warming to be different, and perhaps less, than from natural disasters that hit by surprise.

Global warming is expected to raise temperatures and sea levels over a period of decades – perhaps centuries. Even if scientists are completely unable to retard or reverse the environmental consequences of global warming, thanks to decades of warning the economy can greatly adjust to minimize the economic costs of those environmental consequences.

That’s the thesis of a recent book, “Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future,” by Matthew Kahn of the University of California, Los Angeles (disclosure: Professor Kahn is a friend and was my classmate at the University of Chicago). Given advance warning, people will protect themselves and innovate in order to make sales in future market when the symptoms of global warming are more threatening.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d3d1e8e6358d0d38f90512810753300b

Bucks Blog: Tuesday Reading: How To Ensure Lunchbox Food Safety

August 30

Tuesday Reading: How To Ensure Lunchbox Food Safety

How to ensure lunchbox food safety, the case against a payroll tax cut, airlines struggle to rebook passengers after Hurricane Irene and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e765b7912d65a4aaab7b1d93c79832a8

Hurricane Coverage Is Ratings Driver for Weather Channel

NAGS HEAD, N.C. — Standing where he warned others not to tread, the beach on the Outer Banks during Hurricane Irene’s landfall, Mike Seidel had sand in his teeth, his pockets and his ears. He was soaking wet, barely able to hear — and he was beaming.

“We haven’t missed a live shot in three hours!” he exclaimed while trying to stand up on the battered beach here in his seventh hour of live television reporting. A minute later, he was back on the Weather Channel, where he would stay for a total of 15 hours on Saturday, seeing, feeling and tasting the storm several times each hour as a surrogate for viewers and a guide for evacuees.

Yes, what Mr. Seidel does may seem crazy at times, but most important for him and for his bosses, it is compelling TV — the Weather Channel’s ratings are never higher than when a hurricane is making landfall. Like Home Depot selling plywood for windows or Wal-Mart selling jugs of water, the Weather Channel sells coverage of weather-related disasters. Delivering on its promise to take people into the path of Mother Nature is what makes the channel a must-carry for cable systems across the United States, and what allows it to sell so many storm-related ads to insurance companies and home improvement stores before, during and after storms.

Commercials over the weekend urged viewers to “come back” after the storm coverage.

It is harder than it looks, staying on live television during a hurricane. But Mr. Seidel, a meteorologist by training, lives for it. After 10 hours on the air, when Eileen Winslow, a senior assignment editor, called to ask whether he wanted a break, he said firmly, “I don’t want any down time. Not till it ends.”

There are ways to show hurricane conditions safely, he says — by not going too far into the water, for instance, like some local television reporters did on Saturday, increasing their chances of being tugged out to sea by the current. Still, it briefly became dangerous for Mr. Seidel’s camera crew here at mid-afternoon on Saturday, as the core of the storm punched through the nearby Albemarle Sound.

It took three men to hold down the camera, which was perched on a slippery second-floor deck, peering down at Mr. Seidel on the wet beach. The crew feared the deck railing might fly away, so they moved to a safer third-floor balcony, eating up 45 minutes of broadcasting time. A different section of the deck railing did, indeed, collapse an hour later.

Hurricane Irene was an especially wide storm system, affecting an exceptionally high number of people on the East Coast, so television images served as a warning to people in harm’s way, and entertainment for those who were not.

All of the major television networks extended hours of news programming over the weekend; they knew that although some viewers laughed at images of reporters being blown over by winds, they were definitely watching. They were accused by many of overhyping the storm, but as the longtime anchor for NBC’s New York station, Chuck Scarborough, said on air on Sunday, “We’re in the news business. We deal in doom.”

For Irene, Mr. Seidel first flew to Palm Beach, Fla., for live shots on Monday, when the hurricane was threatening Florida. He moved to North Carolina on Wednesday. Finally, as the storm made landfall on Saturday about 80 miles south-southwest of here, there was news to report.

Mr. Seidel started broadcasting at 5 a.m. from the second-floor deck of the Comfort Inn in South Nags Head, purposely positioning himself away from the protection of the building to show the most serious winds. Sometimes he’d have to stand there, silently braced against the deck railing, just so the channel could show he was there — what he called a “bobble-head” shot.

In between live shots he wiped the rain off his face with a white towel and studied the radar on his laptop. But he spent more time outside than in.

At noon, when Mr. Seidel asked for a bathroom break, his producer, Melody Taylor, joked, “Is that allowed, really?”

She added, “The last time I asked for 10 minutes for you, they were calling me in three.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=00b162b16ddb06a45d5f9ba08ff6da31

After Hurricane Irene, Markets Plan Business as Usual

The nation’s stock exchanges, after consulting with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said Sunday that they planned to open as usual on Monday morning. Wall Street banks said they, too, would be open for business as usual, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said bond markets were on schedule as well.

The New York Stock Exchange, in a statement, said the decision to open on schedule followed a detailed review with New York City officials “of the operational readiness of metro area safety, power, water and transportation systems, in addition to a readiness assessment of our own trading and data center facilities.”

With negligible physical damage from Hurricane Irene, the question for Wall Street was whether mass transit would be able to get people onto the trading floors in Manhattan.

But even without subways and buses, the New York Stock Exchange and the companies that employ the traders on the floor of the exchange have contingency plans to help them function with minimal staff. Many of their employees live in Manhattan or expect to drive into the city, while others were put up in hotels over the weekend.

The New York Federal Reserve also was unaffected by the storm and was expecting employees to make transportation arrangements or to work remotely Monday if mass transit was still disrupted.

Exchanges like the N.Y.S.E. and Nasdaq, BATS Trading and Direct Edge, the nation’s big electronic exchanges, have their computer centers based in New Jersey, where they also have robust backup centers that survived the storm.

Nasdaq said it had moved some staff members to alternative sites ahead of the storm but was now ready to open its market as usual Monday. Rather than force employees to commute into Manhattan, however, it would start by operating its exchange from one of its parallel centers in an undisclosed location.

The New York Stock Exchange was last closed for a weather-related reason in 1996 because of a snow storm. It was also closed for a day in 1985 during Hurricane Gloria.

Before the weekend, Wall Street’s banks were putting in place contingency plans, talking to regulators and asking employees to check systems they could use for trading from home. Many have offices around the country and said they were prepared to switch more of their operations there if necessary.

Many of New York’s largest investment banks have their headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and thus fell outside the city’s designated evacuation zones. They were planning on opening for business as normal on Monday, although some were still looking at ways to transport staff into New York if mass transit was not functioning.

The banks reported no damage to their facilities, including Goldman Sachs, whose Battery Park City headquarters was included in Mayor Bloomberg’s evacuation order. A Goldman spokesman added that “people who need to work from home will be able to.”

After closing some of its operations over the weekend, American Express, based in the World Financial Center, said its office would be closed Monday and was asking people to work from home.

Credit Suisse said it was ready to open on Monday because of its contingency planning, including “the provision of accommodations and transportation for essential New York staff.” Citigroup also said it was looking at alternative transportation to help staff.

A spokesman from Deutsche Bank said that the bank would decide later Sunday whether employees would work from its 60 Wall Street headquarters or an alternate facility, depending on the state of mass transit.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=364c92e5a126099399c185acf849dc62

Wireless Phone Networks Stood Up Well to Irene

Wireless phone networks held up well against Hurricane Irene despite widespread power outages.

Even in cases where people were without power, many were still able to communicate using e-mail and social networks, thanks to battery-powered mobile devices.

As cleanup crews and home owners began to assess the scope of the damage on Sunday, wireless phone companies were reporting that the storm’s effect on their networks was minimal and that most customers did not experience cellular outages, despite the high winds and ferocious rains. The wireless providers said the full extent might not be known until after Irene finished up and moved off shore.

The Federal Communications Commission, which activated the Disaster Information Reporting System, an online tool that helps the organization gather information and assess the breadth of damage to the country’s communications networks, is still gauging the extent of the disruptions.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for ATT, said Irene battered the company’s network in several areas, including North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Delaware. The company is still working to assess the storm’s effect in New York, he said.  “We are ready to respond as soon as our crews are safely able to,” he added.

Representatives at T-Mobile reported similar findings, stating that the damage to their networks was minimal. “We’re seeing, on average, a 10 percent impact across the East due to power outages and flooding,” said Troy Edwards, a spokesman for T-Mobile. “The majority of these outages are in our Virginia and Carolinas footprint.”

Mr. Edwards said the company was sending equipment and workers to help reinforce repair efforts in the areas most affected by the storm.

Crystal Davis, a spokeswoman for Sprint, said wireless service was spotty in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because of a loss of commercial power and local landline service.

Verizon’s network was “performing well,” said a spokesman, Howard Waterman. “Some cells in areas that lost commercial power have backup generators helping us continue to deliver wireless service,” he said.

What at first could appear paradoxical — Twitter and Facebook users posting that they had lost power — was feasible thanks to smartphones, laptop computers and tablets. In the days leading up to the hurricane’s arrival, advice to charge all portable devices became almost as commonplace as old standbys like making sure flashlights had batteries and bottled water was in supply.

Indeed, many people who lost power and access to news on television could view news over the Internet on battery-powered computers or cellphones. People with mobile battery chargers in their cars could recharge.

The rise of mobile devices turns the conventional wisdom about landline telephones on its head. For decades, the landline phone was trusted to be more reliable than the electricity grid because the phone network’s dedicated power supply often survived blackouts. 

But the evolution of the landline — which first saw cordless phones (that do not work in blackouts) and Internet-based telephony (which requires a battery backup in case of blackouts) — has led to a decrease in its reliability. That hole has been filled, to some degree, by wireless voice and data networks.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f238cc250c607fd8f638ae2b9c2eac08