What Will Happen If The Three Gorges Dam Fails

Recently I have been seeing a lot of Facebook and Twitter post about the potential failure of the Three Gorges Dam in China. Most of the posts are speculating about total failure of the dam. This Twitter thread is a case in point:

I think that looking at a total dam failure potentially misses the more likely partial failure and I thought that I would look at some failures that don’t involve the total collapse of the dam, but are still very bad. Here is a simulation of what could happen if the dam fails.

To call it potential disaster is understating the case. A small dam failure in Jonestown PA is still talked about a century later as a major disaster. If Three Gorges fails, the scope of the disaster will be incalculable.

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Safety Engineering

Cars are hard to engineer.  First of all, unless you are building the latest super car, you are going to be building a lot of them.  and they will last a long time.  Current cars will probably still be running for decades in some cases. Yet you are constantly fighting to keep costs as low as possible to retain competitive market share. So an engineer is constantly fighting serious compromises.

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Amtrak’s plan for Northeast Corridor Improvements.

My local paper had this article in it the other day.

The “Preferred Alternative: A Vision for Growth of the Northeast Corridor,” as laid out at www.necfuture.com, shows tunnels, trenches, embankments and “aerial structures” carving new routes through the highly developed corridor.

Those and other improvements, from Washington, D.C., to Boston, would boost capacity and shorten travel times, the FRA said.

But, local officials and one commuter advocate aren’t swooning over the plan, which could entail extensive property seizures and massive construction in densely populated communities.

“Be careful what you wish,” said Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group, which represents Metro-North Railroad and Shore Line East riders. “If the state basically said to the Federal Railroad Administration, ‘We endorse going along the coast,’ now they’re going to have to look at the consequences of this realignment, because it’s massive disruption in some of the most affluent communities in the state.”

Cameron said an inland route following Interstate 84 would achieve “true world-class high-speed rail” without disrupting densely populated coastal communities.

According to the FRA, the Preferred Alternative would increase the number of trains and improve performance along the Northeast Corridor. The number of trains running daily from Penn Station to Boston, for example, would increase from 19 to 94. The travel time would decrease from three hours and 30 minutes to two hours and 45 minutes.

To boost capacity and improve performance between New York City and Boston, the FRA has recommended improvements to the existing line and adding several new segments. Among the latter would be new two-track segment, beginning west of the New Rochelle station and continuing into Fairfield County. The segment would allow for more trains to operate between New York and Boston and allow express trains to pass local or freight trains, the FRA said.


Here’s the NEC Future site


Here is the page for the “preferred alternative.”


They hid the more or less detailed map in the Enivronmental Impact Statement, but here it is.

Click to access app_aa.pdf

One thing that I see is that the people who wrote this up probably did it with the map in hand and haven’t really seen the area, at least in my neighborhood.  Now the map shows RTE 95 as being relatively straight and flat.  As somebody who has traversed that stretch of  RTE 95 thousands of times, it’s neither.  That stretch is scary enough at 65, let alone at 150 mph+ . The fact is that coastal Ct through Fairfield and New Haven Counties is mostly ridge and valleys all running North and South.  The Original New Haven Line(now Metro North’s New Haven Line) ran as close to the coast as possible and even then is mostly cuts and embankments.  Along with curves, lots of them.  Those curves have been the bane of the railroad’s existence since it was laid out back in the 1850’s

Still the RTE 95 route is even worse.  What interesting is that according to the NEC Future website, most of the route through Fairfield County will be “aerial structures.” That’s especially true of the route through Greenwich and Stamford.  Which tells me that these people are either not serious about actual improvements to the NEC or really want to stick it to a bunch of wealth and well connected people with lots of clout. Because I know what Aerial structures for high speed trains means.

Here’s a picture of the Tohoku Shinkansen structure near Omiya Station.


The is typical aerial structure high speed railbed in Japan.  It’s also something that would never fly in here in CT.  Even out in the eastern part of the state, the opposition is stiff and in Fairfield County the opposition would be incredible.


The funny thing to me is that the “preferred alternative” didn’t eve address the biggest opportunity for real improvement, a tunnel through east Bridgeport to eliminate the 35 MPH Jenkins curve.  Right now the tunnel and a new station could be built relatively cheaply because East Bridgeport is mostly empty lots with various and sundry development plans that have gone awry.  Yet the rout through Bridgeport, with it’s 19th Century  roadway is kept intact while the route messes around in Greenwich and Stamford real estate.   Which tells me that the whole thing can’t really be taken seriously. Which is a shame because the improvements are really needed and all this did was waste money that could have been spent on other things that Amtrak needs or even better, not spent at all.

It’s A Duesy!!


When you see that, usually misspelled, it means that something is over the top, as good as it gets.  Most people have forgotten that that once meant a car.  A car that still touches the soul with it’s power and elegance. Many people think that the Duesenberg was the best car that America ever produced.

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The Great Molasses Spill

In early 1919 there was an industrial accident that will go down in history as the stickiest accident in history. This was the great molasses flood in Boston. The spill was the result of a tank failure in the north end of Boston. 21 people were killed and over 150 injured.  The city was covered in sticky goo that to this day has not fully disappeared, having clogged up buried electrical conduits and other underground structures.

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