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Markets expected to open tomorrow, big banks will shift to other locations, some despite lack of serious damage

Sandy had perfect timing, hitting lower NYC with storm surge at high tide and strong flood tide

Oct 30, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

By Davis Janowski

InvestmentNews is open for business --- there is something to be said, from a technology standpoint, for occupying the high ground --- the same cannot be said for the markets however.

It is the day after.

Sandy that is, after she pummeled the tri-state area and specifically New York City.

I just thought I would pass along a little of what I know for advisers around the country unfamiliar with our geography and also some of the contingencies in place.

First, the markets, including the exchanges and many of the large trading firms and investment banks will likely be back up and running tomorrow.

Many, especially those that still have headquarters downtown will be operating from their failover or backup facilities.

For some of this we have the tragic events of 9-11 to thank for those failover facilities existing. These firms, some of whom relocated all or some of their business operations to New Jersey or elsewhere may also be having some trouble, however.

To paint a picture for you of lower Manhattan, a great deal of it was submerged last night.

I have wanted to throttle a lot of our fine broadcast journalists the last 24 hours because so few of them understand anything about the tides, tidal currents, or what happens when high tides and maximum flood current meets an incoming storm.

Water literally piles up, think of it like having a wall of bulldozers blade-to-blade (the wind/current of a hurricane) driving all that water, and it moves in the direction of the storm.

So, when we specifically consider lower Manhattan those bulldozers were following the counter-clockwise swirl and unwinding of Sandy and driving water in through the harbor opening we know as The Narrows, which today has the Verrazano Bridge sitting atop it.

The water, having no where else to go but up into the harbor and inundating the low ground at the Battery and a significant chunk of lower Manhattan.

It was an all time record for the Battery, besting an 1820 storm, with a 12-foot surge.

Some firms surely and intentionally will have shut down their systems in an effort to preserve what they could.

While upper floors in many of those buildings downtown are probably unscathed, their basements were surely flooded along with pumps and backup generators.

That means for the time being operations will shift to their backup facilities. Many firms are rather secretive, for obvious reasons, about the locations of those. Nonetheless we will, in the next few days see many of them make the same declaration I did at the beginning of this post: “Open for business.”

NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. have both said they will open tomorrow.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. despite having two of its major operations headquarters on either side of the Hudson River (one in lower Manhattan and the other directly across the Hudson in Jersey City, NJ) did a lot of sandbagging and escaped major flood-related damage. The Manhattan location, in fact, took some heat on various blogs for having its lights on --- thanks to backup generators --- while many of its neighbors were in the dark.

Even so, it and many of the other major banks and financial services companies will be shifting operations to other locations simply because New York City's infrastructure, primarily mass transit will remain shut down for several days at least.

Also the public power grid in many areas south of mid-town Manhattan remains down as well, meaning emergency or backup generators will be the only power for those locations that are actually accessible for those on foot.

As for us, our office is on some of the higher ground of mid-town, power is on and some staff made it into the office today.

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