If you were dumb enough to go out exploring in the middle of Sandy, or unfortunate enough to be homeless and exposed to the elements, when you stepped inside it’s possible someone said to you, “You look like a drowned rat.” As it turns out that euphemism is pretty inaccurate, as it’s apparently exceedingly hard to drown a rat.
With the New York City subway experiencing its worst flooding (worst crisis of any kind, really) in its 108-year history, the question naturally arose as to what became of the subway’s most populous residents: rats.
7 subway tunnels are currently flooded and some stations are flooded up to the ceiling along with the low-lying areas rats tend to inhabit. Is it possible Sandy brought with her one welcome side effect and washed some of the city’s rat population out to sea as the water levels receded?
Turns out probably not. Bloomberg Businessweek talked to a rat expert about how New York’s rats probably fared during the storm. Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies notes rats can swim at least a couple of hundred yards—”they’re not Michael Phelps, but they’re strong swimmers”—and their running ability and dexterous tails probably gave them the agility they’d need to survive just fine.
Plus, unlike people rats are A-OK with swimming around in poop-water.
Apparently there are “at least” as many rats in the city as people—about 10 million—and while they usually don’t travel very far within the city, the Sandy’s flood currents could have resulted in some neighborhood exchange for rats, which could help increase levels of rat-borne disease.
Ostfeld says “health-care providers should have rat-borne diseases on their radars” in the coming weeks and even months, as some diseases can take months to gestate in humans.
Just one more way that the gigantic climate bitch-slap that is Sandy will continue to show collateral damage.
[Image via Shutterstock]