Saturday, November 10, 2012

Surviving Sandy

No, this isn't about my wife, but about Hurricane Sandy who very rudely visited us here on Staten Island not too long ago.

Hurricanes rarely make it this far north with enough force to do more than a bit of mischief. In fact, most hurricanes which make it this far north usually turn east and head back out in to the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, there have been a handful which have made landfall in this area and caused much devastation, most notably the one in 1938, before the tradition of naming hurricanes. That one was known as the Long Island Express and killed as many as 800 people as well as damaging or destroying about 5,700 homes.

There have been other hurricanes here, most recently Irene which hit in August of 2011, but most often they are not as bad as the forecasters predict - which was one of the causes of many deaths here during Hurricane Sandy.

We knew of its impending approach, and - like with Irene - mandatory evacuations of NYC's "Zone A" were ordered. Many people who heeded those orders last year, only to find the damage to be much less than was expected, did not this time. Many of those people lost their lives because of it.

While I live only about 6 blocks from Zone A, no evacuation for my neighborhood was ordered. I secured my back yard furniture and hoped for the best. I had only recently gone shopping and had 10 gallons of water from my last delivery so we should be okay.

The night of the worst of the storm started out with some wind but strange noises were added to the mix as trees started breaking, and the pressure of the storm was causing the doors on my utility room (which is vented to the outside) to creak and complain. The low pressure in the eye of this storm - which made landfall around Atlantic City, NJ where we had been scheduled to be but canceled - had the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded for a storm north of Cape Hatteras, making this the most powerful storm ever to come this far north, exceeding that of the 1938 hurricane.

Power had been going out all around the region - my son (in New Jersey) had lost power earlier in the day, and after about 30 minutes of mine going on and off, it went off and didn't come back on. Cell towers were offline as well and my cell phone/data connection went along with it. Nothing more to do but go to bed.

The next morning, the storm had weakened and by afternoon I was able to go out and assess what damage had been done. My neighborhood was lucky and while we experienced some large trees which had fallen, they all had miraculously missed hitting anything or anyone - though cars were inches away from them. (You can see some of the photos of the morning after in my neighborhood here.)

Yet, that was not the case in many areas of Staten Island. In the neighborhood where my son had lived until as recently as August when he sold his house and moved to New Jersey, houses were no longer habitable. His old house had its doors blown off, bricks ripped from its structure, a fence and deck completely blown away, and bricks from the garden strewn all over. He lived just a few houses from the ocean.

There used to be a fence and a deck in front here.

Staten Island was badly hit and suffered some of the worst destruction in NYC. Along the shore houses were totally reduced to piles of wood and debris. It is one thing to see it on TV and in the newspapers, but two days ago I had a doctor's appointment and my drive to see him took me down along the road by the ocean. As I drove, the ocean was to my left but what I saw to my right shook me to my core. Houses that were sitting on their foundation at 45° angles ... houses which were nothing more than shells which you could look through the front and out the back ... houses which were now piles of rubble. And among this were people going through what used to be their homes - where possible - and removing possessions. Most of them were winding up on the curb for the Sanitation Department to collect. Sights I hope never to see again. I had considered bringing my camera and documenting anything I might see, but when I saw what I did, even if I had brought it I would not have intruded on people's grief and despair. It was too private a moment.

In the late 1970's we had a gas shortage here in the US, and gas rationing was ordered. If you had a license plate that ended in an even number you could only but gas on even days and on odd days you needed to have an odd number or non-numeric character. Lines were very long and I once waited for five hours to get a half tank of gas. NYC yesterday implemented the same rules. (NJ implemented them last week.) Yesterday I filled my car - today we will fill my wife's.

We will come back - we're NY and we always do. But for many - it will never be as it was before.

1 comment:

  1. Such a heartfelt post and it puts in in perspective for those of us who are far away and just saw some pictures on the TV. Hope NY is better and brighter...soon!