Hurricane Irene became Tropical Storm Irene before she made landfall in NYC but she still did her best to wreck havoc in the city and especially on other parts of the coast. It’s been over a week and yet there are still people without power and without homes to return to. After our little earthquake on Tuesday the mayor and the rest of the city officials heeded the meteorologists’ warnings and made a plan to evacuate as many of us as necessary to keep us safe. The areas in most danger of flooding were split into zones, our building was across the street from the safest of the three danger zones. I don’t think I really covered it but during the blizzard there wasn’t any pre-event mobilization and although my husband and I were safe and warm with no interrupted power many others were not so lucky. People literally got stuck in trains between stations for hours and hours without food, water, or access to the bathroom! The subway steps were snowy slides and the reaction of outrage from average citizens was intense. Everyone criticized the mayor for not taking action sooner, for not sending out the call for plows, for not telling us what to do and many of us thought the city’s reaction to the coming hurricane might be an over-reaction based on the recent past. I wasn’t really scared until I realized the MTA would be shutting down. There is something about being a left without public transportation that strikes fear in every New Yorker’s heart. Our building arranged for a couple of doormen to sleep over in order to maintain a constant presence in the absence of the MTA and our super made sure all the roof and balcony furnishings were removed.
A friend of mine said to me afterward, “were you prepared? did you have food? I had food for like four hours!” Well, I’m always prepared, or so I like to think. I was ready. I had flashlights and spare ‘D’ batteries, I bought non-perishables, I ordered a case of Gatorade from Fresh Direct along with some other veggies and I picked up a case of water. I packed our “go bags” the night before and made sure to include everything we’d need to keep our cat, Trouble healthy if not happy. The last thing he needs is to run low on his meds because of an evacuation. What I didn’t have was a radio. [Note to self: order one of those NOAA hand-crank radios already! & more batteries, you know just in case]. I went to Best Buy, Duane Reade, CVS, Kmart, Paragon Sports, Petco, and Key Foods in addition to a couple of local bodegas–not one had battery operated radios or ‘D’ batteries for that matter, which I suddenly felt the urge to hoard! The doorman/security guy at Best Buy had come up with a sing-songy chant to greet customers as we walked through the door “If you’re looking for ‘D’ batteries or radios we’re sold out of ‘D’ batteries and radios, sorry folks, we’re sold out of ‘D’ batteries and radios” he repeated this again and again. At Kmart I found a clock radio that said it took batteries too. I knew I had a clock radio at home but I bought this one and batteries for it just in case. It turned out the batteries only kept the time in a power outage not the radio! So, if anyone needs a clock radio? We didn’t need it but my husband’s childhood clock radio, one of those old brown, wood panel looking things still worked and with just one single ‘9V’ battery no less.
Since the storm was supposed to hit us sometime Saturday or Sunday we agreed to stay home which led to a major case of cabin fever. Even if we wanted to go out where would we go? NYC had shut down, all event permits past noon on Saturday were revoked, 24-hr delis were closing and my husband even witnessed three 3 Dunkin Donuts employees using their full body weight to muscle their gate closed near our apartment. We watched TV, actually I should say we watched the news/weather reports all day, not real TV. We picked apart the reporting style and estimated the fatigue level of the reporters, we were robbed of the national coverage since the local stations dominated the airwaves. The reporters were always at some scene where wind was whipping and the water was constantly threatening to knock them down. There were a few live-shots that showed people being rescued in boats and then you’d suddenly notice someone standing just beside the boat it it was not even knee high. We were constantly skeptical about the force that might hit us and yet we waited. We experienced (at our apartment) only steady rain on Saturday but it wasn’t beating against our windows or knocking out our power. The Blizzard was worse as far as wind goes. Our park did flood, but quite honestly it flooded about two weeks prior when we were deluged with record rain in the NYC region.
I was nervous nonetheless, it was an endless “calm before the storm” kind of feeling. I never quite felt like I could relax and knit or sew or read but rather kept bouncing around different websites, blogs, social networks, activities in the apartment. I cleaned a little, I posted a lot, I called my parents to tell them we were perfectly fine and I waited for the inevitable thrashing, but it never came. My husband made me take a nap Saturday evening so I’d be alert in the middle of the night when the storm came and then I made him do the same. I waited up for a while and by then the forecast was changed so around 8:00-10:00 AM would be the worst. I filled the bathtub with water for flushing and washing and then I finally went to sleep and woke up super early to make a hearty breakfast. I called my mom again and still the worst never came, not to us anyway. The winds apparently did pick up but we seemed to be shielded from them by the shape of our building. By the middle of the day the rain was completely gone and some of our local haunts were tweeting that they’d be opening soon and eventually even we emerged to get some fresh air. The winds were strong enough to hurl a bundle of flattened and bound shipping boxes at me and all the way across the street but I managed to jump out of their way before they knocked me over. It was a short walk but still nice to stretch our legs and breathe the fresh air after the storm. There were lots of downed trees throughout the boroughs and some of them even pulled up the concrete and earth with them while others took out cars but the damage was minimal compared to what might have been, locally anyway, if the storm retained it’s earlier strength or if the trains were still running. We didn’t witness much in the way of damage on our walk though, of course we steered clear of the park, which we already knew from online posts had called trees and flooding. Who knows, really but better safe than sorry is a bit cliche and yet so fitting. A few days after the storm a local bar offered a party for people to bringing their spare canned food to be donated to charity in exchange for a beer, cans for a can or something like that.
I’m also marking hurricane off my bucket-list, thanking my lucky stars and again hoping it was both my first and last.