As New York City, along with two or three entire states, prepares feverishly for the frontal assault of category 1 hurricane Sandy, I am left with a feeling of déjà vu, of sadness and resignation.
Having spent 15 years in the Caribbean and another year in the south Pacific and Southeast Asia, I saw a fifth season added to my calendar. Sure there were spring, summer, fall and winter, but there was also hurricane season. The storms were called typhoons in the south Pacific, cyclones in some places and hurricanes in most others. They were all the same, though: cyclonic (or counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere) rotation of a strong depression. Born never too far from the equator, a troubled youth, violence and crime paying off, a rise to power and strength, brief glory while destruction prevails and a rapid fall into oblivion.
From cool, spectacular tantrums of Mother Nature, they soon became for me the dreaded random plague that turns living in affected regions into a calculated gamble. A gamble for everything one owns, life included. Too many times I witnessed the devastation, even though I can say to be honest I never feared for my life. But I saw destruction so complete it appeared biblical.
So when a storm as seemingly benign as Sandy bears down on NYC, I can’t really feel anything else than dread, resignation and patience lost. The news and media go crazy, Sandy being worth her size in gold. People’s behavior scatters on a wide scale ranging from absolute ignorance to casual sympathy, to serious preparedness, to over-the-top sensationalism and down to panic.
Today I spent hours in stores, lining up to buy essential (and already dwindling) supplies. The queue at Keyfood went around the entire store. So did the one at Trader Joe’s. Pacific Gourmet was queuing people outside for fruit and vegetable purchase, cash only and no store admittance. Shoppers were in line to get into the rather small Damascus Bakery. Mr. Kim-Lee’s grocery store was filled to capacity. Sahadi’s, as on all Sundays, was blissfully closed.
C’mon honey, it’s not like it’s Armageddon!A man at the Rite Aid pharmacy, he is the only one with manners at that store and must be a manager, offered me matches, just in case. On the street, Marie later heard an old man asking around: “Does anybody know when it’s going to start raining?” But the winner was the well-dressed guy talking on his mobile phone: “C’mon honey, it’s not like it’s Armageddon!”
So we shopped and we secured and we stored. We stocked and piled up. We listened and watched and now are standing by. The radio and TV are alight like volcanoes but we don’t really have either. Our terrace pots that could possibly become airborne were taken down. The roof farm has been secured as much as possible. The MTA is shutting down all subway transit at 7 PM and buses at 9 PM. After that, people will have to drive or stay home.
Zone A evacuation has been made mandatory. If you are among the 375,000 people living on low-lying waterfront areas of the Five Boroughs, you have no choice but to leave. To go where? That has not been clearly defined. There are over 70 shelters in the Greater New York, providing food, a place to sleep and accepting pets, but I doubt they can host one third of a million people. Hotels will make a killing tonight. If you are hosting friends and family over for a few days, kudos to you.
The Queen Mary 2, in town, was supposed to sail. I assume she would head northeast into the Atlantic, away from the storm. Sandy is now expected to make landfall somewhere south of the city as a category 1 hurricane in about 36 hours. I’m sure the forecast will change. I wish it was over already. If anybody is interested, here is a good way to track the storm. NOAA always has beautiful satellite imagery. See you all on the other side. Be safe.
UPDATE – MONDAY 17:00 EST
Sandy is making landfall soon in the Delaware Bay, some 200 km south of NYC, and will slice her way right between Philadelphia and Baltimore. She is still a category 1 but should lose her power as she travels overland and be downgraded to a post-tropical (sic) storm within 12 hours.
However at that point, she will still have tremendous amounts of rain – and later snow – to release. She is expected to turn sharply north and head towards the St Lawrence river as a large depression.