Observations on a Hurricane’s Impact
This is a disaster unlike anything anyone in the NYC metro area has ever experienced in our lifetimes. Sure, we’ve had blizzards and bad storms like the 1993 Blizzard or even Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Floyd. But none of that prepared people around here to deal with what Hurricane Sandy has wrought.
The damage and devastation is unimaginable, even to those who have seen photos or video of similar disasters like Hurricane Katrina or even the tsunamis in places like Indonesia or Japan. Because we’re living through that kind of nightmare - and I’m doing better than most since I’ve got power and still have my health.
But there’s a whole lot of people around here are showing signs of PTSD, complete with the 500 yard stare and other issues due to lack of sleep, power, and their entire world turned upside down.
It’s similar to what happened after Katrina for those folks down on the Gulf Coast, or even a microcosm of what happened following 9/11 here in the NYC metro area with a combination of people who couldn’t process what they’ve witnessed and are experiencing plus those who ran full tilt towards the danger to help others.
This disaster has brought out the best and worst in people - as witnessed by innumerable acts of kindness as well as looting and other criminal activities or the simple act of cutting a line to get gas.
I’ve spoken with relatives who live out on LI and it’s worse than you can possibly imagine out there. Entire neighborhoods are wiped out. Long Beach LI? Gone. Sure, the apartment buildings are still standing, but everything else is heavily damaged. No potable water. No working sewage systems. No power. Spotty cell phone service. Inland, the flooding wasn’t as bad, but in places like Happauge the entire tree canopy is gone. And with it the utilities and many homes.
To give some idea of just how random the devastation was, my brother had to deal with only flooding to his garage and having to clear out mud and sand. Most of his landscaping was torn away (it was newly installed a few weeks back).
But a few houses away? Apparently a propane tank came free somewhere closer to the coast, washed inland, and blew up.
Our block had power uninterrupted but the next block over has multiple trees down, and no word on when they’re getting power back.
A tree will topple here and take out a car or a house. Elsewhere, it may drop between two homes without damaging anything else.
The closer you got to the coast - the more complete the devastation. We didn’t nearly have the winds in Bergen that were experienced elsewhere. My BiL said that it sounded and looked just like a tornado hit. Complete and utter devastation.
Rinse and repeat up and down LI into CT and across NY’s Hudson Valley and down through NJ into MD and DE and PA.
Things are gonna suck hard around here - and the major accomplishments like dewatering the MTA tunnels still seem like small peanuts compared to the fact that millions remain without power.
This needs to be a wakeup call to reconsider building codes, zoning, and land use across all of our coastlines. Building on barrier islands may provide a pretty view, but those islands were, are, and continue to be transitory no matter how much we wish them to remain forever unchanged. All it takes is a good storm to rearrange the coast.
Sandy was just that kind of storm.
For the East Coast and NYC metro area, this was our generation’s Long Island Express (the 1938 storm that killed hundreds and tore apart Long Island before slamming through New England).
We got lucky because we knew it was coming and had time to prepare as best as we could.
These storms will happen again. And again. And we wont be so lucky the next time.