Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Alone with Sandy: Journaling, Blogging, and Interacting with Friends on Facebook

October 29 - Monday

I recall the summer of 2003 when the entire Northeast went dark due to a power grid failure. It was about 4:00 pm and shortly thereafter, my brother-in–law was on his way to pick me up. However, that plan was foiled because he was not allowed entry to any road close to the Lincoln Tunnel, so I was stuck, for the duration, in West New York, New Jersey by myself.  It was an opportunity for me to meet some of my neighbors, as everyone was outside, walking around and gathering in the various parks along Boulevard East.

Once the sun went down, it became quite eerie. The New York City skyline, which is usually brilliantly lit, was dark with only a few emergency lights visible in the buildings.  I was without electricity for less than 24 hours, mine restored the following morning.

I would’ve preferred being with my family, but at least I was able to get outside and wander about. Today, that is not a possibility. I am alone in my apartment, waiting out Hurricane Sandy and a Northeaster. I am feeling isolated because I am stuck indoors. I could’ve gone to my sister’s home yesterday, but I couldn’t get myself motivated to pull belongings together and get on a train. Thankfully, my friends on Facebook are staying in contact with me, as long as I continue to be able to access the Internet, which as of now, I can. Plus I have my journal so will document my day in those pages and here.

It is 11:59 a.m. and the storm is intensifying.  The forecasters had originally predicted winds of up to 70-75 mph, but now it appears they could top 90 mph at the peak of the storm, and those winds are said to be at skyscraper levels. I am on the 10th floor of my building (not a skyscraper), so I removed all objects—pictures, candles, fans—that are in front of my windows, in case there should be any breakage. As the winds increase, I’ll need to close my blinds. I like to see what’s going on outside, but should a window break the blinds will stop some of the glass from shattering into the apartment.

I have water in my bathtub and in some large pans and three gallons of purified drinking water in my refrigerator as well as iced tea; a flashlight and candles (though they tell us not to use candles); and my iPhone and computer remain plugged in and charged. If the electricity should go out, I want them fully charged and will have to use the phone sparingly.  Fortunately, I am not in a low-lying area, so flooding isn’t one of my concerns. High winds and possible power outages are what my area will experience. If there isn’t a power outage, I will be extremely happy.

At this time, there really isn’t a huge amount of storm activity in my area, aside from some heavy winds now and again, so the threat of the storm doesn’t feel so inevitable, though I know it is. Watching the news, I see that the worst of the storm is expected to hit NYC and northern NJ, exactly where I live.  The sky that was gray earlier is now white.

 12:44 pm – I am making some lunch, using my oven while I still have electricity. I kept hearing a sound that seemed like someone was moving furniture around in another apartment. I turned down the television and am now pretty sure it is the wind that I am hearing. I slightly opened my bedroom window to see if I could hear anything unusual outdoors but the gust that met me was jolting, so I closed the window immediately.  I also stepped outside my apartment to see if anyone was in the hallway, but it was empty. I have a feeling a neighbor left a window open and is not home to close it. I also keep hearing the sound of a door shaking and it is not mine. Noises always make me uncomfortable when I cannot determine the source.

Time to eat lunch.

1:04 pm – The news is reporting the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded for a storm like this – 943.  High tide will coincide with the peak time of this storm later today, which means coastal areas are going to get hit hard with flooding. The storm is predicted to be at its strongest when it hits land. Plus it is the largest hurricane ever in the Northeast. I just looked outside, and the sky is getting even whiter and there is less visibility to the west. New Jersey is already reporting over 32,000 people without power, over 2,500 in NYC.

1:50 pm – Hurricane Sandy is about 3-4 hours from making landfall.  There is now an extreme threat level along the North Atlantic coast. The gusting winds are expected to bring down tree branches and cause widespread power outages.

I find it disturbing that there are still so many people out in this weather, looking at the waves and flood areas as if this is a benign and amusing phenomenon. It is dangerous and they are not only putting their lives at risk, but also those of emergency responders.  It’s irresponsible and careless.  At some point, emergency responders will not be able to help them nor will they be required to assist until after the worst of the storm system has subsided.

One of my biggest fears of being outside when it is very windy is that objects can get disconnected from buildings or tree branches fall off. These can land on a person, not only hurting them, but killing them. We hear about scenarios such as this all the time.  It’s a morbid thought, I know, but it’s what I think about during severe weather situations. I agree with Governor Christie: “Don’t be stupid. Get out.” He is talking to residents along the coast and flood-prone areas.

2:11 pm – I just saw on Facebook that Dave and Amy’s electricity went out. They live in Flemington, NJ. I still have power. I spoke with Karen a while ago. She called from Cincinnati to check in on me. I told her I’d keep her posted. I had an email from Mom this morning (I did respond to it) and plan to call her in a little while when there is something more to report. Right now, the storm seems rather timid. Of course, I am not outdoors so am not experiencing the heavy winds on my person. 

I also received a text message from a co-worker informing me that the NFL is going to be closed tomorrow. I figured as much and hadn’t planned on going in even if they decided to open. Thanks, Bobby, for keeping me updated on that front.

2:38 pm – Mom just called. I promised to keep her updated and she told me to fill some small containers full of water and keep them in my freezer. More ice will keep the freezer cold for a longer period of time in case the power goes out.

2:43 pm – Oh, oh – light flicker.

2:56 pm – A crane is perilously hanging from a building at 57th St and 7th Ave. in Manhattan.  The roads are closed near the building.  Apparently, it was secured but the winds are so strong that it has become dislodged. This is not good. Residents are outside trying to get photos. They need to get inside and let the city officials and safety workers do what they need to do, which is clear the area. (People were eventually evacuated from the area.)

There is nothing they can do in this weather to remedy the situation until after the storm. They are estimating at that height, over 1,000 feet up, the winds are 55-60 mph.  This building, One57, is a 90-story luxury condo. It is under construction and will be the tallest residential building in New York.

I still have power…and hope to still have it once darkness falls.

3:30 pm – Sounds like Sandy is going to hit land a few hours earlier than expected, which means the worst winds will pass the area sooner as well. I’m tired of waiting; I just want it over. The wind is really picking up. I hear threatening gusts every now and then…quite loud ones, in fact. I can see debris fly past my window every now and then, and I’m up relatively high. I can’t determine if t he debris is flying off the roofs of other buildings or mine.

PSG&E has been and are preparing for power outages in NJ.  Right now, they are working to restore power due to downed wires.

Gov. Cuomo (NY) is closing the Tappan Zee Bridge at 4:00 pm.

I have been on Facebook connecting with friends and even posting music, YouTube storm-appropriate titled music that is: Scorpions – Rock You Like a Hurricane and REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ the Storm Out. I have to retain a sense of humor.

4:19 pm - I’ve spent the day flipping from the Weather Channel, ABC 7 for New York News, and 12 News New Jersey.  They are showing pictures of downed trees on channel 12; one tree fell on a house. It may seem like I’m wasting my day engrossed in this storm, but I feel like I am experiencing it fully. I’m not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow or what I have to do in the next week. I’m right in the moment.

For the first time since this storm began, heavy rain is falling in addition to big wind gusts. We are about an hour and a half from landfall. The George Washington Bridge is scheduled to close at 7:00 pm. As far as I know, the Lincoln Tunnel is still open, but the Holland Tunnel is now closed.

5:00 pm – Time to open the Sauvignon Blanc.  My friend Mike M fears I will get so tanked I won’t be able to make good decisions.  No worries, Mike, I can handle it, and I’m not going to drink the whole bottle, though it is tempting. – LOL.

My windows on the north side are getting hammered with rain and wind. All I have to do is walk in my bedroom to get a reality check about how wild the storm is becoming. The intensity is less apparent in the living room because the window faces west. The rain and wind seem to be blowing south and west, which is weird because Sandy is approaching us from the southeast – first heading northeast then turning westward.

Lincoln Tunnel is now closed.

6:32 pm – Spent the last hour talking with my friend Mike W from Chicago, who called to check in, and then I called Mom to report in to her. Sandy is making landfall, but I still have power. I opened my window and though the wind is definitely rustling loudly through the tree leaves, the rain has subsided. The air smells so fresh, ahh…

It is now dark, which makes it difficult to assess what is going on outside. However, the lights in the streets and buildings around me remain on. This is a great exercise in letting go and releasing my need to control the situation. It is what it is.

Karen C just called. She is fine but her lights are flickering on and off. We spoke only briefly and will touch base tomorrow.

50 feet of the Atlantic City boardwalk is gone. 14,000 flights in area airports have been grounded. I keep hearing sirens along Boulevard East.

7:24 pm – Lights flickered.

Just heard on Hardball – 2.2 million homes are without power. Okay, really heavy winds blowing now…my apartment door is shaking and no windows are open.

7:48 pm – I have one of my living room windows open, and I can hear the wind clearly through the leaves—this gorgeous, intense rustling sound, but again, not much rain. The power remains on. The news is stating that this will be the worst of it from now until 2:00 am Tuesday.  If this is the worst, I’ll be a very happy camper. I can hear sirens though not sure what is happening in my area. Yes, there is some lightening…didn’t know that would happen. (Learned later that it was a transformer exploding in the distance.)

8:03 pm – Okay, I think the storm’s strength has finally shown itself now! I just closed my one living room window; holy crap—very loud and very strong winds. I thought this system hit a couple hours ago; it seems that it did not. I just opened my window again and yes, it is definitely at strength I’ve not yet experienced.

8:08 pm – Lights flickering…fascinated by the intensity of it all.  Window is open—peering out, I am transfixed by the wind. It’s almost a perverse curiosity about the extent and breadth of the damage and disruption to life this storm is causing. There are huge wind gusts, roaring. Another flicker of light…

8:21 pm – Barbara and Dan have been without power since 5:00 pm. I just sent her a text message. Ryan sent me a text inquiring about my safety. Then I looked out the window and to the southeast saw this huge flash of light—another transformer exploding.

By the way, the crane in NYC is still holding steady to the building, and I still have power. I’m hearing many sirens.

 8:34 pm – The lights did go out on Boulevard East and in some buildings across the street from me, but my lights remain on.  At this point, I’m feeling completely blessed.

Flicker…lights still on. Sirens again…

On TV, it is reported that if the weather doesn’t improve before October 31, Gov. Christie says he will sign an Executive order to reschedule Halloween so the kids can go trick-or-treating.  Thanks, Gov!

8:41 pm – Lights have been restored on Boulevard East. That was quick.

What??? I just heard the Lincoln Tunnel is still open. Seriously??? That can’t be right.

9:14 pm – Mom checked in again. My one window in the living room is open and no wind is blowing in. If this is the worst of it for me, I have been really lucky.

Power went off for a second, then back on…

9:31 pm – Just heard on the news – 2.2 million people are without power.

9:46 pm – I am feeling very humbled. So many friends and family were with me today via Facebook, email, and cell phone. I am thankful for their support and thoughts.

It is frightening to be alone in a storm, and one of this magnitude, is even scarier. Somehow, though, the storm, the wind, and the power grid worked in my favor. The area in which I live is about 150 feet above the Hudson River, and the population is large in this area and our dwellings are close together and compact, so there is not much open space. Those factors, I believe, protected me from most of Hurricane Sandy's devastation.  It is almost 10:00 pm and I still have power.

Southwest in Union City, the lights are out; I can see it from my window. I hear more sirens.

10:14 pm - 4 million customers are now without power in the path of the storm, ¼ of them in NY. My power is still on.

10:30 pm – I just received my last call from Mom. She’s going to bed. I am going to as well. Sandy was quite the adventure, though not so much for me. I was safe in my apartment and friends stayed connected in various ways. What a lucky woman I am.  A day I thought would be filled with anxiety and fear was one of love and engagement with people I care about.

Disasters are times when we all come together. Our differences don’t matter. I wish it were that way all the time. However, even if realistically it isn’t, when it really matters, we are there for one another and it doesn’t matter in other respects how we agree or disagree. We are friends and family and that is all that matters in the end.  What a day! Sandy, you weren’t all that bad—well, you were terrible, just not to me.

October 30 – The day after (10:30 am)

It’s still raining. Over 5 million people in the Northeast are without power, flooding is widespread. Half of Hoboken, NJ is under water.  Mass transit is still shut down. Gusts of wind remain strong. The crane is still hanging from the building in Manhattan and the subway is flooded in many locations. Virtually all of Newark and Jersey City are without power. However, Sandy’s wrath is waning. Now is recovery time. What a mess all over the region.

I've been watching the news this morning, and it is heartbreaking seeing all the people who lost loved ones, homes, and pets. Mother Nature while beautiful, can be deadly and vicious.

I did not sleep well last night. Sirens woke me periodically.  Thanks again to all my family and friends for hanging with me yesterday. I am blessed; I know that. I am very aware of it. 

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