As most of you know, I live on Long Island. Most of you will also know that we had a big old hurricane pass through here about a month ago.
Who the fuck calls a hurricane "Sandy"? First of all, did you ever know a Sandy who was mean and destructive? I never did! Anyone I knew called Sandy was nice. And innocuous (sorry Sandys, but you all were).
Also, it seems to me that naming a hurricane "Sandy" was just ASKING for this to happen.
But Sandy it was called, so shall it be referred.
Now, I often wonder if the Sandy thing would be so bad if Hurricane Irene hadn't happened 14 months previously. Because Irene was so hyped up as being Bad and Dangerous and many were told to evacuate and given Dire Consequences if they didn't
...and nothing much happened for me and for most of us. Certainly, Irene didn't live up to her hype.
After Irene, the evacuated people returned to their perfectly fine homes, after spending a nightmare few days with the parents or in-laws and they vowed they wouldn't put themselves needlessly through all that again.
When hurricane Sandy was forecast, the warnings were Even More Dire but several agencies held off on evacuation orders because of what happened last time. And many people -even when the evacutation orders came, refused to leave their homes. We all thought it would be another Irene.
We were wrong.
Yes, we prepared; bought food and batteries, made sure the grill worked and the propane was topped up. But our family didn't pack any bags this time. Partly because the dangerous tree has since been removed, but also partly because it felt so bloody stupid to go about the next day unpacking and and undoing all the Dire Preparations . Although I did line the bath with plastic before I filled it this time. That made a huge difference. We didn't need it, but definitely something to file away.
The storm itself sounded and seemed milder than Irene had been. It was windy, but there was a lot less rain and no thunder/lightning. We lost power early; -around 1:30 the first day (Monday), but we were prepared, and had an epic game of Monopoly by lantern light (Grace is a great person to have as a banker, BTW. Her mental arithmetic is poor, so she is really easy to cheat).
The next day, things didn't seem so bad We still had no power, but there was no damage to our property. We drove around the neighbourhood a bit and ...wow. Most traffic lights were out. Most businesses were closed. However, there were lines out the door and around the corner for Dunkin donuts (they have a generator). 7-11 was pretty busy, too.
Our power came back on Tuesday evening. I realized quickly that we were quite exceptional in that. Many people in our town were out for more than two weeks. The schools were closed for seven full days.
...and then I started hearing from my friends.
I should point out, using this nce handy map, that I pulled from here, that our town is nowhere near a flood disaster zone.
If you look at that map, we are in the brownish area, well above sea level. The problem around here was "only" downed trees. And LIPA.
Then I heard from a friend who lives in a dark green area.
"We had 4' of water through the whole downstairs. We have no power, no water, no heat. The truck is gone". My friend isn't one of the people you hear about. Their area wasn't featured in the newscasts or stories that went around, because it wasn't as Dramatic or Compelling as some of the other scenes playing out around the area -and even in the next town over from them. But they lost half of their house. It took FEMA and the insurance company weeks to come and inspect the place, so they could even begin tearing out floors and carpets (they were told not to until after inspection). I stopped by on Thanksgiving and they had had power and water restored, but still no heat or hot water. All the bottom half of the house had been ripped out to the studs. They were sitting on plastic lawn chairs. Their fridge was on the front lawn. They had to have Thanksgiving catered, because no oven or hot water.
But these are people getting on stoically with their loves, making the best of what they have. These are not the stories you hear. You really have to see it to understand how bad they have it and how widespread the damage really is. I was driving, so I couldn't take pictures. However, a lot of the towns I drove through were still virtual ghost towns. Many businesses were boarded up, with lovely messages like this one spray-painted on the boards.
It just boggled my mind that this would still be the situation on Long Island so many weeks after the storm.
And that so much was wrong on the rest of the island for so long. You couldn't get petrol. At first, I couldn'tdrive down to help my friends in the disaster area, because I was afraid I would run out of gas between destinations. Himself lined up for six hours one day, just to learn that the gas station ran out. There were shortages of bread and milk. After the first week or so, most people without power started running low on supplies like ice, batteries and candles. Well, the only way to get them was to borrow from a friend who had power or to have them mailed from someone outside the Northeast (the mail service was one of the few things that was working early on).
There was no garbage collection or other cleanup for some time. Cut-up trees and branches were piled up on the curbs. Bags and bags of refues and piles of household contents were there too.
It reminded me of living in Dublin in the 70s, when there was the oil crisis and then there were strikes in the electricty supply board, the bakers unions, the dairys and by the sanitation workers. Except it was like these things had happened all at once in long Island in 2012, instead of spread out over years in 70s Dublin.
It wasn't good. It wasn't OK and we have learned many lessons from it.
I hope -sincerely HOPE- that Local government and other agencies had learned lessons too. Because this can't happen again.
...except everyone says that Sandy is only the first and there will be more storms like this.