Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oh Sandy, You Bitch


The past week has been very surreal.  Yes, now we are back to mostly business as usual, except for transportation, and some very hard hit areas still flooded and without power.  But over the course of the week since Sandy came to town, I have had many moments that seemed to come out of a post-apocalyptic movie.  I should really start stockpiling fuel and weapons. 
I live in the lower half of Manhattan, so while everyone on the East Coast spent the weekend before the storm buying out the stores of non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries, and candles, I was somewhat surprised when I actually had to use them.  On Sunday I bought food, took out cash, went out in search of a second flashlight and more candles, and had to visit several stores to find anything in stock. 
I spent Monday mostly on my couch, gathering my flashlight and hurricane lamp and lighter nearby, just in case.  I ate all the cheese in my fridge, lest it go to waste.  I also ate about half of the storm food I bought.  Online, I was able to keep up with the progress of the storm, watching videos from weather.com, tracking Facebook feeds, chatting with everyone else waiting to see if anything would happen.  It barely rained, on occasion the wind would howl by outside, but for the most part, the storm seemed very tame from inside.  I heard about the controlled shutdown of power in lower Manhattan, and below 14th Street went dark all together as planned.  And then the explosion, the first really scary moment.  I couldn't see the flash from my apartment; I just suddenly found myself sitting in the dark, as people outside screamed “No!”
But I had my flashlight handy, and I lit my lamp and my candles, and then realized that it was only about 9:30pm and I had nothing to do.  I read for a little bit, I knitted for a little bit, I paced around my apartment for a bit.  I picked up my free weights and lifted for a little bit.  I went through my closet with my flashlight, dug out my box of old photos, and started organizing them.  Eventually I gave up and went to bed.
Fortunately I put aside water ahead of time, because the pressure was gone, I couldn't use my sinks, etc.  I brushed my teeth by candle light with bottled water. 
On Tuesday, I slept late, because why not?  The power was still out, and the storm was passed.  I decided to get dressed and take a walk around to see what was what.  I thought I’d text a friend nearby, and found that overnight my phone was down to about 70% power, and my signal was very weak.  Maybe I could get a text message to send, maybe not for 10 minutes.  Phone call, forget it, not to mention getting any apps to load.  That’s when I began to feel pretty cut off.  But I got a hold of my friend and we went walking over to the East River, saw the closed off FDR Drive, with vending machines blown into the road.  The water was filled with debris, but receded back from land.  And the wind was still whipping, chilling us through.  We walked through Stuy Town, where trees had come down, buildings had flooded, windows had broken.  That first morning, there were people everywhere, wanting to get out from their dark apartments and see the damage for themselves. 
When I was able to get a text out, I invited myself uptown to a friend’s apartment, where power, hot water, and internet were still available.  By this point, my phone was down to about 40% power.  I went back to my apartment in the meantime, and found myself still completely bored without my computer or TV, which feels pathetic, but you can’t play a board or card game by yourself.  I read some, of course, and then got antsy.  I packed an overnight bag.  I heated up leftovers before they went bad using a make shift double boiler.  Having a gas stove is an advantage.  Finally, I began the long trek uptown, a little over 40 blocks.  Buses were supposedly running, but I didn't see any the whole way up, and every cab was already full.  The sidewalks were full of people dragging their roller bags uptown, fleeing, and again it seemed like one a movie, people trying to get out of the city with whatever possessions they can carry.  I myself had a backpack.
So I got my workout and arrived even more in need of a shower.  My hosts graciously took me in, fed me, let me get clean, gave me internet access, outlets for charging (phone down to 20%), and a bed.  All I brought them was a bottle of wine, but we did enjoy that.
On Wednesday my hosts and I ventured outside to check things out, see what was open, try and get a pastry somewhere.  By this point, the Upper East side was packed with people, every open food establishment had a line to the door, and Starbucks were crammed with people charging their electronics.  After surveying the total lack of damage, the traffic pileup, and the crowds, we returned to their apartment.  I had decided I needed to go back to my place for clothes and to check things out, and once again walked the 40+ blocks down, the sidewalks packed with people, all irritable and ready to snap at anyone who gave them an excuse.  The roads were barely crawling, and the promised buses were present, but useless in the gridlock.  But by 38th street, the crowds on the sidewalks had thinned, and soon there was a bare trickle of pedestrians, all looking bedraggled.  On occasion, a store would have their door open, offering bottled water or batteries for cash.  It felt like the last days of the Roanoke colony. 
Back at my apartment, I braved the pitch black hallway to my door, expecting something like a zombie to jump out at me and start eating my brain.  Everything was very quiet.  I cleaned out my fridge and freezer, sadly trashing everything, and packed up supplies for the next few days.  I know I was very lucky to have somewhere to go.
On Friday, I took a Metro North train out to Connecticut (they were running, at least on some lines, and not charging a fare, which was nice).  I went to my parents’ house, weaving through the long lines at the gas stations to get home from the train station.  My dad had gone earlier and gotten enough fuel for the generator and car.  Their power is still out, as I write, including electric heat.  So we huddled together in the family room by the fire place much of the weekend, running the generator at intervals to keep the fridge from getting to warm, and to give us some light.  We read and did crossword puzzles and went out to dinner and took the dog for long walks.  At night, we layered up, took our kerosene lamps to our bedrooms, and tried to keep away the cold.  I almost let the dog sleep in bed with me for warmth, but then she would think it was ok to get on the furniture, so I put her training ahead of my comfort. 
I found out that a couple of hours after I got to CT, the power came back on in my apartment.  So I didn't really have to spend a weekend in the dark and cold, but that’s how family works.
So now I have lights, internet, hot water, cold food, and it is all wonderful.  However, I feel like I should be making plans for when the end of the world comes and I need the tools to survive on hand.  I may buy  battery powered radio (how do I not have one of those anymore?).  And a samurai sword.
Good luck to anyone still working their way back to normal!

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