After the Storm

Sandy’s only victim on my block.  Thankful it was just a tree.

Just in case you weren’t aware: the northeastern part of the United States was hit by a post-tropical cyclone, formerly known as Hurricane Sandy.  The storm was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 people in New York state alone, and millions have been left without power, or worse, completely displaced.

This was my third experience with a hurricane (or similar storm). The first was Hurricane Isabel, a Category 1 storm which made landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a mere hour away from my university.  Despite the droves of students who heeded local authorities’ recommendation to evacuate, my best friend (at the time) and I decided to ride the storm out.  We spent the first night in the gymnasium, sleeping on box springs. As the storm made its way north, we rode to a nearby hotel where a mutual friend was working and he let us sleep in the room that was provided for him.  After the storm passed, we went back to the apartment complex near campus to stay with my friend’s sorority sister. There was no electricity.  It was September, so it was still warm.  People were grilling in the parking lot, drinking, generally just having a good time.  But after a day or two of sleeping on the floor, I was over it.  My friend and I packed up our stuff, hopped in my car, and drove to her mom’s house in Charlotte. By the time we got there, we got the news that classes would start in two days.  We headed back to Hampton, relieved that the ordeal was over, and I figured I’d never have to deal with a hurricane again.

I was wrong. Last year, we had Hurricane Irene.  My mother is from the Caribbean. She did not appear to be frightened in the least.  But I, remembering how awful Isabel had been, raced off to the Target near my job and bought candles, flashlights, batteries, and snacks. We had plenty of bottled water, canned goods and bread and peanut butter.  I kept my phone and laptop charged, and prayed for the best. Irene passed us with little fanfare, though the next neighborhood over flooded pretty badly.

The worst part about the whole thing had been waiting. The anticipation.  When news of Sandy broke, I wanted to cry. Not again! We live in New York!  Not Florida!  What the hell is going on??????  And of course, the constant news coverage did nothing to help. All everyone talked about was how much worse Sandy was.  How she was much larger, and moved more slowly, and had more wind. She would be landing at high tide, on a full moon. Storm surge would be extraordinarily high.  Everybody in Zone A, leave. Leave now.

I live in Zone C, the zone least likely to face mandatory evacuation. We stayed put.

Sandy was worse. The howling winds came first, before she even made landfall in New Jersey.  Every gust shook the house.  I heard things tumbling down the street. I heard crashes and loud cracks. I heard sirens and wails. I got no sleep until today, when it was all over.

After the winds had died down some, Marvs and I met with her friend Gemma to survey the neighborhood. Many trees had been felled by Sandy’s fierce wind, one on almost every street. Some were blocking would-be traffic. Some rested on houses or cars.  Gemma turned to my mom and said, “Yuh know, it really wasn’t that bad.”

She was right. We still had power. There had been no flooding.  We were safe.

It could have been worse. For many others, it was.  I will keep them in my prayers, and donate what I can.