Memories of Sandy
Today was a lovely day at the beach! A group of us friends spent the perfect weather day with burgers and beer and overall fun. We stayed till after dark, watching the lights coming on across the bay. From nowhere a cool breeze and a chill descended on us. Such a sudden change! Another reminder of the nature’s unpredictable ways… don’t know why, but my mind went back to the memory of another disaster, a couple years back.
I came back from Canada Sunday afternoon, and all the talk (on TV, people at the airport, the newspaper waiting for me) is about Hurricane Sandy, which was supposed to hit us on Monday. Our apartment building is right on the banks of Passaic River, only a road separating the two. And the river was sure to get some storm surge; only question was how much. Estimates went up to 9-11 feet. The lower floor of the building is the parking lot, which was sure to flood. So Sunday night we took our cars to a parking garage at a higher location. I went out and bought non-perishable food like rolls-buns-muffins-cupcakes-pretzels-chips-cookies-chocolates-peanut butter-jams-jellies-fruits etc. And lots of water too. Candles, LED lights, matches all ready.
The wind is going hard whole day; rain too. By around 6.30, the wind quiets down and I’m like ‘Okay, so that’s all. Much ado about nothing.’ Spot on at 7, the lights go off. So I light up some candles and settle down to read my book. My house windows face onto Reynolds Avenue, and in about 30 minutes I see cop cars with their lights on, on that road. They are placing traffic cones to block traffic on Passaic Avenue, the road in front of our building. So I take a light and go to the front corridor with windows facing front. What I see is water creeping in from the river and flowing along the road. Other people come out of their houses and we all go to the front door. Building’s emergency lights are working fine in the corridors and front lobby. By this time, quite a crowd has gathered in the lobby. Water level in the road keeps going higher and water starts to go up on Reynolds Ave. As we watch, water begins to flow into the garage. The emergency lights last one hour (no one expects a power failure to last more than that!) and now they go out. Pitch dark except for the flash lights and candles. And people whose cars were still in the garage get panicky and they start to move the cars out. Just then, the cops come into the building. They look around, go into the garage… and order us to evacuate. I had only one thing to say… ‘Yeah, right!’ And said that to the cop. There were others determined not to go into the raging storm. So we went back to our homes. Later the cops came banging on each door asking people to leave. I didn’t even bother to open the door.
From my window, I could see the cops evacuating people from the houses across the road. By this time it was 8.30. Really felt sorry for those people as surely the water will recede as soon as high tide gets over after 9. Six houses… The saddest was when they had to carry an old lady on a portable stretcher. The funniest was when one family came out with their dog without a leash, and the dog started running around in the water with four cops and the dog owners running after it! The cops had even brought a small boat! They tried using it, but the bottom kept scraping the road surface as there was not enough water. Soon they put it back on the fire engine which was standing by too.
At 10, when I was ready for bed, the river water had started flowing in the opposite direction, back to the river taking all the debris with it. At 12.30, when I got up to take a look, the road was completely dry.
For the rest of the week, we had no electricity. No fridge, no TV. No telephone; no way to charge the cell phone. The weather is very cold, and no heating. Fortunately, we survived all that. For a week, I wasn’t able to fill gas in my car as there was no gas and the lines were so long where it was available. No way to get to work for a week… even if we could get there the office was not open as parts of downtown Manhattan still did not have power.
And my beloved Jersey Shore was in shambles, along with all the beach areas in Queens and Staten Island…
Life goes on…