I spent Saturday getting ready for Hurricane Irene’s impending arrival in NYC. I thought I was well-stocked, but then woke up to realize I was out of turtle food. Not wanting the turtles to escape their tank and try to eat the cat, I decided to go out before the weather got too bad.
It was a weird scene. My first stop was a little food shop specializing in local meat, cheese and bread. The line was long, the bread was gone, and it took a really long time to get some cheese (some three-year cheddar and a yummy blue, if you’re interested). These were not exactly essentials, but you know, since I was out I might as well. Besides, if they lost power I’d be doing them a service by reducing their inventory.
I was about to pay when I noticed one lone croissant in the display case, and snatched it up, promising myself I would have egg salad on Sunday whether I had power or not. I was still vacillating between taking this all very seriously, and treating it like an excuse to lay around and eat. After all, my family was out of town – hurricane or no, I wanted to relax.
Next was the grocery store, which was packed. Some people were buying things like canned soup and bottled water, others were looking for ingredients to make hurricanes. Most people seemed to be treating it as an excuse to hole up and spend time with friends. Nobody really seemed worried. Everyone was being very polite. But the fact that we were all there meant something. We were all getting ready, in our own ways.
Despite having a house full of food, I picked up some more snacks and desserts, along with more bottled water and the turtle food. I had driven the few blocks to the store because the skies looked scary, and sure enough, by the time I got out of the store the skies had opened up, and I got drenched just getting back to the car. It was starting.
My husband had already brought most of the furniture in from the backyard before he left for Florida with the kids early Saturday morning, but I went out and brought in a few small things he had missed. I went through the house and made sure all of the windows were closed. I checked my readiness list one more time, and stuck a few more snacks into my go bag. Things were looking good. I’d done all I could. Now there was just the waiting, and the Weather Channel. And a lot of snarky tweeting.
The rain came down hard, and it was windy, but I’d seen worse. Just last year a tornado touched down on our block – that had been the scariest thing I’d ever been through. So when the tornado warnings started for Brooklyn and Queens, that’s when I started to get anxious. I stayed up all night, ready to go to our gross basement if necessary. I was going to stay up until the warnings expired at 5am, but then they were extended until 11am and I gave up – I was exhausted.
At about 9am, I woke to sunshine! Was it over? Everything looked good. No flooding, no downed trees that I could see. The only damage I could find was to my tomato plants, which had taken a beating – the metal stakes holding them upright had bent completely over. But that was it. I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d seen real hurricane damage when I lived in North Carolina, and knew that we had gotten very lucky.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when people in NYC started complaining that all of the evacuations and shutdowns had been for nothing. We’re self-centered. If our block, our house, is OK, then why the hell were we all worried, right? Forget the dire projections from the various weather forecasting models. Forget about the deaths and destruction in the states to the south before the hurricane even got to us. We were inconvenienced, dammit!
My little corner of Brooklyn was spared serious damage. There are some downed trees in my neighborhood, that’s it. It’s something to be grateful for, but instead I sense disappointment from a lot of people. We went through all that trouble preparing, and we got cheated! Bloomberg overreacted! Irene was a dud.
Someone I know posted this and tweeted this:
And I read about the child who had died when a tree fell onto his apartment. And the teen who died when the car she was in hit another car, because the storm had knocked out the traffic light. And the dad who died after pushing his son out of the way of a falling tree. And the man who was electrocuted to death trying to help a boy who had gone into a flooded area with downed wires (the boy is in serious condition). And a bunch of others. And the death toll is sure to climb once Vermont can figure out how many people died there in massive flooding. Plus, about four million people have no electricity.
So yes, New York over-prepared. But we’re supposed to be glad that it turned out to be for nothing. There are a lot of people who would love to trade places with us right now.
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