Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurrican Sandy -October 2012

HURRICAN  SANDY- October 2012.
New Amsterdam on the southern tip  of Manhattan Island
The Dutch founded  New Amsterdam  in the 17th century as a Dutch Colonial settlement on the southern tip of Manhattan Island and it served as the capital of New Netherlands.

 New Amsterdam - The settlement around the castle.
Similar to the castle in Cape Town South Africa.
It was named New York in 1667 on honor of the Duke of York ( later King James ll of England)  when British forces seized control of Manhattan along with the rest for the Dutch Colony.
The Dutch took one look at the island and realized that it was on sea level and it will  be prone to flooding just as some cities in the Netherlands were.Even the name of their  country meant " low laying land". Their cities were protected by dikes built to keep the water out, and they used windmills to pump the water from  the polders  (land saved from the sea)  back into the ocean.

Dutch Windmills
Perhaps the Dutch  did not stay long enough to plan how to protect  their new city from flooding, before the British took over.Some of the older homes in Greenwich Village still has the front door entrance to the house on the second floor. In case of flooding one could still enter the house even if the lower floor was flooded. So the people of New York were  well aware of the danger of flooding.
Greenwich Village houses.
This week - November 28 October 2012- the town fathers of New York wished they had the foresight to build dikes or levies that would have protected the City of New York from Hurricane Sandy.
If one looks at the map of New York City with Long Island to the right- the part in red is where the hurricane hit .The island of Manhattan is where the two red lines split .On the left ,the red line goes up into the Hudson River, and the right one goes  into the Long Island Sound.
As a storm Sandy was not that frightening where we are located. We had some spats of very intense  high winds but it lasted for a short time . Five minutes later  another strong wind came but as soon as one wanted to panic- it was over. We had some rain but nothing to worry about or that flooded the garden at the back. On 14 street the front of a 4 story apartment house was torn off by they high winds, but nobody got hurt.
My apartment is in a in a brownstone, located  in Greenwich Village, about  quarter way up the island of Manhattan that was built in 1845.It looks out onto the back garden where there are several Chinese Maples trees , 30 feet higher than the five story brownstone. The must have been planted soon after the house was built. My biggest fear was that the wind would knock on of them onto the houses that surrounds the backyard. Nothing like this happened......Where did all the devastation then come form?
The hurricane came up the coast with the New Jersey shore on its left. The coast of Long Island formed a funnel that pushed all the water from the Atlantic into the harbor of New York .Not only was it high tide, but we had a full moon as well. A hurricane, high tide and a full moon all joined to push a 14 feet high wave of water into the harbor  and the low laying areas surrounding it.
Staten Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Island of Manhattan.
Tunnels and subways flooded
South Ferry Subway station
Battery tunnel.

9/11 Memorial being flooded

Lower East Side
When the salt water hit the low laying parts of Wall Street on the southern part of Manhattan it flooded the tunnels and subways. Transformers (located in basements- how smart is that? ) started to explode and the transformer on 14 street -that blew up 7 years ago  and left this neighborhood without any power for 24 hours -blew up once again an dumped darkness, silence and gloom on us all .
14th Street Explosion. 
I looked for candles and matches and found a flashlight that I kept handy . I also taped the windows with duck tape, earlier in the day - just in case. I did prepare and bought  some canned food and water but that was it.We are located rather far from the waters edge so I knew we were safe- unless a Tsunami wave hit us.
My neighbor Barbara and Tim downstairs got together and we had our meal around the table at candlelight...... very nice and romantic. It was if the brownstone came to life and remembered days of a more peaceful and bygone era. How bad could it be ? We had no TV, Internet , phones or radio. We were sure that by tomorrow morning, when we get up, all will be fine as the power would come up during the night and the heat would kick in and the warm water heater will have hot water ready for the early morning showers-and all will be fine. We woke up in the dark and the cold. The power did not come on.
Sixth Avenue- Avenue of the Americas.
It was Tuesday morning and I tried to call my partner Marion to tell her I would go into the office to see what was going on there. No cellphone or land line connections. I started walking up the Avenue of the Americas .It looked like a war zone. No traffic lights, no cars no people ,no lights. Further up past 25th street I could see some traffic lights and lights  in the buildings . I walked 17 blocks to work in midtown near Time Square.
Flooded subway
As the subways were closed ,so the only people on the streets were tourist trying to find a coffee shop open , sauntering along aimlessly. There was nothing open and nothing to do Even Macy's was closed. It was raining softly and it was very dreary out , cold with some winds now and then. The worse of the storm was over.
The Island of Manhattan black out- Hudson River to the left East River to the right.
At first they did not want to let me into our office building but I insisted as the door man knew me.
At the office it was almost normal ,but I was one of a few other in a 28 floor building. Nobody on our floor was there. The doorman said they might shut the power off there as well ,but he would come and fetch me if that happened. He told me not to get in the elevators but call them when I was coming down. I could call Marion from work and she told me they had power in Brooklyn Height but no elevators were working.
Times Square almost deserted .Our office is down the road on the right hand side behind the big black and white photograph of a man's head
At around 4:00 pm  started on my way back and as it was getting dark soon I wanted to be home by then. By this time I had walked two miles that day , and even while it was cold, I did work up a sweat and was itching all over .I had like a lick and a promise cleansing that morning but could not wash my hair or shower.....I did shave with cold water trying "to keep up appearances."
Barbara mentioned that the water was not ice cold the night before when she went to bed. I thought I can try and see if there might be enough water just to have a quick rinse. To my greatest joy we had warm water! I jumped into that shower and had the most wonderful shower that I can remember. I had forgotten that the we have a gas boiler for hot water and also gas stoves. I am no cook, and my microwave stands on my stove, but at least we could boil water and have a shower.
I blessed Salome for her insight as well as Liz that reminded me that there should be hot water!
Barbara and Tim came over again and we had a good time talking around candlelight but after they left there was a long night ahead with no music ,no heat, no phone, no Internet, no TV  and I started to read and read and read.I read two books -and many magazines during this time. At last it was 10:00 pm and I could go to bed. In the morning I waited for it to get light before I got up and had my warm shower to warm me up. The apartment was freezing and I was not thrilled. The bed was warm enough but getting out of it was horrible. It reminded me of my days as a kid when we lived in Bloemfontein .Houses were never heated in South Africa so we were tough when it came to the cold, but after living in America where we heat is mandatory for survival- I have become very spoilt.
A very tall apartment block that they were building on 57st  near the Carnegie Hall had a crane hanging from it that toppled over during the night. They had roped  off block after  block around it ,scared that if the wind loosens it, it might fly through the air and hit somebody .They also had to evacuate all the tenants in building around it. This building was in the news a few weeks ago when the penthouse  apartment sold for $90 million. Only on top of a hurricane will this happen in NYC ........As they say "Only in America". Slowly but surely the days got easier .Marion got back to work and we had one of the dressmakers come in to finish two gowns that had to go out by Friday. It took her three hours to get to work that usually takes her 40 minutes on a normal day. I had heat Internet and phones at work so life was normal. What got to me where the long nights with nothing to do but read.
Once I was home I was told not to move around the neighborhood at night as there were strange people lurking around the blacked out neighborhoods. The first night they caught two guys opposite the street in a building trying to see if any apartment doors were open. After 5:30 pm we were  trapped inside. Our neighborhood was also deserted as some of the apartment buildings had their water tanks on the roof and needed to pump the water up there. When there were no water to be had the tenants moved out to stay with family or friends. It became very claustrophobic after a few days.
 The only way to get home was to walk, as taxis were having  problems getting gas. At one gas station in Queen a guy pulled a gun when somebody jumped the line. A car with a diplomatic license plate almost got bashed in when the driver tried to jump the line....people were getting very irate.
What we were going through was nothing .There were people that lost their lives and everything they owned.  I had to count my blessings. At least I had warm water and a roof over my head at night. Many people tried to move into hotels and when they could find a room they were overcharged. Some hotels even doubled their rates.
At 4:45 am on the fifth night of no power, I was woken by a light shining into my eyes.
It was the bedside light that was on. It was so good to be back in the 21 century.
Never will I take a television, radio or a warm bath for granted again. It was great spending the first day back having light and entertainment. It did not take much to get Greenwich Village rolling again. By the same evening stores were open and running although all the frozen foods were off the racks . We will have to wait for that a couple of more days.

New Yorkers are tough. Monday morning the trains were packed once again. There they were reading their Kindles or newspapers -or taking a nap as if nothing has happened. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 not much can rattle their nerves.
Tomorrow we must vote for a new President -or keep the one we have. On Wednesday New York is expecting another North Eastern storm .............Life goes on.

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