Outside my BIL's apartment building

Outside my BIL’s apartment building, the morning after Sandy October, 2012

Nature-wise, the North East is generally rather kind. Our earthquakes tend to be mild, our tornadoes, short-lived and small, and, other than the occasional hurricane, blizzard, or ice storm, weather-related inconveniences are minor. Though I *have* been caught in quite a few blizzards, ice storms & hurricanes, my scariest experiences had more to do with improvising after poor planning for long hikes or surviving weeks of dry pipes when my well-water line froze.

However, this post refers to natural disasters.  Although I already blogged about Hurricane Sandy on this blog here, believe it or not, Sandy came up a few times in the past two weeks, so I thought I would revisit that particular event with a new perspective.

Gathered in the Dark, The night after Sandy October 2012

Gathered in the Dark, The night after Sandy October 2015

Hurricane Sandy hit NYC on a Monday in Late October, 2012 and according to a CDC study, of the 117 deaths due to the Hurricane, 53 of those occurred in New York. Compared to the devastation experienced at the Jersey Shore, Staten Island & Long Island, Manhattan was relatively unscathed. However, the island of Manhattan is cupped by the Hudson River to the West and the East River to the East and during the hurricane, those rivers rose by as much as 15 feet, pouring water onto highways and side streets and blowing out a major transformer at a substation on 14th Street. If you lived downtown, as I did at the time, power was out for four to five days. And, if you lived in a highrise above the second floor (which I did NOT), toilets would not flush and fresh water was unavailable.

My Brother-in-law, however, did live in such a building. His 11th floor apartment by the East River between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges had no water and even the emergency lighting in the stairwells failed. Our power was out, but we had a gas stove (which we could light with a match), a fireplace (and wood), a gas water heater and working water pipes (Huzzah for showers), so he, his wife and his son came to live with us for a few days.  We worked together, venturing out for food & and phone charges during the day (a 3-4 mile walk) & gathering around the fire for story-telling in the evening. I saw so many acts of kindness, people giving up their bus seats when older New Yorkers needed them (the subway was closed south of Herald Square and buses were rare). People offering showers. People giving away food. In fact, I didn’t feel unsafe once–not even when I stood on my usually crowded street, turned off my flashlight and couldn’t see the hand in front of my face! By the end of the week, another two sets of  Sandy-displaced people joined our household. All it all it was about as pleasant as pleasant can be with so many people crammed into 1500 square feet.

July 4th, 2015 The National Recreation Center's trail @ Jamaica Bay (That Bay you see when landing at JFK), still washed out from Sandy

July 4th, 2015 The National Recreation Center’s trail @ Jamaica Bay (That Bay you see when landing at JFK), still washed out from Sandy

Rockaway, July 4th, 2015

Newly planted dunes, Rockaway Beach, July 4th, 2015

ANYWAY, remember how I mentioned Sandy had come up in the last few weeks?

The first was during my nephew’s high school graduation. His high school was located in a highrise downtown and remained closed for a few months. One of the two student speakers talked about having to go to an alternate school during that time. He recalled using desks made for small children & being crammed into rooms so crowded, teachers could not be heard. He also referred to Sandy as the moment his class came together….the moment they learned to appreciate one another, their school and their teachers. I was moved by his recollections, and saw quite a few of his classmates nodding in agreement as he spoke.

The second, was a trip to the beach over this past July 4th.  On the way, we stopped at a Nature center in Jamaica Bay (which is the body of island-studded water you fly over as you land in JFK). A trail had once circled a fresh-water pond by the center, but Sandy breached the trail and the dune and now the pond is a tidal saltwater inlet. Our destination was Rockaway Beach (both these places, BTW, are within NYC city limits in the Borough of Queens). Rockaway was hit very hard by the hurricane. This is what Rockaway looked like just after Sandy, November 2012. The picture on the right was taken this past weekend. So much work has been done to rebuild, but the area remains scarred. Standing on the new concrete reminded me how fleeting life really is, and how it can be interrupted on a random Monday in October, and still be healing three years later.

Sandy left the landscape forever changed. It also left me with a profound sense of gratitude for the way the people of New York can come together in times of need.



Visit the stories of the other participants here:

Contemporary Romance Writers Kat CantrellPriscilla Kissinger | Paranormal romance writers Kay Hudson | Romantic suspense writers Carol Post – | Novels with romantic elements Natalie Meg EvansJean Willett | Sweet & Faith-based romance writers KD FlemingKristen Ethridge | Historical romance writer Wendy LaCapra

And, Celebrate these July Releases:

Carol J Post: Hidden Identity

Natalie Meg Evans: The Milliner’s Secret

Me! (Which I did not submit to my fellow bloggers in time): Lady Scandal

14 Responses to Writer Wednesday: Natural Disaster!

  • Ever since I got caught as a kid in Hurricane David in Florida with my grandmother, then again in Hurricane Gloria in New Jersey, I’ve been terrified of hurricanes. I am so glad you all survived and that the recovery is going well and that you came out of the experience with positive memories instead of traumatic ones.

    And I love see three beautiful Firebird book covers on this post. That makes me so happy! 🙂

    • I remember Gloria, Sharon! That was a strong one. Yes, three Firebird releases in July (probably more & I just have not heard). Special, too, especially since 2012 was our year.

  • Somehow I think the post-storm period would be even weirder in Manhattan than it is in the relatively open spaces of Houston and the Gulf Coast. With all the inconveniences, it’s still heartwarming to see how people pull together in the aftermath.

    • It was weirder in Manhattan! I’ve spent 6-7 days without power in Maine, but we were prepared for such a thing: land-line phones, Hurricane Lamps, Extra Oil, Wood Stove & wood, canned goods, radios…. In Manhattan, we didn’t have that kind of stockpile. I clipped all my reading lights to the chandelier over the table & my husband used a headlamp to make dinner but boy did I miss those hurricane lamps and we ran out of soup pretty fast. We had one radio and that was monopolized by the teen in the house. At one point he sat up from playing with the dial and said to his Dad–wait, this is ALL you had when you were a kid?!?

  • Wendy, it’s uncanny how the devastation of a natural disaster can linger, even years later. But I find it beautiful that mixed within those sad memories are the good ones involving acts of kindness from others.

    I, too, have hunkered down during a storm (all different kinds) with family and friends– sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Without electricity and wifi, it’s amazing how much fun you can still have– with those around you rather than the device in your hand. Your nephew’s comment to his dad about “all you had when you were a kid” made me laugh. 😀

    • 🙂 I’m glad it made you smile. It’s amazing how long it takes a landscape to inch back to normal–even when money and manpower are available! It’s a testament to patience & resilience, I think.

  • I remember you posting pix of Sandy and all the people gathered in your apartment, Wendy! You were kind to share, as were all the people who offered food and showers. And as you pointed out, so different to ride out the after effects in Maine in the country rather than Manhattan! Looking forward to seeing some of Manhattan and you in a few days!!

  • Great post, Wendy. After growing up in Florida, both of my daughters moved to New England and experienced Sandy, along with some ice storms and blizzards. During Sandy, they didn’t feel people were as prepared as what we were down here in the South. But getting hit with a bad hurricane up there isn’t nearly as common of an occurrence as it is here. But people pulling together happens everywhere, and it really warms the heart.

    • I agree! Blizzards we understand in the NE (and ice dams and frozen well lines). But the widespread wind & rain damage of a full Hurricane is far less frequent.

  • Hi Wendy. You know, I never thought of the peculiar fragility of living in a highrise when disaster strikes. OK, your feet are not in the water but such things as toilets and presurised water, not to mention lifts and electricity, are utterly vulnerable. And then you’re just in a big, dark box. Nature outguns humans on every level and needs to be respected. Never do I feel smaller or more insignificant than when savage winds boom against the sides of my home and tree branches scream.

    • I agree. I remember walking along the Hudson River about 8 hours before Sandy hit and thinking. “They are closing the bridges and tunnels tonight. Huh. Manhattan is an island. *Oh crap* This is AN ISLAND…as in everything we have comes from somewhere else.” I know its obvious, but I never really thought about it before.

  • Oh, what a wonderful view from another location. Having lived in the South most of my life, I’m used to the coastal regions and their issues. But being in a high-rise without power…ouch! Loved the photo of the dunes replanted. Saving our coastal areas is a good thing. And disasters do bring out the good side in people. It looks like you found it, too.

Leave a Reply