After the Flood

I thought that Bryan Walsh contributed a good piece on Hurricane Sandy to last week's issue of Time.

Walsh details some of what Sandy wrought, but also suggests how to prepare as storms like Sandy — a hurricane turned post-tropical cyclone after merging with the Arctic jet stream to form a hybrid nor'easter that some dubbed "Frankenstorm" — become a fact of life in what (most rational minds now agree) is an era of consequential climate change.

I've felt a bit of survivor's guilt over Sandy, to be honest.

My home in the Philadelphia suburbs lost power for about 30 seconds total on the night the storm hit — going dark just long enough the final time to convince me that several days without electricity lay ahead (since it would take so long for crews to work safely and get to everybody) only to pop back on with nary a complication thereafter save remembering to reset the blinking clocks. Lots of areas nearby had it much worse. I got to watch news coverage on a television in a lit room while checking E-mail.

The Jersey shore, especially to the north, and New York City got hit worst of all. Governor Christie — whose politics I don't always agree with but whose attitude I can't help appreciate — was right to evacuate the barrier islands; residents ignored him, and Mayor Bloomberg in NYC, at their peril. Hurricane Irene not wreaking the havoc that was feared last year was no excuse for failing to take Sandy seriously this time around.

Sandy ended up making the "hard left" (i.e., pivoting East) that meteorologists rightly predicted — despite never having seen a storm act that way before — a mite sooner than earlier estimates. Its center made landfall between Cape May, the southernmost point in New Jersey, and Atlantic City. The Wildwoods, a 5-mile island just above Cape May where I used to live, and immediate neighbors were largely spared because it's the northern walls of Eastern Seaboard hurricanes that are harshest due to counterclockwise motion pulling water in from the ocean. My stepmother teaches in North Wildwood and was back at work by the end of last week. Atlantic City, by contrast, lost sections of its boardwalk, and northern areas up to Long Beach Island — vacation spots for New Yorkers rather than Philadelphians (as well as, of course, home to plenty of year-round residents) — were absolutely devastated. Heavy rain during high tides is always a problem for the barrier islands because the ground is so easily saturated. Flooding is inevitable with a storm far less massive than Sandy was, and when the ocean meets the western bays there's nowhere left for the water to go.

To recap, then, where I live now we didn't lose power at all, unlike my cousins just a few miles away; places that I love like family — those of you with strong geographical ties know what I mean — were hit much harder yet still relatively unscathed. I not only survived the storm fine in practical terms but dodged a real psychic bullet when the beach and boardwalk that are my favorite spots on Earth weren't wrecked like their brethren further up the coastline.

I donated much less than I wish I could to relief efforts. The Red Cross and Operation USA can use whatever you can afford.


Arben said...

I'm so happy that Cape May etc. were spared. We did fine too, as you know, but I sure can't say the same for the rest of the NYC area. It's amazing how dark some parts of Manhattan were, and I heard somebody on the news point out that even before electricity the streets were lit better because there were alternatives to electricity; when the electricity goes out now, it's just eerie.

Blam said...

Y'know, I didn't reply here because we've talked privately but it looks kind-of rude for me not to say "publicly" that I'm glad you're okay. So...