Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We missed the whole thing

I keep missing the big storms in New York.  I was out of town at Christmas when a massive blizzard swamped the city in 2-3 feet of snow for a week.  And last weekend I had the good fortune to be out of town for Hurricane Irene's visit to my adopted hometown.

My girlfriend and I had already planned to be out of town this past weekend for a couple of family events in Ohio.  By the time we were ready to leave on Thursday morning, the NWS had just updated Irene's projected path for New York.  As we were packing Mayor Bloomberg was on TV telling people to prepare to evacuate low-lying areas.  While we live in Zone C and we're well up a hill from the Gowanus Canal, I went to my basement storage room anyway and moved a few valuable boxes off the floor.  And I moved my viola onto the bed, just in case potential floodwaters came up into the apartment itself.  We left the cats with plenty of food and water (and I'd arranged for a friend to check on them on Saturday) and we got on the road.

By Friday afternoon the predictions of doom and destruction had gotten so bad that we went to Wal-Mart in Boardman, OH, to pick up some emergency provisions in case we returned to a Brooklyn devoid of power and rife with anarchy.  They had bottled water for sale at $4 a case, and I insisted we get three cases.  At that price, it would have been irresponsible not to buy it.  We also bought two heavy-duty LED flashlights, candles, granola bars, peanut butter, and jelly.  I thought we'd get bread on Sunday on our way back to the city.  As the weather predictions grew worse, on Friday night we decided we'd try to go back to New York on Monday instead.  I wasn't able to fully relax until Saturday afternoon and evening, no doubt helped by the samples of homemade wine my girlfriend's uncle served at a family picnic/tasting that night.  We got home late and I found myself watching a Times Square webcam, comforted by the bright lights and the knowledge that the city was still standing, at least at that hour.

As soon as I was awake on Sunday morning I was back online, checking Twitter and news sites for updates on the storm.  By 10 AM it was clear that the hurricane had spared the city the worst of its fury.  I relaxed and hoped that I wouldn't see a photo of a tree branch through my living room window.  I worried a little when I saw photos of the Gowanus Canal close to cresting its banks, but I never heard anything about the canal actually overflowing.   We drove to Johnstown to see my mother, secure in the knowledge that our apartment was OK.  Late on Sunday night, a friend tweeted that he'd gone to a bar on 4th Avenue and confirmed everything down there was clear.

The return trip to New York was the least eventful drive I've had in the past few months.  It was busy but there were no long delays or backups.  As we drove through Park Slope, we marveled at the lack of evidence of a hurricane.  The damage we saw looked like it was from a strong microburst, not a sustained storm.  The cats were fine when we got back.  Based on the mess they left us, they must have had quite a hurricane party.

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