Monday, August 29, 2011

Waiting for Irene, yeah, the hurricane

10 am:
During a morning playdate I find out that the city has marked forced evacuation zones, and we are about a block away from one of those lines. My friend is skipping town. I call another friend who survived the earthquake in Haiti to see how she is dealing with this oncoming natural disaster ok. She is fine but definitely more prepared than us, which is easy because so far we have done absolutely nothing to prepare for Irene.
escaped for a coffee run and decided to buy the princess monkey shiny nail polish so that maybe she’ll stop biting her nails. The lines at the convenience store are ridiculously long so I decide to pass by again on my way back. On my return, caffeine having kicked in, I realize the cause of the lines is the incoming hurricane. Water shelves have been emptied, flashlights and batteries are sold out on most convenience stores. The fact that there is an actual hurricane coming starts sinking in. I buy as much water as I can carry back, which isn’t much.

Somewhat anxious I report back home where both my mother in law and my husband concur that I am totally over reacting, and that nothing is going to happen, even though the authorities are evacuating over 130,000 people.
Go for dinner to the old hood in Manhattan and drink my first Cosmopolitan in 6 years, which I dutifully regret the morning after. (this part is not related but hey, thought I’d rub it in). Was meaning to look for flashlights in the big bright city but totally forget.

10 am:
wake up to our neighbour using a staple gun to lock down the garden furniture. Hubs is MIA getting his US drivers license, so the neighbour and I proceed to clear the garden and bring indoors all the small stuff that can turn into projectiles. I start feeling uneasy about the fact that we have nothing other than a few bottles of water. Still being treated like a lunatic at home. None of the flashlights we locate work. The kids are using the garden pots to bury the dinasours.

strong winds and it’s raining pretty tough. MIL has finally understood that there is an MTA wide shut down, that people are being evacuated and that there is an actual hurricane coming. She goes into a panic and calls hubs with famous last words:
“you left two women and children behind to fend for themselves!”
hubs remains at driving lessons for another 4 hours.
two sets of friends send SMS offering their apartments for us to ride out the storm. Unconvinced I thank them but pass.
Although there's no warning yet in place, it has been raining pretty steadily all day and children have been on lock down, so are now attempting feats worthy of spider man. MIL and myself are getting suicidal so we decide to venture out. Now that MIL is on board we join the frenzy and buy non perishable foods, candles and batteries, and then stop for ice cream and scones before the real shut down begins. Unfortunately we get kicked out as the pastries shop has decided to close early so everyone can go home before the subways and buses stop running. Around us shops are starting to close and cover their windows. The streets are still pretty crowded. Still raining.

hubs waltzes back into our lives and we realize that everything we own is sitting in a container on a NY port that is about to be hit by tidal waves and a hurricane (admittedly the two things are unrelated).
tornado watch warning arrives. We look up in Wikipedia the definition of a tornado. What can I say, we are from Europe.
heavy winds and rain have been ongoing for several hours now. The large tree my kids climb up and down all day shakes back and forth. The light from the street is orange and eerie. Everyone goes to bed early and I slowly begin simmering and panicking, mostly regretting not being better prepared. We don’t have a battery operated radio nor do we have a car we can use in case of emergency. The downstairs neighbour, whom we’ve know for 2 weeks, has kindly given us his mobile number in case we need anything. I start doing a sloppy mix of go and emergency bag in case we do need to run. MIL has hers ready by the door.
We have filled every container in the house with water, taped the windows in case they break, closed all the shutters, charged all the phones, used towels to cover the holes around the aircon units.

Before going to bed I fill up the bathtub with water and check the news one more time. Two children have been killed by falling trees while they were inside their homes (RIP). The tree my kids climb up and down suddenly feels like this incredible menace sitting just outside our door. MIL is sleeping against a wall, hubs and I are protected by shutters while the kids are sleeping next to a large window that gives to the lovely trees on the street. I make makeshift beds on the floor of our room with the sofa cushions and drag their sleeping buts to my room.
I can’t sleep. I have this animal urge to stay alert to protect my babies should anything go wrong, and at the same time, I don’t want to miss it. The wind outside is wild, the rain hard, the light unusual. For someone who loves the rain like I do it is a beautiful site, but I can’t enjoy it fully out of fear that it might all go wrong.
Eventually, sometime past 3 am I drift off. I’m woken a few hours later with an automated message from the city emergency line warning that a tornado warning is in effect for Brooklyn and we are advised to go as low as we can and stay away from windows. Everyone around me sleeps and I hesitate for a minute…. Then of course I wake them all.
Turns out the alarm had been sent out at 4am, too tired none of us had heard the phone until 8am when everything had more or less passed. We hear nothing from the authorities so are reticent to leave the premises. The TV channels are struggling to make news out of nothing. A bit of flooding here and there, the people are out in the streets in Manhattan, even the tourists. The sun is shining.
After a couple of hours we venture out. It’s still raining lightly and there are soft gushes of wind. We come across a couple of fallen branches. The neighborhood kids colonize them while photographers snap shots of the little damage around us. Fallen leaves and branches all around. The shops begin to open.

Turns out Irene’s bark was much worse than her bite. I’m grateful even if I never hear the end of it for “over reacting” to a hurricane. I think the authorities did the right thing to prepare for the worse. I think that is their job.
But as it turns out, waiting for Irene was the most exciting part.

1 comment:

Fran said...

I was in NJ in 85 when a hurricane swept through our campus (and the rest of the state, I assume). Similar outcome... some big puddles, some fallen trees, a lot of branches and a few damages to a couple of buildings... No classes that day, so my roommate and I slept through the whole thing (this was during the daytime, mind you) and then when it cleared out, we went out to some "Hurricane parties" that were happening around campus...