New York After Sandy- My experience

The unmistakable skyline of New York the night before Hurricane Sandy hit is shown at the opening of the timelapse video

Before Hurricane Sandy

While one half of the city's iconic skyline is almost completely dark, lights are still visible on the left hand side of the picture

After Hurricane Sandy

Shocking isn’t it? I was out of town when I heard there was going to be a storm. I was skeptical- after all for Irene, a lot of evacuated but greater New York area was untouched. But not wanting to be stuck at airports, I made it back, grabbed my work laptop and stocked up on food. My friends who lived downtown decided not to evacuate- same Irene story.

As I stayed home on Monday, I heard Governor Chris Christie and Michael Bloomberg urge residents again and again to evacuate and I wondered if it is an over-reaction. I have never seen this kind of caution from governments before, especially not in India. But the wind and rain pelted my window on 20th floor, I realized they were right- this was no simple storm. I watched on TV as the ocean rose on high tide and entered the city. Tunnels had turned to rivers, subway tunnels and stations had 6 ft of water, and streets were flooded. Atlantic City has been on my to do list for the last 3 years, but I kept procrastinating because it is so close. And I was watched with horror, 80% of the city went underwater. The fire at Breezy Point, Far Rockaways, Little Ferry, Hoboken, Staten Island- stories of destruction and struggle everywhere.

If that is not isn’t heartbreaking enough, people are faced with days of no power, no heat, no water, and no warm meals. And unfortunately, so many of them won’t be able to go back to their own homes- will all the damage it may take weeks to get things back to normal. Even 3 days later, no subways, no path trains, no NJ transit, tunnels are still closed. Schools and offices downtown have been closed all week and it may take a while for things to get back to normal.

And was I most impressed with through all this?

  • The spirit of New York and New Jersey– Every person affected by Sandy who was interviewed was distraught, but they weren’t defeated- they were determined to rebuild their homes and bring life back to their community.
  • The contingency plan– All public utility companies have drawn up elaborate contingency plans in case of natural disasters and started working towards the action plans. Of course the storm was much worse than anybody could anticipate, but without this kind of foresight, the city would have taken even longer to recover.
  • Government action– I was stunned to see the response of Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Christie, and Governor Cuomo- there was no politics just a focus on recovery. Their personal and heartfelt comments and interviews showed they weren’t just politicians, but fellow residents who were as shocked as their communities.
  • Constant communication with public– I was in Bombay during the super flood in 2005, and we had little to none direction from local authorities. On the other hand, New York has constant updates on status of the hurricane/storm, text alerts on evacuation, power outages, subways and bus schedules, etc. The constant flow of information makes you feel safe and taken care of.

Of course, the one thing I was really unhappy about was going ahead with the New York City Marathon- Mayor Bloomberg just reversed the decision but I thought if the marathon went on, it would be in very bad taste. The race was supposed to start from Staten Island- one of the most badly affected areas, where residents have no power or heat, streets are flooded and rightfully so, people were very unhappy with the decision. The race might boost spirits, if it was in a few weeks from the storm. But with people still without essential facilities, doesn’t it make investing in a race seem frivolous? I am glad Mayor Bloomberg reverted the decision.

So how do I end this post? I salute the spirit of the city, and I can’t wait for the city that never sleeps to be bright again!

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