It has been, suffice to say, an exhausting and heartbreaking 48 hours. Emotionally difficult for me…but I’m in a warm bed in a dry apartment. My people? Not so lucky.
Growing up in New York–living each summer on a peninsula no more than 5 feet above sea level–meant the spectre of The Storm was always in the background. Every few years, usually in September or early October, a tropical system would threaten the area. Most followed the coast and prevailing winds and travelled northeast and out to sea. Eastern Long Island, perhaps New England, sticking much farther out into the Atlantic would get whacked; we would get some rain, some good waves and maybe some beach erosion. Twice a hurricane proper came in, but neither Gloria nor Belle caused any major problems in Rockaway. Except in the areas that flooded when any sort of high tide happened. Truth be told, it was the nor’easters, the winter storms, that flooded Rockaway. But never the catastrophic events we were warned about. Last year Irene came closer than most, but for most it was still OK. So it makes sense that a hurricane transitioning into a nor’easter would be the Big One.
Rockaway was a great place to grow up, and a great place to grow out of. Many of the folks from Rockaway ended up in nearby Long Beach (“Rockaway with jobs and mortgages”). Fewer DFDs–Down for the Day tourists–in Long Beach too. My brother and his family took the plunge a few months ago and gave up their house in Massapequa Park to move into their investment property in Long Beach: a smaller house, but only a block from the beach. Besides, we’ve extended families and friends galore there.
Which ‘hood got it worse? Probably the fires in Rockaway tips the scales, a bit. But both places had storm surges of 6-10 feet, with 20 foot waves on top of that. Here’s some of what happened to Rockaway:
- A before/after shot of the boardwalk. Notice the boardwalk is gone.
- Four blocks of “the Boulevard” that burnt out. We lived on B114th street, so these were our local shops)
- A slideshow of the flooding and damage across the Rockaways. Including the fires in Breezy Point that destroyed probably 100+ homes
It’s a lot to take in.
Last night and today was about tracking people, seeing what was happening, trying to ascertain who got flooded, who evacuated, who was stuck. One family member spent the night in her attic when the waters got too high. Most people were riding the storm out–after all, none of these “OMG you’ll die if you stay” scenarios have ever played out as badly as they said. This time was no different: it was much, much worse.
In terms of damage, some will probably write off their homes; most will have to make significant repairs. There won’t be subway service to Rockaway for weeks, given the flooding in Rockaway, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan on the A-train. Long Beach will get LIRR service faster, perhaps. There’s as much as 4 feet of sand in some parts of each ‘hood; most of the debris is small enough to remove relatively easily.
But everyone’s alive. Things can be replaced. They’re not people. Everyone at home is in my thoughts and my prayers. New Yorkers are tough and strong: they’ve faced bigger challenges. It’s New York, the greatest city in the world.