On the day of my fiftieth birthday party, with a list of one hundred guests and a rock band scheduled to arrive, Hurricane Irene changed it all. Last night, when we hosted several friends for a “Haunted Housewarming,” Hurricane Sandy loomed large in the conversations. My friends are beginning to think there is a pattern. While I think this is kind of funny, as I sit here watching dark clouds gather and the wind pick up, I am beginning to think it is not really a laughing matter.
The media loves a good fear fest, and just like that boy who cried wolf, it makes me not trust much of what I see, hear or read. The mere fact that a storm has never taken a sharp left off the ocean to slam into the mainland, ever, makes me think that a) it won’t happen this time either or b) this is going to one hell of a shit show. Predictions in the media lean towards an Armageddon-like attack on the entire Eastern Seaboard. Staten Island could wind up under nine feet of water (and while I often joke disdainfully about that other borough, I would not wish this on anyone); my daughter in Washington D.C. is being offered sandbags in her neighborhood; my son in Buffalo stands to see an epic blizzard; my daughter in New Hampshire whose front door step leads to the Atlantic Ocean should be making plans to evacuate. Everyone in my area is fighting over generators. Yesterday when I went to the store for chips and beer, the place was mobbed and the shelves almost empty of staples like water and milk.
We have dealt with some pretty big storms in the last fifteen years. The 1991 Perfect Storm, also known as the Halloween Nor’easter of 1991, closed all bridges into New York City and kept me from getting home to my then small children. As I panicked sitting in my car at the bridge toll booth because the babysitter was actually threatening to leave them alone so she could get home to her own family, I waited until the police were not looking in my direction and I sped out onto and across the bridge with the wind trying to push me into the Long Island Sound. On September 16, 1999, Hurricane Floyd produced rainfall up to 13 inches and wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Our little town was six feet under water, and we woke the kids up to walk into town and see the devastation. In September of 2003, Hurricane Isabel battered the city, leaving lots of damage and a million people without power. Last August we hosted Irene, who was not a nice guest, and had a twelve-inch snowfall on Halloween that left us in the dark for days.
So it is not unprecidented that we have devastating natural disasters with serious repercussions. But I am hoping that when Sandy dances past a hundred miles off shore the way a good hurricane should, we will all have a good, shaky laugh of relief. I will keep you posted.