November 8, 2012

Picking Up After Hurricane Sandy

Hours before Hurricane Sandy reaches our town, I stand at the gas station pumps to fill up the gas tank in my car. Streets are emptying, stores are boarding up windows. Cold air whips around the station. I jump back into my car, crumpled receipt in hand, and turn to my mother. “There’s water on the wind,” I say.

“It isn’t raining,” she says.

I say, “The air is wet though.” Then we are quiet. Grey light fills the sky, turning a pale green, as I drive home.

We've been through hurricanes before; Irene just last year. We talk about Gloria, about how the power went out for weeks, and hope for the best. Nobody thinks it will be that bad. "Why is it always female hurricanes that kick our homes around?" I ask.

My mother laughs, but says nothing.

Our power flickers on and off all afternoon, sometimes disappearing for twenty minutes, sometimes only a few seconds. We have our flashlights, water, batteries, canned goods, water. Wind picks up and news reports speak of the impending landfall. High tide will follow on the night of a full moon, waves expected to be thirty feet, winds to reach 90 miles per hour. Roads are closed. Mandatory evacuations rush people away from the coastlines. I call my father and tell him to stay inside.

Debris smacks the house, little plinks at first; the sound of acorns falling, although we have no oaks nearby. Minutes pass and a large crack sounds; a tree next door has fallen. Shrubs just outside the window are blown sideways, as if a jet engine has turned on behind them. The air outside growls, a deep, visceral sound; the earth is huffing and puffing at my front door. Rain sprays the windows for moments, but quickly vanishes in the gusts.

Images of flooding spatter the television, roads a block away from my house are under water. I think of friends and hope they got out, hope their homes will be standing in the morning. Cars begin to park on my street; people moving them to higher ground, hoping my house is far enough away from the water to be safe. Then the fire station horn sounds, and the lights go out. There is nothing to do but wait, and listen to the storm. The air is screaming. Or maybe it’s people. I can’t go outside to check.

The rest of the night, every few minutes fire trucks deploy, sometimes speeding up my block, sometimes a few blocks over. Eventually, I fall asleep on the couch. When I wake a couple hours later, there is a haze surrounding me. Upstairs, it smells like matches after they’ve been blown out. There are no more fire trucks. I crack my bedroom window, and the sulfuric scent knocks me back. Homes are burning, and there’s no one to stop the fires, no way to get through the flooded streets. I close my window and pull the covers over my head, waiting for morning.

This is Lindenhurst (my hometown) - days after Hurricane Sandy left:

(This video is the property of Newsday.)

I was lucky. My home received very little property damage, and being without power is an inconvenience, not a travesty. However, I have friends whose homes, while still standing, are unlivable. Many families lost everything. Take a moment and be thankful for what you have this season.

How can you help? Here are some suggestions:

Donate a Gift Card to help buy supplies.
We suggest: TargetKMartBed, Bath & Beyond, or Home Depot

Gift Cards can be mailed to:

The Lindenhurst Fire Department
Sandy Relief Effort
225 South Wellwood Avenue, Lindenhurst, NY 11757

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