KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
After causing extensive damage and several deaths in the Caribbean, Irene wrecked havoc in eastern coastal North Carolina and Virginia. As it moved northwards, it crossed water once again and then established itself over New Jersey, the first hurricane to make landfall in the state in almost 110 years. However, as Irene reached the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, it was downgraded to a tropical storm at 9:00am, Sunday, August 28th.
The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg took unprecedented steps to protect the inhabitants of the city. He called for the city’s mass transit system to be shut down from mid-day Saturday and for the evacuation of 370,000 people living near the water’s edge. Most found refuge with family or friends and only 3,700 headed a city shelter; some stubbornly refused to leave their homes.
Across the Hudson at Port Imperial in West New Jersey, NJ we made preparations to ride out the storm. We stocked up on non-perishable foods, bottled water and candles when we were unable to find any D-cell batteries anywhere. Though the condominium where Puneet and Komal lives is very near the water, we are well above the predicted storm surge. The ground floor of the building is a parkade; so Puneet moved his vehicle to an outdoor parking area on higher ground, further from the Hudson.
The condo apartment is on the second floor of the building, with windows facing north and east, but is somewhat sheltered as the storm was approaching from the south. We knew that we could move to one of the upper floors in the building if water reached the apartment, but that was highly unlikely. What we really had to think about was the possibility of no electricity for several days and access roads being submerged.
We watched the news and weather stations almost continuously on Saturday and headed to bed late on Saturday night. It was raining very heavily and the winds were picking up, but the brunt of the storm wasn’t due until Sunday morning. I was the last one up and just before closing my computer I read that a tornado had struck Cape May at the southern tip of New Jersey and damaged several houses. We visited Cape May a couple of years ago and I could envision the heartbreak there, as some of the beautiful character homes were ripped apart by the high winds.
Though I wasn’t concerned about flooding in our building, I began to worry about all the windows lining the two complete sides of the apartment. I even contemplated suggesting that we move into the centre hallway and sleep on cushions on the floor in case the windows were blown out by a tornado here. I decided against suggesting this to the others, they would probably think I was overreacting. Instead, we slept on the bed, carefully pulled as far from the window as possible, with our heads towards the door instead of the glass. I even lowered the venetian blinds and closed them tightly.
There were no sounds during the night and we awoke at dawn to see the heavy rain still falling and the trees being buffeted by the wind, but no obvious damage to speak of. We turned on the television and learned that New York City had been largely unscathed, though there were some power interruptions and minor flooding along FDR Drive near the East River and The Henry Hudson Parkway next to the Hudson River.
Shortly after noon, the rain subsided and the winds diminished. Anil and I decided to venture out to have a look at the aftermath of the storm in our area. We knew that the Hudson had overrun its banks a little further south of us in Jersey City, but the river never reached the upper extremes of the rock wall near us. There was a little debris washed up on the esplanade, but that was from the waves and not flooding.
At no point did we lose power, so I would have to say the storm of almost a non-event for us. However, we continued to follow the news about Irene’s devastation in Vermont. The heavy rainfall there caused massive flash flooding and there was significant destruction to property and several lives were lost. As I write this entry one week after the storm, there are still many people struggling to cope without electricity in areas still flooded. It will take weeks and months to rebuild and recover, and for many people who have lost everything, their lives will never be the same.
Once again, we count our blessings and wonder why we were so fortunate and so many others were not.