Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In which John-John talks a little more about his fear of storms....

(Maddy's note - I didn't actually take any pictures during the week leading up to Sandy nor after the storm itself. My camera wasn't working (I'd lost my charging cable) and it was also about the last thing on my mind. I also know that, compared to others, we were incredibly, amazingly lucky - but that didn't make it any less scary when it was happening. At the time we didn't know we were going to come through the storm as well as we did. (And yes, we're well inland and a good sixty miles north of NYC here.)

"The darkness drops again, but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?" 
William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"


"Hmm. According to this, phobias are caused by a triggering event." I was doing some research on phobias this afternoon.

"Oh, I know what did it, all right," John-John said with a shudder. "Sandy."

"The hurricane?" I looked around.

He nodded.

"That was really scary," Shel said. "It was just about a month after I found my way here." He shivered a bit, too. "I used to live down in Manhattan where they got hit so hard. I was doubly grateful to be up here."

"Wow..." I've seen a couple of TV specials on the storm and how bad it was. The Weather Channel is still running "Life After Sandy" updates. And now they're tracking it on "Hurricane Hunters." Maddy said it gave her chills when they announced "They've named it based on our findings. This one's - Sandy."

"What was it like?" I said.

"Bad," John-John said.....

"A week and a half before it hit, they started saying that the long-range forecast models were developing something that might come up the east coast. We didn't think anything of it, though. Maddy told me and Shel that we've had hurricanes before and always gotten through them. She said we usually got  a lot of rain, but not so much wind - although with Irene, they got both.

"The whole week before it hit was weird. It was really warm for the end of October, but really dark and unsettled. We hadn't seen the sun since something like the Thursday before. Little did we know that the cold front that was stalled right on top of us was part of what was bringing the storm up the coast. All I knew was that the forecast kept getting scarier and scarier and all I wanted was to see the sun before it happened, but it just stayed cloudy and damp. Maddy kept trying to reassure us that everything was going to be okay. She was having a strange week, too. Some guy from an online college kept calling her trying to convince her to enroll. She had so many questions, but she said he just kept telling her "Let's get you onboarded and in-program, then we can deal with the minutiae later." She said the question of "How the ^%#?! am I going to pay for this?!" was hardly minutiae. She finally emailed him and told him she wasn't interested. Then she was trying to get her other car - that little black one that still isn't running right - back working, or at least working enough to pass inspection, whatever that means. She'd made an appointment to have it towed in for repairs on what turned out to be the day the storm hit.

"That morning, October 29th, dawned like the others - dark and cloudy with rain spitting from the sky. The wind was already starting to pick up. The tow truck came before 9 AM and fetched the car. Then - we waited. And watched. And waited. I kept hoping they were wrong. Surely it had to go out to sea? There didn't seem to be any way it could turn like that. turn around and come straight at us. I didn't know much about storms, but I knew they just couldn't do that. Except - this one was. It had turned around and it was coming right at us. I was so scared. The wind kept getting stronger and it wasn't blowing in gusts anymore with a lull in between; it was just blowing and blowing and getting stronger by the hour. I begged Maddy to just put us in the car and take us somewhere, anywhere so we could get away from it. but she said there wasn't any place. It was too big. And she couldn't leave the birds and Zaphod. I thought we could take them with us. But she said we'd have to drive somewhere out past Michigan to get away from it, and we couldn't. There wasn't enough time...."

Maddy gave him a hug. "Baby, believe me, I wanted to. If we could have gotten away from it. I would have gone."

"I know," he said. "Then, about three PM, we lost the cable. Right after that, we lost the phone and with it, the DSL. Then the weather radio lost its signal. We had no way of knowing what was about to happen. We still had the lights, but they were flickering like crazy and kept going on and off, and they were out on the other street - the cross street down there. I knew if we lost power we'd be out for days or even weeks. That scared me even more. I didn't want to be in the dark with all that wind and no way of knowing what was happening. And it was already getting dark at four in the afternoon.....

"Then, we got the phone back and with it, the DSL. Maddy told us that the storm was just about to make landfall in New Jersey. Shel said that hurricanes always fall apart when they make landfall, so I thought maybe the worst was just about over. I hoped, anyway.

"About five-thirty, Shel said there was a truck down at the cross street, working on something. Moments later, the cable came back on. Maddy came to look and told us it was a Central Hudson truck. They were out working in the middle of the storm, trying to fix the power lines. They drove off, but came back about an hour or so later - just as all the lights came back on the other street. I thought for sure that we were out of the worst of it by then if they were fixing the lines. But Maddy was worried. She was looking at the Upton, NY forecast discussion on NOAA's website and they were talking about a huge convective band coming across Long Island Sound, into Connecticut and across the Hudson Valley...."

"It was one of the massive bands of storms that had been around the eyewall of the hurricane," Maddy said. "It had eighty to 100 mile an hour winds in it. And it was coming straight at us. I could see it on the radar - this huge red band about to come right across us."

"I had just watched the power company bloke get down off the cherry picker and drive off and I was so relieved thinking it was all over," John-John said, shivering. "And then - it was like a jet or something coming right at us. Just this scream. And the house started shaking...."

"It was the wind from the squall," Shel said. "It just hit all at once. And it didn't let up. It was just going between a roar and a scream and it wouldn't stop."

"You couldn't hear anything over it, it was so loud. The whole house was just shaking. Something slammed into the end window and I thought for sure it was broken," Maddy said. "Right after that, we heard a tree come down somewhere very close by, but it was dark and we had no idea where it was. I thought for sure we were going to end up with a tree in the house. The lights were flickering like a candle in the wind, but somehow, they didn't go off. I don't know how, but they didn't. This went on for almost an hour and a half. Then - it just died. The wind scaled back to a little less than it had been before the squall, although it was still blowing."

"I just wanted it to be over, but it wasn't..." John-John said. "There were all these terrible things happening, most of Manhattan was dark, they said, there was that whole neighborhood burning down and nobody could do anything and the tide was coming in and they said it wasn't over, this wasn't even the worst..."

"The worst was over for us up here, though," Shel said. "The wind was starting to die down a bit, although it was still really gusty - and the moon came out."

"Even though that full moon caused at least part of the destruction, I was never so glad to see it in all my life," Maddy said. "That was when I knew the worst was past us. We had branches everywhere, two trees down in back and one huge tree down in the neighbor's yard across the street, our garbage cans were in the woods out back despite being moved under the back porch before the storm hit, most of the back gutter was blown down, the drainpipe was gone along with some room shingles, the cap was gone off the chimney and we still had gas lines and road closures and all to deal with - but we'd made it through in one piece and with the power still on. We were so lucky."

"And then the next morning - the sun was finally out," Shel said. 

I really hope that was indeed a once-in-a-thousand-years storm. I know I don't want to see one like it.....


If you want some scary reading, check this out. NOAA Briefings Archive.

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