Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday 29th October 2012. To be honest I didn’t even realise that we were in it’s path until the Saturday, when we were on a boat. Ideal.
This was our experience of Sandy. We were lucky. Having no power, hot water and means of communication is nothing compared to what hundreds of people have experienced and lost.
Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, had emergency procedures put into place and had released ‘Evacuation Zones’ for certain areas around the city. People within Zone A and the verge of Zone B were to leave their properties immediately and find shelter with friends and family or at designated shelters that were put into action.
Looking up the Evacuation Zones, thankfully we were in Zone C - there’s a little black dot on the Evacuation Zone picture to mark roughly where we stay.
During the day, we headed out to get cash out and supplies in to see us through the storm. At night, we headed out for dinner to a local pub called GMT Tavern, it was a little windy, but nothing different from a wintery day back home in Scotland.
The storm wasn’t due to hit until Monday evening, yet everywhere was totally eerie. Transportation was closing down from 7pm and shops had closed down early to allow staff to get home and windows across the city were taped up.
We settled down and enjoyed our meal at GMT Tavern, watching the baseball and enjoying several drinks.
Waking up in the morning we decided that we should really get more supplies in and maybe some form of cookware to make dinner if all places close down. Getting some pans from Sur La Table, we headed to the Foursquare Office to pick up Sam’s laptop before heading back to the apartment to hibernate until the storm is over.
Placing everything electronic we own on charge, we sat and watched the news all afternoon/evening on the comfort of our mattress. As we hadn’t long moved into our apartment, we were still awaiting our delivery from Ikea.
At around 6pm we decided to cook our dinner in case power failed - this was the first home cooked meal since arriving in New York 38 days previously. Quite disturbing that a Hurricane caused us to cook our first meal. Although, we still weren’t even prepared, we had failed to get crockery, which meant eating our dinner out of the pot with forks!!!
The lights began to flicker around 7pm and we could hear the wind picking up outside. With our apartment facing out the back, we couldn’t really see anything but the sound of the wind was pretty fierce.
The first thing to go at 8pm was the internet, which put a stop to us watching the news and the live announcements from Mayor Bloomberg and it was only half an hour later that we lost power also.
Lighting our only trusty Ikea candle, we stood in the living room listening to movement in the apartment block corridors. We decided to head downstairs and have a look out the front door and just as I grabbed the handle of our front door with the candle in the other hand, there was a knock. One of the residents was doing the rounds and making sure everyone was ok and had some form of light.
Heading downstairs we had a look outside. It was windy, dark and the street was covered in leaves. We noticed that the bar right across the road from us was still open so we decided to head across for a drink.
Before we did this though, Sam wanted to check the road that runs past our block. Pitch Black. No traffic lights, no traffic, no noise. Apart from 2 drunk guys running up the middle of the road shouting - “We rule the road” or something to that effect.
The Room was business as usual, minus the music and it being cash only. It’s usually only lit with candles so there was no difference there. It was buzzing with people talking about the storm - people had come in for a drink in their pyjamas - it was pretty surreal. There was a guy sitting opposite us using his iPad and he clearly put his boots on in the dark as they were on the wrong feet.
Heading back to the apartment, we settled down for the night and I guess we would see what damage Sandy would cause in the morning.
Bizarrely, we both slept great - the storm hadn’t disturbed us at all.
Throughout the night, cell service had failed also, which had caused the batteries on our phones to almost be non-existent. With no hot water, we just got dressed and headed out to see the damage and try and find cell service so we could inform everyone that we were safe and well.
Heading towards the East side, it was like a scene from ‘The Walking Dead’. Very little people and vehicles on the streets and everywhere closed down. We were able to find cell service to text/e-mail people before walking back to the west side towards the Hudson.
Not really knowing the extent of damage around New York; all we could see was a few downed trees and rubbish having been blown around - this was not the case. Areas were hard hit and we had no idea due to the limited access we had to power and internet.
A local convenience store was open to cash only payments so we bought some more supplies and by supplies, I mean beer and snacks.
Using our laptops reserved battery power, we charged our phones and headed out once again and found an area close by where we could receive cell service. Sam managed to access his e-mails and found out that foursquare had managed to get office space further uptown where there was power.
Washing with ice cold water, we got ready and headed out to the spot to check our e-mails, etc and got the address for the temporary foursquare office which was uptown on 50th Street.
Due to Sandy, Subways were all closed down due to power and flooding, buses were put into place for free but as you can imagine, they were packed. So we walked 50 blocks to the office.
Everyone was walking North - nobody was heading South - people with rucksacks, suitcases, children and pets in tow. Once over the threshold of 33rd St, it was like another world, people were heading to work, businesses were open and people were out shopping.
Up on the 42nd floor of the ‘Time and Life Building’, the temporary foursquare office had a killer view. Sam got some work done as I charged my phone and caught up with everyone.
As far as we were aware, power was going to be off until at least Saturday, so Sam contacted a few hotels across the city but with airports closed and a high demand for rooms, we were unsuccessful, so we stuck it out in our apartment for the remainder of the week with no power, hot water or cell service, making the journey uptown each day.
A few blocks over, there was a restaurant/bar open, being powered by a generator. We had a drink in their before walking back to the apartment in the pitch black. It was a little daunting but with presence of NYPD officers standing in the darkness on street corners, it also felt safe.
After being uptown, we headed to Jack and Paige’s apartment where we finally got a hold of them after shouting and whistling at their window every morning and night after Sandy. On route though, we passed a crowd of people all gathered round a skip, where one guy was rummaging and handing food out to people. It got us thinking, if people had no means of communication, did they think the whole of Manhattan was in darkness and pretty much closed down? Did they know if they walked 30 odd blocks there was electricity where they could access cash machines, restaurants, cafes…
One thing that I had noticed with the traffic was how courteous drivers were to one another and pedestrians with there being no traffic lights. Hardly any honking of horns and one driver stopped to let us cross the road and stuck his hand out the window to warn a driver coming up in the next lane that we were crossing. Uptown where there was traffic lights - HONK, HONK, HONK!!!!!
Meeting Jack and Paige at their apartment, we all travelled up to the office together via bus.
We decided that the four of us would spend the evening uptown where there is power rather than down in the darkness. We hit several bars and had dinner at Bobby Van’s before we headed down to join Sam and Jack’s foursquare colleague’s in the East Village where power had finally come on.
Walking home with light assistance from the ‘Emergency Glow Stick’ that Sam had been supplied, it was apparent that Soho and West Village were still in darkness. One last night we hoped.
Let there be light!!!