Hurricane Sandy: Retold Through Pictures [ Part 1 ]

Hurricane Sandy carnage in the LES.

[Read Part II here.] It’s Sunday night, and power has finally been restored to my apartment!  Technically the grid was fixed for my neighborhood Saturday night, but since my apartment’s elevator shafts were still flooded, they couldn’t flip the power switch on for my building specifically yet.

I imagine most people are already sick of hearing about Hurricane Sandy; I can also imagine that everything on TV for the past week was non-stop Hurricane Sandy news, showing the destruction in Staten Island, NJ, and Rockaway.  I imagine, because I didn’t have TV during that time.  Manhattan wasn’t hit nearly as hard.  Yes, we had a blackout for an entire week, +/- a day or two…and certainly there were difficulties that your modern First Worlder would not be accustomed to roll with.  But at least we still had shelter, we still had a roof over our heads and a blanket wrapped around our bodies.

But this is my blog, so I’m going to share how my week went :)  Mostly in photos!  So this will be a very pic-heavy post.  And for anyone who wants to see bigger pics, just click on them.  It’ll lead you to my photostream on Flickr, where a whole bunch of other pics are that didn’t make it to this post.

Recap incoming, below the fold….

Sunday, 2012 Oct 28: The Last Day.

Brooklyn Bridge, landmark of my neighborhood.

Brooklyn Bridge, landmark of my neighborhood. Coincidentally, this is where Will Smith was hanging out in the movie, I AM LEGEND.

Went to Mandarin class in the morning, which I don’t like much but will save that gripe for a separate post.  Our teacher found out from us that the entire transit system of NYC would shut down at 7pm.  He became very distraught; his father works as a chef at some Chinese restaurant, and all the workers are there till 10pm.  Unfortunately, Chinese restaurants have different English names on record than what is in Chinese on their signs, so my teacher was having issues trying to figure out the phone number of the restaurant.  I don’t really know what became of that; theres definitely buses from Chinatown to Flushing, but I’m not sure about Chinatown to Brooklyn.  Maybe they were fine.

By 1pm, the air was already electric, the overcast clouds had rolled in over the city, and strong winds would slash through your hair so fast it made wirey whipping sounds.  I went home, where my uncle was watching Korean dramas on Netflix.  The fridge was stocked, plastic containers with 1 meal each inside. Mostly pasta, some of it sliced fresh mango.  Sealed soda cans, jugs of distilled water.  Hunks of cheese wrapped in saran.  Neither of us were going to leave, especially since last year’s Hurricane Irene was nothing to worry about.  We were in Zone A, across the street from South Street Seaport and consequently the East River herself.  But my uncle was unconcerned. I chalked this up to his being raised in the Philippines, where floods and brownouts were commonplace.

At 3pm, my mom had called me twice and yelled at me about being stupid for staying.  Let’s just put it this way, the only force stronger than a hurricane to me is my MOM!  It isn’t worth arguing with her about stuff like this, so I packed my backpack with 2 outfits, thinking I would only be away for a maximum of 3 days.  I brought my precious Macbook Pro, cellphone, and Kindle as entertainment and, regrettably, a mere 2 pairs of socks.  As per the chain of screaming, I passed on the scolding to my uncle, who is just as stubborn as his sister.

He refused to move saying, “I am comfortable here.  You go on your own.”  And against my instinct, I did.  I called him again once I arrived uptown at my mom’s, asking him to come over right now.  He refused again, saying if it’s really that bad he would just walk over.

Yes.  Walk over, in the hurricane.  By the way, it also takes 40 minutes to walk from my apt. to my mom’s place.

Trains shut down in the evening, as expected.

Later that night, my older sister came up from her apartment (only 10 blocks south of my mom’s place) to keep us company.  I think she also knows that there is no point in arguing with my mom about this.  The winds were strong and horrifically loud…almost like sonic booms.  But not much rain had fallen yet, and we went to sleep with the TV playing its shows, cozy.

Friends told me that Con Edison had a huge fleet of utility vans parked in Union Square, ready to move out in case of disaster.

Monday, 2012 Oct 29: Landfall.

I awoke early and went for a walk with my older sister.  The streets were wet, the sky was grey, but nothing bad had happened yet.  Most stores were closed since the MTA was no longer in service, especially the chain stores.  Big corporations need to take care of their employees.  Small businesses, on the other hand, tried to open to make a buck wherever they could.  The Bean was open, down on 1st avenue and 3rd street.  We went in and grabbed a table.  All those Sci-fi dystopian shows that talk about how GREAT a cup of coffee tastes post-civilization…they’re SO RIGHT.  A warm latte does wonders for a  ragged soul.  When noon hit, people really started waking up and coming in. The place became packed – almost no where else was open.  Two of my sister’s friends came in and sat with us…nice people.  We commiserated about having so much nothing to do, we all gave ourselves manicures independantly.

We briefly checked my sister’s apartment nearby, to make sure things would be okay.  Mostly that meant she put her computer monitor flat on the table so that it wouldn’t get severely damaged if the windows broke.  She unplugged the electronics, and I got so frustrated looking at the clutter that I cleaned one corner of her apartment.

Monday night is when Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.  As a tropical storm, the outer parts of the storm are horrible places to be…that’s where all the wind and rain is.  Around 8:30pm, the lights went out and the TV died.  The entire city south of 39th street went DARK.  I looked out at the window in awe of the blackness.  Beth Israel, the hospital across the street, was pitch black for a few minutes before its generators kicked in.  Two rows of windows near the bottom floor switched on, as well as its roof sign.

Hurricane Sandy: Beth Israel (view from my window)

Beth Israel hospital, generator lights on, amidst Dark Manhattan.

My sister commented that maybe they should switch the sign off to save power for the ICU.  I said it’s probably really important to have a hospital sign on in the dark, so people who need to find it can find it.

A few things you need during a blackout: candles, flashlights, and a Kindle!  Plus, DIY Candleholder #1: the Mason Jar.  By itself a tapered candle is really wobbly, so we stuck it in an old pasta jar.  My mom never throws these things out since they’re so sturdy and useful.

Blackout entertainment essentials.  DIY Candleholder #1: the Mason Jar.

My cozy reading nook on the couch.

My cozy reading nook on the couch.

I’ll post another entry in the future about which candles are worth your money :)  God knows I learned at least that during the blackout!  With no electricity, this also meant cellphone towers were down.  Verizon, Sprint, T-mobile, AT&T…didn’t matter who you had, you weren’t gonna get connection.  No power also means no internet.  Now here is something I’m very VERY glad we adamantly maintained in our apartment – a landline telephone.  One of those good ol’ copper wire ones, not the VOIP crap that service providers try to force on you now.  If you buy the 3-bundle from Verizon FiOS – that’s internet, phone, and cable television – and you already have a landline with them…guess what.

They will CUT your copper wire unless you:

  1. Specifically tell them not to cut it.
  2. Personally guard that copper wire, because Verizon employees have been known to “accidentally” snip it.

Another reason you may wanna keep that copper wire is because in some buildings, like my apartment by the Seaport, the copper landline wire is linked to the doorbell.  So if they snip that then your doorbell won’t work either.  But more importantly, you want to have a true landline in case of emergencies…like hurricanes.  During 9/11, it was als a godsend for us to still have that copper wire landline.  Cellphone towers were also down during that time…either down or overloaded.  Once again, I’ll talk about this more in a future survival kit post.

It seems like not enough people know this.  Corded telephones work during power outages!  I had a lot of trouble convincing my mom and sister of this, but telephones were specifically invented with power outages in mind.  You need an EXTREMELY minimal amount of electricity to run them, and this energy can be drawn from the telephone line itself.  Just plug in the telephone line to your corded phone, and you’re good.  We made and received several calls this way.  But the next day, the landline died as well.  I don’t know why, maybe the call center – wherever it may be – finally ran out of juice too.

Tuesday, 2012 Oct. 30: The Wreckage.

They estimated 10 feet of flooding, but NYC got 14 feet instead.  We weren’t prepared for that. My family and I went east from our Zone C building area, to the flooded B and A areas of Alphabet City.  Avenues B-D had evidence of flooding, things like very muddy ground, guck washed up from the river.  Note: to any Non-New Yorkers, “Alphabet City” refers to a neighborhood in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where instead of numbered avenues we have avenues A, B, C, and D.  Avenue A happens east of 1st avenue, and Avenue D is the most eastern street, right next to the East River.

A policeman sectioning off the area.

A policeman sectioning off the area.

Con Edison power plant & Mobile Command Center.

Con Edison power plant & Mobile Command Center.

This is the Con Ed power plant that blew around 8:30pm on Monday, because of flooding, which sealed all of Lower Manhattan in Darkness.

Debris by the Con Ed power plant.

More debris

Man pumping water out of the basement of his building, using a generator.  Two full tanks of spare gasoline rest just out of frame.

Man pumping water out of the basement of his building, using a generator. Two full tanks of spare gasoline rest just out of frame.

A flooded basement in Alphabet City.

A flooded basement in Alphabet City.

A Mercedes Benz that got submerged in flood water, then dragged away from the curb.

A Mercedes Benz that got submerged in flood water, then dragged away from the curb. The inside was muddy and nasty…more pics on Flickr.

People dragged their belongings out of flooded basements and hosed them off to get rid of the mud.

Most people stored their bicycles in their basements.

Most people stored their bicycles in their basements.

Over on Avenue B, the awning of this bodega was ripped away by the wind.  Windows got smashed as well.  I feel like someone who’s taking pictures of their messed up car to submit to the insurance company or something :P

Smashed bodega, fallen awning.

Smashed bodega, fallen awning.

Broken windows.

Broken windows.

Down the street, on Avenue B and 11th, we found a handwritten sign that announced “FREE PIZZA”.  If there’s anything I’ve learned in the 3 blackouts I’ve been through, it’s that pizza is always, always served when the power is out!  The hole-in-the-wall restaurant was manned by what I assume was the owner and his wife (or perhaps helpful adult offspring).  Now here’s the thing…they could’ve done what every other Thai food and pizza shop did in the neighborhood and charge money for a meal.  But they decided to hand out slices of pizza for free, absolutely free, not even for $1.

The long line waiting for free pizza.

The long line of people waiting for free pizza.

A tiny, hole in the wall restaurant.  Handwritten signs saying, "11B Express. Free Pizza around the corner; let's say goodbye to Sandy together."

A tiny, hole in the wall restaurant. Handwritten signs saying, “11B Express. Free Pizza around the corner; let’s say goodbye to Sandy together.”

The door was covered from hip to the floor in online-ordering websites, similar to Seamless.com, that I’ve never heard of before.  Tap It seemed popular in the neighborhood, based on restaurant windows.  Another program I never heard of.

The owner of 11B Express.

The owner of 11B Express.

The owner lives in Peter Cooper Village, which is just north of where my mom lives…spanning from 20th to 23rd street, pressed against the East River.  He rolled the dough, tossed it in the air, and spread tomato paste and cheese on it in a matter of minutes, as he told us his reasons for giving free pizza.  It was very touching to find someone so giving in a time like this.  I would have thought people would go cut-throat and extortionist, but not this guy.

The pizza itself!

The pizza itself!

I was expecting the pizza to taste mediocre to crap, considering there is no power and no refrigeration.  Plus, if you go to 2 Brothers pizza, which is $1 a slice, it tastes AWFUL.  All you taste is the dough.  BUT NOT THIS PIZZA.  11B Express‘ pizza tasted really good…great amount of tomato to cheese to bread proportion, cheese itself was springy in a delightful way, and the crust was thin, crunchy, and crispy yet not burnt.  Exactly the way I like it.  Moreover, the crust was a perfect size to be big enough for your fingers to hold yet not too big that it’s just empty and boring to eat.  As a New Yorker, I grew up on thin crust and can’t stand tasting too much dough in a pizza.  I’m definitely going back there for more!!  He deserves the money.  And hey…even if it was all a PR stunt, and it wasn’t truly “altruistic”, well…he still took the risk and gave hurting people free pizza.  That’s pretty awesome.  And it tasted good, to boot.  I’d give him my money.

A lot of trees were trashed…snapped in half, toppled on the street, completely uprooted, etc.  I’ll leave those on my Hurricane Sandy Flickr set instead of posting them here.

Alright, it’s 2am and I really need to rest.  Got an early dental appointment and work tomorrow, plus the transit system is still messed up with delays and reroutes.  I’ll continue talking through the remaining pics of Hurricane Sandy week tomorrow in Part 2!

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