Photo sources: various facebook pages
I've lived my entire life, almost 60 years, in New York City in the borough of Brooklyn, and never have I seen the amount of destruction that took place here from a natural disaster as I have seen from Hurricane Sandy. The wind, the rain, and the high tide surge of sea and bay waters, all combined to bring severe flooding, loss of power, fires started from electrical transformers being ripped open and gas lines exposed from houses ripped from their foundations. The loss of life is still being determined, as each day new victims are being found in their destroyed homes.
Photo Source: Wikipedia
Manhattan is an island surrounded by water, as are the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn and Queens, which are part of Long Island. I've been noticing for many years that the height of these waters have been rising slowly and steadily. Call it global warming or not, the fact that the polar ice caps are diminishing is certainly having an effect on the height of waters surrounding our city. It was inevitable that a major storm would bring flooding to these areas, yet I believe that many New Yorkers never believed how high or fast these waters could rise and the damage they could cause. Hurricane Sandy brought this new reality into focus.
My husband and I brought over a few boxes and bags filled with non perishable foods, toiletries, cleaning products and warm clothing to a local church which is collecting and distributing these items to a Brooklyn neighborhood hard hit by flood waters. The church's school is acting as a temporary shelter for families whose homes were totally destroyed. We went another day to help in the sorting and distribution of goods as we will probably keep going back as long as volunteers are needed to help.
As we drive through the streets of Brooklyn we see countless destroyed homes, cars and businesses. The contents of flooded homes are at the curb sides, there are many uprooted trees and the lack of electricity remains in many hard hit areas. I felt such sorrow for all that are suffering and count my blessings that we did not sustain any damage. My husband's office building in Lower Manhattan was severely flooded and his company informed the employees yesterday that they will not be able to return to the building for weeks, possibly months! Luckily they will able to work from home or sattlitte offices in the interim.
I'm sure you have all seen the heartbreaking images on TV, and know how much the hurricane victims in various communities of New York and New Jersey need help. The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are two organizations that have been providing much needed assistance and would welcome your donations. My husband and I have donated to both as well as local charities that are aiding victims.
I also thought about all the things this hurricane taught me:
If you are in doubt in any way about your personal safety and if you live in an area that is deemed by your local authorities as prone to damage in a hurricane or major storm, please evacuate well before the storm arrives. Nothing is as valuable as your life! There were many sad stories of people who died that stayed behind in flood prone neighborhoods, as they wanted to protect their homes and valuables from the storm or from robberies.
Trees are deadly. If you live in close proximity to large trees you might also consider evacuating your home or at least stay far away from rooms that could be crushed by a falling tree. Many of the deaths that occurred in Hurricane Sandy were from trees falling on houses and cars. Large trees often have shallow root systems and high winds and heavy rainfall cause them to topple. A young couple in Brooklyn who were walking their dog during the early hours of the hurricane were crushed by a falling tree.
Be prepared for the worst! I've always been the type to heed storm warnings and I've always made sure to have flashlights and extra batteries ready. Now I would add a battery powered radio and a battery powered cell phone charger. I have seen portable battery and hand crank radios that also charge cell phones for sale online, and I am definitely buying two of them to keep one in my house and one my car from now on. Most likely your power will fail in a hurricane and you will be without power for a long time. Keep the phone numbers of your local municipalities, electrical companies and emergency services nearby, so you can call right away to report your outage and downed trees and get help. If you feel there is a chance you may have flooding turn off your circuit breakers and gas lines if possible. Stay away from downed wires and do not enter flooded basement until you are sure that there is no live electrical charge in the water. As much as possible stay connected to the media during a storm--they will give out lots of valuable information as to impending changes in weather conditions and give updated warnings. When high tide occurred during the hurricane and the greatest storm surge occurred my husband and I were very alert and ready to take precautions in case we were inundated with water.
Prepare a "Go" bag and have it easily accessible. In a satchel place fleece blankets, plastic ponchos, changes of clothing, perhaps a few packages of underwear and socks reserved to take with you in case you need to evacuate. In this bag place your hand crank portable radio/flashlight/cell charger, enough cash to last a few days, non perishable foods like granola bars and bottled water. Keep in it a list of prescription medication information and re-order numbers, the name of your doctors and a list of any medical conditions you have, your insurance numbers and your social security numbers which you will need in case you have to file a claim.
Fill your car's gas tanks, and get cash. There have been long lines in New York as gasoline supplies run short and gas stations have no power to run their gas pumps. Many working ATM's are also in short supply. We also have a gas tank lock on our car's gas cap as it help deter anyone from siphoning off gas.
Be prepared to go without outside aid for 48-72 hours or longer. While local authorities, the Red Cross and other charities, and FEMA will respond to destructive natural disasters, it often takes many days for them to organize and map out areas of the most need. Have lots of safe drinking water on hand--as much as possible. Fill your bathtubs, large pots, any clean container with water. Make sure to keep a supply on a high floor of your house in case you are isolated by flooding. Fill freezer bags with drinking water and fill any gaps in your freezer with them well before the storm. Not only will the resulting ice help keep your freezer cold if your power goes out, the bags will also become a source of drinking water as they melt. Stock up on non perishable foods that do not require refrigeration and make sure to stock some food supplies on a high floor of your home if possible. If you have an electrical stove you might consider cooking a few meals ahead of the storm and have dry ice in a cooler available to store those meals in case your power goes out.
None of us ever expect to live through a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, fire, blizzard, or other natural disasters, but we should all be prepared! What would you add to the list? I'd love to have your advice in your comment.