The region is just beginning to tally last week's damage from the killer "super storm" Sandy. But Northeast residents are now bracing for a second, though smaller onslaught from a classic Nor'easter storm that may strike this Wednesday, packing 45-mph winds, rain, and possibly snow. Jeff Masters has more about the storm on his Weather Underground blog ("Nor'easter coming Wednesday and Thursday").
Writes Masters, "A 12-hour period of strong winds of 40 - 45 mph will likely affect portions of the coast from Maryland to Massachusetts... Accompanying the storm will be a swath of 2 - 3" of rain, with the heaviest rains falling over Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island... Snow is not expected in coastal areas, but the Nor'easter has the potential to bring more than a foot of snow to mountain areas of New England." It's bad timing for coastal communities still reeling from Sandy's blow — where fast-approaching winter weather already has people worried. In New York City, officials say as many as 40,000 people may need new shelter, The New York Times reports ("Housing Nightmare Looms in Wake of Storm," by Michael Schwirtz). "It is a task shared throughout the region, as officials in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut struggle to meet the demands of those whose homes have been left uninhabitable," the paper reports. "In some cases, the solution may be a familiar, if unwelcome sight: the trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina."
The scale of the impending crisis is hard to grasp — in part because the effects of the storm, and the pace of recovery, vary from one place to the next. "... with recovery times in some areas projected to last not days or weeks, but months, a sense of desperation appeared to have set in. In parts of Staten Island, Long Island and coastal New Jersey, many still reside in dank, waterlogged houses and survive on food handouts from federal agencies and the National Guard," the Times reported.
The storm's disparate impacts were noted even within Manhattan, as power failed in downtown, to the south, but not uptown — as John Homans describes in New York Magazine ("The City and the Storm"). "The city was sharply divided," Homans writes, "zones of dark and light, a whole new demarcation of haves and have-nots. The line ran diagonally across the city, from 39th Street on the East Side to roughly 26th on the West. North and South quickly became two separate cities, one rich in power, the other suddenly, stunningly impoverished."
After the storm, Manhattan residents were in different worlds, Homans writes: "Uptown, they had lights and cell phones and coffee and web service and delis and restaurants. They could live like New Yorkers, like human beings... at the dividing line between darkness and light, residents of SoPo (newly coined, for South of Power) engaged in a hellish 10 a.m. scramble for coffee and bagels, or queued up in long lines for Korean-deli steam tables, as the morning patrons of Muldoon's on Third Avenue had their smokes and watched. The most desperate search, of course, was for outlets to charge cell phones."
The Washington Post described the pre-Hallowe'en scene almost humorously ("Sandy's destruction in New York turns life in Lower Manhattan on its head," by Sally Jenkins): "With the subway tunnels filled by subterranean pools, Lower Manhattan residents stood helplessly on curbs in rows, their arms outstretched like salutes, trying to hail phantom taxis. They walked up the avenues pulling roller bags, stamping through puddles in plastic boots, headed toward hotels that were fully booked."
But as Homans notes, "While Manhattan seemed to occupy center stage for much of the time, Sandy's real sufferers were in the boroughs and New Jersey—Breezy Point, Staten Island, City Island, the Rockaways, the kinds of blue-collar places where most of the first responders came from, too." And in those worst-hit working-class neighborhoods, the desperation quickly stopped being funny. "In many places that the storm pounded in its relentless push into the Northeast, there was a profound sense of isolation, with whole towns cut off from basic information, supplies and electricity," reported The New York Times ("Fractured Recovery Divides the Region," by James Barron, Sam Dolnick and Michael Schwirtz).
One such pounded place was Gerritsen Beach, a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood where surge damage was severe — even though the small neighborhood near the water is officially a "Zone B" neighborhood, and was not included in city evacuation orders. The local Brooklyn Ink paper has the story ("In Gerritsen Beach, Fighting the Flood and Finding Shelter," by Matthew Vann and Jie Jenny Zou).
Reports the Ink: "The flash flooding caught several residents by surprise including Noreen Cunningham, 44, who decided to get into her Honda Pilot with her husband and kids when they realized the water levels were beginning to breach the basement. 'This was the scariest thing,' said Cunningham. They decided to stop driving and head back to the house when the water level went past the hood of their car on the street."
The Huffington Post has more on Gerritsen Beach, where recovery now poses a daunting task ("In Brooklyn's Isolated Gerritsen Beach, Slow Recovery For Extensive Damage," by Eamon Murphy). "Inside houses, water level marks could be seen some seven feet high on walls. The pungent stench of seawater mixed with sewage, oil and fungi was thick," the story says. "People found fish in their basements," resident Matthew Walker told the Post. "Fish from the sea."
"Like many residents, Walker lost his car to the irreparable damage caused by seawater," the Huffington Post reports. "Gerritsen Avenue was lined with inert automobiles, some deposited at awkward angles by the receding flood, the inside of their windows heavy with condensation. In an area with limited access to mass transit -- the BM4 and B31 bus lines run down Gerritsen Avenue, but the closest subway is in Sheepshead Bay -- people rely on their cars. Now, the lucky ones whose vehicles survived are driving as far as Pennsylvania to get gas."
Another resident, Louis Ruperto, told the Post that he had stayed behind to protect his home when his family evacuated, and was living on canned food while he waited for answers from FEMA and his insurance company — and worried about whether his pipes would freeze and burst. "Gerritsen is like it doesn't exist," he said, "and the longer we stay here the uglier it's gonna get."