Monday, November 5, 2012

Sandy, The Hurricane of 2012

Foster Avenu Marina-Sheva Apelbaum

By now, everyone has probably heard about Hurricane Sandy. The news made it look like it was going to be pretty bad, and if you were in the midst of it, it did look like the world was coming to an end. Long Island and New Jersey got hit pretty hard, but luckily for us, the only thing we lost was power, tree branches, and a small apple tree.

The day of the storm, the sky was a darkish green with many swirling clouds.  The last hour or two before the storm hit, it was complete chaos. Everyone was tying down anything that could fly in the wind.  The windows of the supermarket on mainstreet were boarded up with plywood.  Our hardware store was completely sold out of flashlights, batteries, and radios.

In my house, we were getting ready for the storm of the century collecting emergency supplies including water, food, camping equipment, clothes, and blankets.  As evening fell, the storm got stronger. The wind was howling outside, bending our 30-foot oak trees as if they were made out of rubber. I was standing near the front of the house when suddenly there was a huge bang, the sky lit up bright white, and the entire block lost power. It turns out that one of the transformers in our neighborhood exploded.

The storm was officially overhead.  After several minutes of complete darkness, I saw flickering lights everywhere as our neighbors lit up candles and turned on flashlights. Because of the danger of falling trees, my parents decided to move our operation downstairs (we weren’t in the flood zone).  We lit our flashlights and headlamps and used a small portable gas stove to heat up water for coffee and hot chocolate.  We used an emergency radio to listen to NOAA broadcasts and for entertainment, we read some books and listened to a shortwave Canadian radio station playing Classical music.
Throughout this entire ordeal, I had a vague notion that I forgot something outside.  Just as I was about to fall a sleep, I suddenly remembered what it was. In my haste to get everything to the basement, I forgot to take down my Betsy Ross flag that hangs on my tree house!

The next morning, we all ventured outside to find that our block was covered with fallen branches and a couple of fallen trees.  On the side of my house was a very old crab apple tree that was uprooted. After we had some breakfast, it was time to clean up. My dad brought out several saws and handed me one.  Apparently, I was just about to be inducted into the lumberjack hall of fame.  I found out very quickly that cutting a whole tree down is easier said than done. It took me 15 minutes just to cut the first 4 inch branch because the wet wood kept on seizing the saw blade.

Fallen Apple Tree Sandy 2012-Sheva Apelbaum

As I was busy cutting down the trunk, our neighbor who had a generator offered to help with his electric saw. My dad thanked him for his generosity but said that it would be a good idea for me to learn how to do it manually. It took about 3 hours to get the whole tree cut up and moved to the street. Despite the blisters and sore muscles that it cost me, it was fun trying something that I had never done before.

After we finished removing the fallen tree branches and raking up the leaves, I climbed up to my tree house and got a closer look at my flag. It was torn and tattered.  I brought it inside in the hopes of salvaging it.  The following day we got our electricity back for several hours and with the help of my mom and a sewing machine, I stitched the flag back into shape.  Afterwards we went out for a flag raising ceremony.  I played the Star Spangled Banner on my violin as the stars and stripes was blowing beautifully in the wind.

Raising the Flag Hurricane Sandy 2102-Sheva Apelbaum
Star Spangled Banner Sandy 2012

We live in a small town and people here tend to be very friendly and helpful in general, but now after the storm, they really mobilized in droves to help each other. As we drove around the neighborhood, I could see tables on the side of the road with signs offering “Free Hot Coffee” or invitations to “Come charge your phones”. Complete strangers were offering to share their hot water and food, even their homes! It was so heart warming to see such collective generosity.

Sayville Main Street 1940-Sheva Apelbaum

Despite the limited damage it caused to our home, Sandy did turn out to be a devastating storm for many. It flooded entire neighborhoods and leveled dozens of houses while fires burned down blocks and blocks of houses. So many people lost all they had and some even lost family members.

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