The hurricane diaries

Published: October 31, 2012
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PHOTO: REUTERS

New York might make more than its fair share of jokes about Sandy, but at the same time everyone is willing to get their hands dirty to help out with the clean up once Sandy leaves. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS

RANIA NASIR

NEW YORK: As Sandy passes through New York, everyone is trying to prep the best they can for her visit.

Grocery stores have long lines, where soup, bread and water aisles are empty.

A bunch of Facebook posts and memes have emerged pointing out how prepping for the storm in New York meant stocking up on wine and cheese rather than flashlights and water.

Hurricane parties have started cropping up everywhere. I am just relieved to have this break after the midterms.

What’s impressive and quite different from Pakistan is how fast information flows here. Students are getting separate emails from the university housing department, school’s communication department and individual TAs as to what precautions to take, information about classes being cancelled and how to stay safe.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has given notice in advance that the subway will be shut. Websites have started updating their lists of restaurants/bars — still open during the hurricane every few hours so that people can still enjoy the ‘happy hour’ during the hurricane.

I am now sitting in my room with a bag of chips and salsa watching movies and waiting for Sandy to leave.

And mum never stops calling from back home. I am constantly receiving a barrage of calls and emails from worried relatives and friends. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to my parents this much since I left home, and the news channels aren’t helping calm them down.

I still have electricity and it’s not even that windy here. But some parts of New York are devastated; others (like mine) are pretty normal.

Remarkably, the storm isn’t even over yet and people have started signing up for volunteer duties. Students have promised to volunteer time in soup kitchens and with the Red Cross.

New York might make more than its fair share of jokes about Sandy, but at the same time everyone is willing to get their hands dirty to help out with the clean up once Sandy leaves.

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HAMNA ZUBAIR

NEW YORK: Inquisitive, hungry and just plain bored, New Yorkers poured out of their homes and apartments in droves on Tuesday morning to survey the damage hurricane Sandy wrought last night.

As the streets filled with people shortly after 8am, it quickly became evident that most of Manhattan had escaped the brunt of the devastation, unlike Queens and Brooklyn.

This stroke of luck didn’t stop some irate New Yorkers from complaining about their disturbed schedules — I overhead a man in Chelsea fuming about how the off-Broadway show he was producing had been cancelled for the next few nights and I personally know of more than one person who was incensed by the fact that he had to let his dog do a poo indoors since it was too stormy to let the poor creature go outside. Ah, first-world problems! I thought.

Though Sandy has been dubbed ‘Frankenstorm‘, I personally found her to be tamer than the ravaging monsoons storms that so often batter Karachi’s coast. Having walked ten or so blocks in the hurricane at 7pm last night (around about the storm’s peak) I can safely say that it was neither extremely windy nor rainy. Most of the hurricane’s power seemed to be contained in the strong tides that hit the coast, which explains why lower Manhattan was worst hit, with most of the damage coming from the swelling east river.

That isn’t to say that Sandy hasn’t hit the east coast hard. The storm ripped away a building’s facade near the meatpacking district and has left thousands of New Yorkers stranded as the subway system is closed until further notice. In what is an interesting twist, only the wealthy will work during the next few days as students, low wage earners and young professionals have to stay at home or pay exorbitant rates for the few free taxis that can be seen on the streets.

But even more troubling than the subway debacle are the massive power cuts. Mostly everyone below 14th street in Manhattan is out of power.

Thankfully these power cuts were announced ahead of time, which led to a frenzy of phone and laptop charging. Iphone users are unfortunately hardest hit — I heard many an Iphone-o-phile begging friends not to text or call unless it was an emergency, in an attempt to preserve battery life.

In fact, I myself am writing this on my BlackBerry while sitting on my stoop since network services are patchy and unreliable indoors.

But no matter! Ever resilient, New Yorkers are doing what they do best — donning Hunter wellies and trendy parkas, stepping over uprooted trees to get to work and riding out the storm in style.

Follow Hamna on Twitter @hamnazubair

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Were you also caught in this storm? Share your experiences with us!

 

Hamna Zubair

Hamna Zubair

The writer is a former staffer of The Express Tribune and currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in creative writing at The New School, New York.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.