Indrani Das (Moomoo) and I have been friends for 30 years. In our childhood we started off as swimming pals at Anderson Club in Kolkata then despite being in different places most of our lives we continued being such great friends that even today we are constantly sharing our lives over phone, internet or on our holidays.
In 2009 I visited Indrani’s lovely home in Jersey City on the banks of the Hudson. The view from her patio, that overlooks the river, is to die for. When Sandy struck all I was thinking of was her terrace, the huge glass doors and windows of her house and her dangerous proximity to the river. I couldn’t get through to her over phone for days. When I finally did, Indrani was kind enough to take out time from the chaos that’s ruling her life at the moment, and write down her account of surviving Sandy for this blog.
In August 2011 we had our brush with Irene. Our residential area which is located in Jersey City downtown next to the Hudson River was declared as a flood zone. We have a small patio and the building management had asked us to take every outdoor furniture and storage units off the terrace. It was hard to squeeze in all the bulky furniture in our 2-bedroom condominium. We have French windows in our living room as well as the bedrooms and we ended up putting scotch tapes across those in an attempt to restrict them from cracking if the winds were strong enough. We stocked up on food and drinking water and kept the flashlights and candles handy. We even filled up the bathtubs with water. Thanks to our experience from water logging in Kolkata we know when stored water comes in handy at such times. In fact, since I have grown up in Kolkata dealing with power cut, water logging and water shortage I think I panicked less about a storm hitting us. Irene ended up being a category one thunderstorm but unfortunately Sandy didn’t.
“During Sandy lower floors of our building were evacuated”
We took the same precautions that we took for Irene. Thirty-feet-high water was predicted in our area. They announced in our building, for those who lived on 1st and 2nd floor (that would be ground and 1st floor), should evacuate. We just cleared the mark as we were on the 3rd floor so we decided to stay back. The entire weekend we were all over the neighborhood buying crates of bottled water, canned food, cereal etc and braced ourselves for the storm as we went into Monday.
Monday, October 29th
“The lull before the storm”
My husband and I worked from home. Our daughter’s school was off. It rained off and on all morning and the sky was overcast and there was no wind. A typical lull before the storm prevailed till about 3 pm and the drizzle turned into rain. Around 5 pm the winds were getting stronger and it was pouring heavily. About 7 pm when we looked out of the windows there was ankle-deep flooding on the streets. By 9 pm the cars parked on the streets were bobbing up and down! The Hudson River rose during the high tide flooding our neighborhood completely. We lost power the same night but we ran all night on generators and we were told to cut down the usage of lights and other electronic devices as much as we good.
Tuesday, October 30th
“People on higher floors were trapped”
It apparently looked clear. All the water had receded back in the river and we were told we had power at that time. However when we opened the main door of our home the corridor was pitch dark and none of the elevators were working. One of the transformers had blown up the night before but we were lucky the common area was affected and not our individual homes. We were lucky again being on the lower floors, the outside world was still accessible to us. Those on the higher floors of the building were trapped until the elevators would come back up. We rolled up our pants and waded out of the flooded stairway. One quick peek at the neighborhood store came as a shock to us. All the stuff from the aisles, which must have floated out of their place last night, were scattered in piles on the floor.
My husband’s brother and sis-in-law, who live across the streets had lost power in their building the previous night like us and had no back-up generator. With a 9-month-old and no heat it was not easy for them. They came over to stay with us.
Wednesday, October 31st
“We were huddled together and cooking”
We were doing fine, all huddled together, cooking, with the kids playing and watching TV and feeling ever so thankful that we were safe in the comfort of our homes with power, gas and water as we watched people’s houses being blown away in various places and pictures of flooded basements and evacuation centers where people were put up, kept coming to the screen. That evening just before dinner we lost water completely. A ton of unwashed utensils had already piled up in the sink and had to be loaded in the dishwasher and cooking more food could be a problem with no water.
Our building management said that there was some plumbing work that was being carried out and we may have no water for a couple of days or more. The same day my brother-in-law’s building restored everything so we all packed and moved to their place. We carried our laptops as we planned to work from home the next 2 days.
Oh yes, it was Halloween and my five-year-old was upset and I explained to her there were kids out there with no food, no home and no electricity and they were not complaining. She seemed to understand and ate up her dinner quicker than she usually does.
“It took me two hours to reach my office in the ferry”
Commute to work was really messed up this whole week. We are heavily dependent on the train and due to the flooding of the train stations they are not in service so I attempted to take the ferry on Monday, Nov 5th and gave up after an hour long wait in the cold since people thronged it as no other modes of transportation were available.
Tuesday, Nov 6th I braved the ferry but the commute was not easy at all. It took me about two hours each way.
Wednesday, Nov 7th partial service was restored to the trains and I almost passed out in the overcrowded compartment.
Thursday, Nov 8th had the first snowstorm of this year, Athena which compelled me to work from home again.
I am in office now and fervently hoping that they are able to restore the PATH train completely soon so that I can have a comfortable commute. I suffer from claustrophobia and it’s nightmarish to be stuck in an overcrowded underground train.
“The uncertainty about Sandy was nightmarish”
The most difficult part was to be able to come to terms with the uncertainty. We did not know what to expect and what the impact would be. It was mostly like taking it one day at a time or rather one hour at a time.
“The shock was like 9/11”
Well kind of. After the 9/11 attack we remember being at home for straight seven days which was much worse than this. We were newly married, 11 years younger and new to this country so it was a huge shocker.