Posts Tagged ‘sandy’

The Marina behind Sunayana’s apartment building

Sunayana Sarkar my bestie from South Point school, a resident of Jersey City, pens down her Sandy experience for my blog. Here’s her account:

Initially we had perhaps underestimated Sandy, after a much mellowed Irene in 2011.  What happened next was quite unimaginable for many of us. Living on the 26th floor, we felt safe… as long as the glass windows didn’t break. I had the diaper bag packed, in case we were asked to evacuate the building. We watched the storm rage through and Hudson rising and sweeping through our neighborhood from our window.  It was apparent the damages were severe.  

“My husband climbed down and up 26 floors”
 We had prepared well with food, water and flashlights so survived the power and water outages – off-again and on-again for the whole week.  We felt trapped at home, as the elevators were not working. My husband Pradeep had to take the stairs down and up to 26 floors, when he went out 2 days after the storm. My daughter Zaara was driving us up the wall asking to go to the park. Thankfully we have wonderful neighbors and had an impromptu chai-pakora to relive some of the memories of Indian monsoon.   

The road in front of her building

“Driving was impossible without traffic lights”
Pradeep’s dental office (he is a dentist) was closed for a week with no power.  And even if it was open, I don’t know how he would have gone with no traffic lights working and no gas in the car.  Filling up gas was a nightmare. People were waiting for hours at the gas stations, only to be told that gas is over, when their turn came.  NJ has instituted the odd-even gas days to ration the gas which has made it a little bit easier and worse at the same time. 

“We are still struggling to commute to New York City”
Transportation has been hit very hard in NJ. Almost all train lines were paralyzed for a week and bus services were limited. It was unnerving for me, as I was flying out on a business trip. Zaara’s nanny didn’t have power for one week, but she was kind enough to bear two hours commute and come on duty, so I could leave for the trip.  Thankfully power in her home was also restored after seven days and the train service has also resumed for our nanny’s commute.  

We are still struggling to commute from NJ waterfront to NYC, as PATH trains are partially working.  It seems like it’s going to take a while for PATH trains to resume normal schedule.  The ferry service is another option for the weekdays, but an expensive one. 

Sunayana and Pradeep on a ferry on the Hudson. I took this snap on our holiday in the US in 2009

“I love the spirit of NYC”

Personally, we were extremely lucky and blessed that our worst experience was limited to no power and water for a few days. The devastation of Sandy in many areas of NY-NJ is unfathomable. Some areas of Staten Island have been wiped off.  But NYC is resilient and we are getting back on our feet as quickly as we can.  Almost everyone I know is helping another affected by the storm in one way or another. NYC marathon was cancelled and it was heart warming to see the marathoners, who had travelled from all over the world, lend a hand in cleaning up Staten Island. People have opened their doors for friends and acquaintances without power and water to stay, shower or even have a hot meal. In times like these, I realize more why I love NYC and its human spirit. At the end of the day, if you think about it the basic necessities have been restored much quicker compared to the intensity of the damages. If it was not a developed country, with all its infrastructure and resources, the toll of human lives would have been much higher.  So we have a lot to be thankful for.  

“Because of my water-logging experience in Kolkata I could deal with Sandy better” – Indrani Das.

The view from Indrani’s home

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.

Indrani says:

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. 

The same view during Sandy

“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.

Indrani with daughter Aparajita on their terrace. I took this photograph on my visit in 2009.

 “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.