Sandy’s Two-Year Anniversary: A Personal Tale
Almost every meteorologist has a specific storm or weather event that they trace their love and fascination with weather back to. For me, that event came two years ago today – and I wasn’t even there.
I called my Dad on the Friday afternoon of October 26th, 2012, and my message to him was simple.
“Hey Dad, you and Mom should probably evacuate. It’s going to be bad.”
Knowing his meteorology-obsessed son’s propensity to get excited over severe weather events, my Dad naturally took the warning with casual stride.
“No, we’ll be fine. We’re going to stay.”
With the reliable European model calling for the ‘doomsday’ sharp westward turn of the massive – both in physical size and intensity – Hurricane Sandy straight into New Jersey, the scenario I’d mindlessly scribbled in notebooks in middle and high school suddenly looked all too realistic. Long Island Sound, the narrow shoot of water separating the south coast of Connecticut and Long Island’s north shore, looked set to turn into a ferocious monster, ready to funnel unwanted seas into thousands of helpless homes in the densely-populated New York metropolitan area. For even the most amateur of meteorologists, the forecast was decidedly ominous, yet obvious.
With my childhood bedroom sitting about a half-mile from the normally foot-high swells of Long Island Sound, I tried again on Saturday asking my Dad if he and my parents were even thinking about evacuating.
Even with my warning, deep inside, I felt secure that my parents would be OK staying at home. Even with a storm of Sandy’s strength, a half-mile is a serious intrusion of water for any oceanfront, let alone one as shallow and protected (by Long Island itself) as Long Island Sound.
But on Monday night, that self-security evaporated as soon as I flipped on the TV. Manhattan was under water, and my parents were reporting strong winds 30 miles northeast of the suddenly submerged island. Flooding was being reported in places that didn’t flood. Power was out at the house and my mom’s fear was tangible by phone as I tried reassuring her from 2,000 miles away. I fell asleep with a pit in my stomach – the first time I can remember being truly scared by Mother Nature’s wrath.
My parents – and our house – were completely fine. The water fortunately never got too close to our house – as my Dad figured out by venturing to the beachfront during the peak of the storm (my beloved father is good at almost everything, but he is a certified master at ignoring all meteorological advice). But while the physical toll was minimal on our street, it only took a short walk to find significant damage.
Water rescues were needed just a few blocks from my house. My parents lost power for nearly a week. Homes were lost and the beloved beach that I grew up on a mile from my house looked like it’d been bombed when I returned a month after the storm. But mostly, it was all of the pictures of my neighborhood that put a knot into my stomach. Below is a picture I took after the storm of the house of a close family friend (it’s the one on the right):
Here’s what that same driveway and house looked like on Monday, October 29th:
Almost a month to the day after Sandy made landfall, I went home and took pictures of my neighborhood in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, and I primarily snapped pictures of Tod’s Point, the beach I grew up on, and its destroyed concession stand, which served me too many ice cream bars and cheeseburgers to count. Here are just some of those pictures:
Certainly, my family and town’s tale is only a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the immeasurable pain suffered by so many in the Northeast. There are those such as my good friend’s oldest brother, who lost his Long Island residence to Sandy and only recently moved back home. There are other friends who watched with their mouths agape as dozens of cars piled up in the Lower East Side, drawn out by Sandy’s historic storm surge and making Manhattan look like the site of Michael Bay’s latest box office thriller. And there are the dozens who lost their lives in the storm and the tens of thousands who lost their homes to the high seas churned up by the storm that nobody in the New York area will soon forget.
Today is the anniversary of that storm – the one I’ll always remember, even if I wasn’t there.
Meteorologist Chris Bianchi