We had begun to realise that we are having a bit of a meterological-phenomena trip (see post “August in New Zealand”) and when we flew from LA on Wednesday we knew a storm was coming, but never anticipated what we have now found ourselves in.
Irene is the largest storm to hit the eastern seaboard of the states since Gloria in 1995. Never before have they shut down the whole of the transport system (MTA) in NYC, but with the threat of storm surge, flood water and spring tides all converging at early morning sunday, the foot of Manhatten Island (an area called Battery Park on land, the water where the Statue of Liberty is), was under huge threat. If the estimates of 8-10ft of water coming on land were correct, the water would rush up Manhatten, and more worryingly, funnel strait down the subway system, with a entrance onto each of the main lines at Battery Park.
The worry about the hurricane force winds in a city of high rise buildings is the tunnel effect of the wind, whistling through corridors with buildings either side. Manhatten was under a “mandatory evacuation” order by the mayor and the mass escape began on Friday afternoon.
This happened to be the time when we went into the city for our first look around and orientafion. We were all pretty knackered from the time changes and travel, but we thought it worth doing a quick look.
From our hotel in New Jersey (the land to the west of Manhatten) it is half an hour on the bus to Times Square. The bus starts from outside the hotel so we got a seat easily (think living at the end of the Victoria Line!!) We had heard of a free bus down to Battery Park and the free Saten Island ferry, so were looking for a free afternoon with maximum views!
We got side tracked on the way (sculptures in Battery City Park, Finn hovering long enough around a guy playing golf that he got an impromptu lesson!, a thrift shop, and a sad phone call from home) but we eventually made it! It is SO hard being in a new city, without any understanding of how the subways work, how the signs work (or not), and coping with the heat and humidity. It has certainly given us more compassion for some of the tourists you see in London, spinning round, looking for clues, grasping their A-Z and their tube map.
By the time we got to Battery Park, we were ready for an ice cream and a sit down, so we sat near the play fountains (twins forbidden from going in….cue sulky kids…) and started to realise that the exodus was really beginning. We left the ferry for another day and started to head back. We got some food supplies from the supermarket ( think Sainsburys on Christmas Eve – empty shelves, queues to the back of the store) and got on the bus out of the city.
So the lock-down for Irene began! On Saturday morning the hotel was running shuttles to Walmart for food supplies and the transport system began to shut down. All the media was covering the situation to the max….. we counted 13 channels dedicated to 24/7 coverage. They certainly have a good number of very glamerous meterologists who they love to send out to windy beaches in waterproofs trying to speak into microphones through the wind and rain!
Locally all we experienced was some rain in the afternoon, followed by a serious amount of rain and wind starting at about 9pm. We recieved a tweet saying “its now raining properly, like Manchester-rain” and it really was. The wind whistled all night long but we awoke this morning to the news that the eye of the storm had hit but had been downgraded to a tropical storm and had not brought the devastation expected. Would it be unfair to observe that the people on the Weather Channel seem a little disappointed??
Outside, the road is flooded and a power line is wonky but not much else. We are not sure if we have to wait for the other side of the storm to hit us (if its a circle) or if the worst is over. We are relieved to still have power and hopefully we can have a normal-ish day. We will have to wait and see if we can get to NYC tomorrow or not.