Worst-Case Scenario

Just when I thought it was impossible for the collective intelligence of people to sink any lower, Hurricane Sandy blows into town and a new low of ignorance is reached. The mainstream media has a knack for creating a panic through their hype machine by feeding on the fear factor of the public; impending storms become headline news and people rush out to purchase the essential supplies (bread, water, batteries and liquor) and then hunker down bracing for impact. However, many times we’re hit with torrential downpours and damaging winds, but the most severe damage is usually reserved for those areas practically living on the water. Usually, that is the case, until Hurricane Irene blew through town in August 2011 and wrecked shop, causing massive flooding and damage. At that moment, the thought process changed and the Northeastern portion of the United States realized that we are now part of the hurricane season that tears through the Caribbean, Southern Florida and the Gulf Coast routinely.

So why is that a year removed from Irene’s wrath were people still cynical about the possibility of Hurricane Sandy being the superstorm or “Frankenstorm” it was predicted to be? Early Thursday I read in my office that two people had been killed as Sandy ravaged Jamaica and Cuba, but by the time I got in that evening, 21 more were lost. At that point, I knew there was something real about this storm. At that point, I learned this storm was headed directly for the East Coast. I joked with co-workers that I would not be returning to work until at least Thursday, because once the storm arrived, there was no way I was leaving Philadelphia. Perhaps I should’ve considered being a meteorologist, because much of this region is picking up the pieces, waiting for floodwaters to recede and power to be restored, in hopes of resuming some semblance of normalcy.

One thing was sure; there was no way I was going to be separated from my wife through whatever happened. That meant work, a run to Walmart, nothing was going down without the two of us being together. The storm could have taken a turn in the Atlantic and never reached us, but there wasn’t going to be any space between us until Al Roker and them said sunny days were here again. I can’t fathom the thought process that drove non-essential personnel out of their homes yesterday, when winds were gusting around 40mph and rain was falling in buckets. Perhaps the threat of losing a day’s pay was incentive enough, but I saw two governors tell everyone to stay off the roads and that was enough for me. However, it still wasn’t enough for people to flee areas mandated to evacuate, either out of skepticism or having nowhere to go. I suppose I wouldn’t want to be cooped up in a shelter either and I’m fortunate enough to have enough loved ones to make my way to, but there are many whose options are severely limited in a time of crisis.
Atlantic City

With that said, I can understand the cynicism from folks thinking this storm was just another byproduct of the media, a conspiracy theory to help drive the economy. Besides, even gas priced dramatically fell as we anticipated the storm. However, once governors and mayors started taking to TV, advanced closures announced, the Stock Exchanged shut down, a certain level of preparation must be followed, despite your doubts. Even more, the rain and wind that began to kick up Sunday night was just a precursor of what was to come and that was on par with the worst of storms we received this year. But you know your cousins, “I’m missing work because of a little rain, a little bit of wind”, just ignorant, while Atlantic City was being battered.

BY 8:00 am Monday morning, Delaware was shut down, the Atlantic City Boardwalk was literally in pieces and Sandy was still hours away! Still, this was nothing to some people. I saw posts damning the news coverage and their likening results to horrible storms of other regions like Hurricane Katrina, because this hurricane was a mere Category 1. We’re not used to having our storms categorized as hurricanes around here and not to mention the many rivers that border our cities and towns, the fact that it is the Island of Manhattan and yes, there are levees in New Jersey, this had the potential to be something serious.

Red Hook, Brooklyn
Ask the 1,000,000 people without power in New Jersey if this was just a “wind storm”? Ask the patients who had to be moved from NYU Hospital after a generator failed if this storm lived up to the hype? Take a look at the crane that’s dangling over New York City, the boat that capsized in the ocean and listen to the sirens that broke through the wind and what little peace there was to the night. Better yet, find out from those displaced or the families of the nearly twenty dead if only a “little bit of rain” caused all of this damage? Like many people, I’ve been glued to the news coverage, mesmerized by the winds, the damage and applying my own assessments as to how quickly we’ll move on from this storm. The results around New York City were amazing, as entire neighborhoods were on fire, transformers blew, the Subways were flooded and even Sam Champion from “Good Morning America” was stuck in Battery Park all night because all routes were flooded.

I’ve been up since 5am reaching out to family and friends, trying to ensure they’ve made it through the night safely and with the exception of a few fallen trees and lost power, they’re doing just fine. However, the fact you still reduce what happened yesterday and will carry on through the remainder of the week (not to mention the millions in damage that will take who knows how long to repair) to such a minimalist effect, really displays just how confined your way of thinking is in relation to world surrounding you. 

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