Dispatch from the eye of the storm that was Hurricane Sandy.
I saw the satellite photo on the Weather Channel early Monday morning. I’d been up since 5:00 a.m., emailing and texting the decision makers in the office who would confirm we’d close the building for the day. Since a State of Emergency had been declared in Delaware, there was really no question, but the language for our inclement weather hotline had to be crafted and recorded.
The photograph, taken from God-knows-how-many-miles up, was astonishing. The usual colorful graphics simply didn’t convey the level of . . . malevolence. The storm looked like it had a personality. It looked like a psychopath. It carried destruction in its genes and it didn’t care about the effects it created. It didn’t care that it was feared. It didn’t care that everything was disrupted by its presence.
My husband had begun hauling stuff up from the basement on Sunday as Sandy made a leisurely move up the coast at about 15 miles per hour. I gassed up the van, stopped at the grocery store for an item, found the lines snaking down the aisle, and left. We had more than enough food, and if the electricity went out, no amount of bread was going to outlast the advance of mold.
Sandy began wiping out the New Jersey shore early. Wilmington is not on the coast; we’re on the Delaware River, which empties into the ocean. New Jersey is Delaware’s protection. In every storm, no matter how mild it ends up being for the area in which I live, New Jersey is hammered. This storm was going to be no exception — Atlantic City’s boardwalk was already in ruins and the waves in Ocean City were enormous.
Later in the day, I watched the graphic representations showing the tip of Delaware directly in the path of the eye. Isn’t the eye of the storm supposed to be the calmest? We were told we’d be hit between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. It was raining hard and the winds were high when I went to bed, and since there was nothing left to do, I slept deeply.
When I woke up the next morning, I glanced at my clock. My clock was on! We had electricity! I got up and went downstairs to look out the window. Lots of leaves in the streets, but no downed trees. I went down to the basement. No water!
The storm had moved on, wreaking its hateful havoc elsewhere, particularly — and stunningly—New York City. Tens of thousands of people displaced there, electricity gone, an entire neighborhood in Queens burned to the ground as it rained. Sandy’s outer bands had whipped with terrific force. But Wilmington got nothing more than a common, everyday bad storm.
The psychopath wasn’t interested in Wilmington, nor was it interested in whom it did or didn’t hurt. It just moved on as though no one could stop it. No one could. My cousins in West Virginia got blizzard conditions and thousands were left without power. Then it weakened and became . . . a common, everyday storm.
There’s no explanation for why some people are so affected by a terrible weather event while others are spared. I happened to live in the path of the eye of the storm. Two days later, the sun was out and you’d never know anything had occurred.
Lesson: as frightening as it may look from space, the eye of the storm is not a bad place to be.