Surviving Sandy in NYC

Natural disasters are pretty exhausting. I am extremely grateful to the universe that the Frankenstorm only inconvenienced me, but it was also stressful and humbling.

I spent last weekend preparing. Not as quite as obsessively as I did last year, but almost. I think most of us New Yorkers prepared less this year. (That won’t be happening again!) By Sunday afternoon, my laundry was done, dishwasher run, apartment cleaned, cabinets stocked with mostly healthy non perishable food and water, and batteries were procured. Then all I had to do, was wait.

At about 8:30pm on Monday night, I (along with all of lower Manhattan) lost power, internet, and cell service all at the same time. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone.

For about 20 minutes I was just stunned. This was what I was preparing for, but I didn’t know what to do!

I quickly transferred my most perishable perishables to a cooler with some ice packs, drank some Blueprint Green Juice for a vitamin boost, read a few back issues of Entertainment Weekly by candlelight, and went to bed.

The next morning, I slept in a bit. Why not? Still no power or cell service. I had proactively made iced coffee the day before and my half and half was still cold. Score! That cold coffee hit the spot.

I tried to meditate because I figured staying calm in a natural disaster is exactly what meditating is for, right? I was kind of distracted by my general state of “OMG. The power really went out, what should I do?” so that did not go so well.

Then I realized that I had no water and I had one flush left in the tank. (I learned during Irene that my bathtub does not hold water. “Miss prepared” had not remedied that situation since last year so I was kind of screwed.) At 11am, I decided it was time to venture out and see what was going on in the world and how long it would be before I could flush my toilet again.

In the flash-lit stairwell, I noticed my neighbors carrying buckets of water for flushing from the basement. Sweet! In the next 24 hours I made at least 8 trips up and down 7 flights of stairs in attempts to get my toilet to flush. I have a two gallon tank (that is two trips) and my toilet sometimes needs at least a double flush. “Sometimes” is apparently “always” during a natural disaster. Good times.

I thought that IF the power went out, I would just relax, read, eat the food I had procured, and chill out. This is not what happened. I am used to being connected and having all of my basic needs and desires met 24/7. I might have thought I was prepared to go without all of that, but I wasn’t. I worried about updating my family, friends, and co-workers. I worried about about how other people were doing. I worried about how long my food would last and how fast I could eat my perishables. I wondered when I would be able to wash my hands again (but was grateful that I had accumulated a massive number CVS hand sanitizing wipes at some point.) I realized that I could cook on my gas burners, but I couldn’t wash dishes. Then I realized that I couldn’t just whip up a box of mac & cheese because I would have to use my drinking water for that. THEN I learned that I could not even make frozen pizza or kale chips because the oven needs electricity to ignite the flames. None of this was relaxing.

I was starting feel a tiny bit unsettled about all of these discoveries so I reached out to my upstairs neighbor friends to see if they what they were discovering. Key natural disaster takeaway – lean on your friends and be super grateful if you have them.

I learned from my upstairs neighbor friends that we had a mutual friend who miraculously had power 17 blocks north so I headed there with them to get our basic needs met. So, so, so lucky to be close to the “power zone”. Taxi’s were not super easy to find.

We ate two meals in the “power zone”, showered, caught up on NY1, and then headed home to sleep.

The next morning, after a few water trips and learning this would go on for 3-4 more days, I caved in and decided to move uptown with another fabulous friend until power and water returned today. Again, so so lucky to have friends, power in half of Manhattan, and nice people who asked their livery cab drive to stop and pick me up to share their ride uptown with them.

My city is doing an AMAZING job at getting things back up and running. My building staff is also AMAZING and took such good care of us. People have been working around the clock to get us all back on our feet and I am very grateful to all of them. Not everyone is back on their feet though, and a lot of people have it a lot worse off than me. My heart and thoughts go out to people who don’t have friends to lean on, who have lost their homes, who can’t afford hotel rooms and taxis, and who still don’t have power or water or heat as it starts to get colder here in NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut. I am also reminded of the many people in the world who struggle to get their basic needs met on a daily basis, not just after a natural disaster. Like I said, humbling.

This afternoon, I walked through Whole Foods in Union Square and was shocked to see the shelves fully stocked with fruits, vegetables, and most frozen/refrigerated items, less than 24 hours since power was restored. I was actually holding back tears because I felt so emotional that people went to such lengths to make sure we all had food when we returned home. It might be a little bit about making money, but I decided to believe it was about helping each other out. That is what I see when our city hits hard times. We pull together and help each other out. I really think that is just what a lot of people do, and we have a lot of people in NYC, but I also think I live in the greatest city in the world.

As I bundle up for a cold night in front of the TV with no heat or hot water, I am feeling grateful for everything that I have (like lots of warm clothes and blankets and a heating pad) and will rest up so I can help people who are not as lucky as me tomorrow!

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