Hurricane Sandy Approaches New York, Empties Streets

Photo: Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York[/caption]

It is truly a surreal sight when one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world shuts down. On any given day, New Yorkers are rushing down the city streets, coffee in one hand, smartphone in the other. Everyone speeds in different directions, but not today. Today the streets are empty as Hurricane Sandy approaches New York City, leaving an eery quiet in the city that seems endlessly boisterous.

A few days ago, many New Yorkers scoffed at the severity of Sandy. This time last year, the East Coast dealt with Hurricane Irene and, while that storm caused a great deal of damage, it did not significantly impact Manhattan.

Sandy has not been so forgiving to the daily bustle of New York City and this was very apparent by Sunday.

Mid-morning Sunday, Governor Cuomo announced he was suspending all public transportation. While suburbia may not be hugely affected by such a development, the impact on New Yorkers who rely on trains and busses to get to and from work is huge.

Hours later, Mayor Bloomberg announced a mandatory evacuation for 375,000 people living in the low-lying areas of the city. All public schools are cancelled, and parks closed. Sandy may have seemed like another fleeting tropical storm, but now, many were starting to understand the severe threat inching their way.

Photo: Ali Wolf

By Sunday afternoon, midtown Manhattan already felt like a ghost town. On my way home from work at 3:00 pm, I ran into a very packed Duane Reade store on the corner of 56th Street and 8th Avenue, only to find fearful New Yorkers hastily grabbing dry foods, water bottles, and batteries.

All I needed was an extra flashlight. They were sold out. I thought about it jokingly, but as I walked home, the seriousness of the developing situation sunk in deeper with every step.

By this morning, everything was a whirlwind, literally. I work as a freelance journalist and this time, I was happy to avoid my commute to the Bronx to report in the hurricane. Instead, I sat in my apartment, with the soundtrack of local news, combined with the occasional whipping sound of wind as it pounded the window in my bedroom.

As the minutes turned to hours, the news went from developing to breaking and the whipping wind became a rhythmic whirl.

The news has pinned this as the “worst hurricane ever,” and most New Yorkers couldn’t help but deride its seriousness with all the media’s hyperbole. Then, the latest headline blares: “A crane is toppling from the top of a 90-story luxury condo building on 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.”

That is only one block from my apartment. Now, both the storm and the crane loom in the back of my mind. It’s clear to New Yorkers that Sandy will have far-reaching implications throughout the city, as buildings and streets succumb to the elements.

While some structural damage is apparent before the storm has even made landfall, the economic and political implications of the storm will have to be accounted for only once the clouds clear.