I was in Reading, PA, a full-time campaign volunteer, when the storm hit. When I first heard about its coming, it didn’t sink in. Too many exaggerated weather warnings to believe this would really be the big one. My biggest concern was whether or not they’d cancel Le Nozzi di Figaro at the Met, for which I had tickets on Monday, October 29th. My plan had been to drive home on Monday — since the weekend was prime “get-out-the-vote” time, and return to Reading on Tuesday.
Sunday evening reality set in. This would be bad, and at some point the better-half and I decided that even if the show did go on, I wouldn’t be coming home to see it. Then I went through about half an hour of insanity thinking I could still make it home before the storm hit and at least spend the hurricane with my better-half. Craig already knew he wouldn’t be going to the office on Monday and Tuesday. The campaign headquarters would be closed at least on Monday. I knew our home would be safe facing west and on high ground, but I wanted to be there — with my life-partner and our animal companions. It was only lightly raining at that point, and the storm wouldn’t hit till Monday. However, after thinking it through I realized that driving even in light rain for three hours on dark roads after a day spent canvassing would not be a great idea, especially when the weather would only get worse and if anything happened — a fender bender, a flat — I would be in a world of trouble.
As it turned out Reading was not hard hit. Out in the suburb of Wyomissing where I was staying, we never lost power or the Internet. Up in upper-Manhattan where I live, we didn’t do much worse. Outside some boards fell from the scaffolding which surrounds our complex because of ongoing work. Fortunately, no one was hurt. A few trees were knocked down, but on the whole it looks like the damage you might get after any bad storm.
Craig went out into the worst of it. He wanted to know if the Dunkin Donuts on 125th street was open. It was! A few cops and a few hipster types were there. The wind was so bad that a worker opened and closed the door. My weather-geek better-half also went to check on West Harlem Piers Park. The wind was swelling but the water wasn’t flooding over. A passing patrol car slowed and while they didn’t stop and tell him to get the hell to shelter, he knew he should head home before something hit him.
We talked a lot over the phone and Skype. He lost the Internet for a few hours on Tuesday, but that was the worst of it in our neighborhood. He works in mid-town, north of the disaster area. Some co-workers were hit hard — losing their homes altogether or with massive property damage. He reported a weird sense of survivor’s guilt and a frustration that what he could do was so limited.
When I saw The Daily Show a couple of nights later, the talented writers had captured the weirdness of this tale of two cities.
As for what anybody can do, a co-worker of Craig’s has been doing what she can in hard hit areas, and will be sheltering pets and possibly people in her Queens apartment. There are groups that have sprung up, and donations to groups like the United Way and the Red Cross are always needed. For people who want to actively help, the best “clearing house” site I’ve seen for volunteer opportunities is at http://www.nycservice.org/#s.
Here’s a look at some of the reality on the ground:
Meantime, the Republicans are, of course, pointing to Sandy as the reason for their defeat. They say it ruined Romney’s “momentum.” This is yet another lie. The polls were already showing his “momentum” after the first debate was grinding to a halt and the odds had always been in Obama’s favor. However, the truth is Sandy probably helped wake up some people, forced them to consider that elections have consequences and a Romney administration would be a disaster for 99% of us.
Romney’s “joke” at his convention about Obama’s having promised to “slow the rising tide of the oceans” wasn’t so funny after the storm. His response was to hold a canned food drive in Ohio, talk about private charity and American’s willingness to help their neighbors without the government’s interference. I know Mitt didn’t want to remind people how fantastically rich he is, but maybe just maybe, a large check to the Red Cross and a public appeal to his peers to pony up as well, just might have bought him some good will. He never did get around to conceding that global climate change was more than a liberal myth or offer to support energy policies that might help slow it down. The week it took him to admit that maybe having a functional federal emergency management agency wasn’t such a bad idea after all, may have reminded folks of what happened the last time a Republican was in charge after a really bad weather incident, and of course Chris Christie’s embrace of the President and his leadership may have made it that much easier for a few holdouts to vote for the Democrat.